Posted by: Cornwall Community Museum | September 24, 2017

Long Sault Rapids on the St. Lawrence.

The Long Sault Rapids on the St. Lawrence west of Cornwall before they were stilled in 1957.

The name Long Sault has done double duty as the name of rapids on the Ottawa and St. Lawrence Rivers.  The name was first used to describe the location of a battle in 1660, between the French and the Iroquois at the junction of the Ottawa River.  The second use of the name described a powerful current on the St. Lawrence River west of Cornwall.

Drying out the Long Sault Rapids, winter 1956 to 1957.

For years some people in Cornwall mixed the two sets of rapids up and believed that the battle between the Iroquois and the French took place on  the St. Lawrence Rapids, and even named a Dollard Park, in East Cornwall after the French hero of the battle.

Work on a rock dam, shown on the middle right, to still the Rapids started in October 1956.  The current was so strong that it took several attempts to close the gap in the river.

The spelling also varies, with some references calling them the “Longue Sault,” while others say “Long Sault.”

Writers have been very cavalier in locating the Rapids.  The experts at Fort Wellington in Prescott, state in their labels that the Long Sault Rapids were in Cornwall, this is not surprising as a review of the contemporay literature and maps of the river were not precise.  Even into the mid 20th century you can find postcards saying “The Long(ue) Sault Rapids, Cornwall.  Not long ago a plaque was placed in Cornwall suggesting that the Rapids were near here.

The numerous smaller and sometimes more dangerous Rapids in the River were not identified until later, and that the whole series of Rapids along the St. Lawrence were given the generic names Long Sault and Rapids Plat.

The stone dam stilling the Rapids.  The Rapids were stilled and drained from April 4, 1957 to December 11th of the same year.

People starting to explore the bottom of the Rapids, April 1957.

Don Finch climbing through pot-holes in the now drained Rapids, 1957.

The Rapids drained.

River Captain James Stephenson said when he saw the river bed that “If I’d known it’d been like that…I don’t think I’d have sailed over here.”

All of the above photographs were taken in 1957 by CCVS teacher N.L. Finch, and donated by his son Don in 2017.

“A view of Passage of the Army (British) under the Command of his excellency Major-General Amherst runt the Rapids  of the St. Lawrence River for the Reduction (conquering) of Canada in the Year 1760. ” (Courtesy, Library and Archives Canada, 577)

Why does the name matter?  Well an avid reader of the recent publication THE LIVING RIVER – SECRETS OF THE ST. LAWRENCE, noted that the book claims that 84 of Amherst’s men drowned in the Long Sault Rapids.  If you take the Long Sault to mean all of the Rapids, this would be the case, but fortunately, it is now possible to be more precise and it appears that four men drowned in the Long Sault and 84 perished in the 14 mile long Soulanges system of Rapids (Cedars, Cascades etc.)

If you want to take an illustrated arm-chair ride down the St. Lawrence Rapids between Lachine and Prescott you can by obtaining a copy of THE LIVING RIVER – SECRETS OF THE ST. LAWRENCE, available at the Cornwall Community Museum and the Lost Villages Museum for $30.  Information:

The Cornwall Community Museum is open throughout the fall and until Dec. 15 Wed. to Sun., 11 am to 4 pm.  Information:  613 936-0280.

NB:         There are only 10 copies of the book left, the publisher is out of business!

PS:          If you find any other inconsistencies please email us at the above address and the matter will be explored.

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