It was a busy Summer! I had only a few day's window for my solo bike ride before for our friend Peter and his wife were due to pass by for a short visit. Immediately afterward, Sheryl and I were off to Newfoundland for two weeks of hiking and camping. I planned my trip to take advantage of the four to five free days I had. I was to be a solo, 'loop' ride. I would head out into the Townships, as far a Sherbrooke; exploring all the new bike trails which had opened up. Then I would cut north to descend a major river as far as the St. Lawrence and then loop back to Montreal. I felt quite confident, over confident perhaps, that I could accomplish such an ambitious itinerary. All seemed possible after my successful four-day up the Train du Nord Trail to Mont Laurier the Summer before.
Click to Enlarge (Period Document: MRC Monteregie) Bike Paths to the Townships
Alas, it was not to be! This ride will forever join what I hope remains a short list of aborted attempts. I seriously overworked my knees on the first day, and by the middle of the second day I was forced to abandon, calling on Sheryl to come and rescue me. In retrospect, perhaps I could have continued, but I was so worried about ruining my legs for hiking in Newfoundland that I gave up easily.
Still, it was not a bad ride in its own right! I had fun and saw a lot of things. Montreal to Magog in two days is not such a bad accomplishment.
The Original write up was written soon afterwards, in 1999. The version below has been edited and expanded.
I was up bright and early by 06:00 and ready to start my day by 07:00. Sheryl had not goneo for her usual morning walk with Kathy, as her feet were hurting. She was already busy cleaning up for the guest she was expecting while I was away. We sat down outside on the terrrace at 07:00 for a light breakfast: Coffee and bagel and cream cheese. Then I did my final pack up and Sheryl saw me off at 07:40.
I had researched my trip extensively, having gone onto the 'Net' and downloaded maps of all the new bike trails heading towards the Townships. Even though they would lead me on a not-straight path, I was determined to ride them all! I had put my bike in tip-top condition, including a new 'designer' front tire. This knobly tire was likely a major cause of my undoing.
It was a bright and sunny morning and I know the day would be hot. I took the DeMaisonneuve bikepath east to Decarie and then cut over to St. Jacques, which I took down the hill to the St. Remi Tunnel. I headed east on the street just before the tunnel entrance, intending to ride along it as far as Atwater, where I could catch the Canal bikeway. (Previously, I had always accessed the Lachine Canal Bike Trail at the Cote St. Paul Locks, which would be several blocks out of my way to the west.) A short ways along the street, I found that a new entrance to the bikeway had been opened up by the new park and discovered, as well, that the bridge they had been building across the Canal was now finished. I got onto the bike path and followed it as far as the Atwater Market, where I cut over to the Nun’s Island path along my well-travelled shortcut. I ride out to Nun’s Island and set out across the St. Lawrence on the Champlain Ice Bridge.
|Crossing the Champlain Ice Bridge
(Looking back towards Montreal)
At the far end of the causeway, I headed east along the Seaway dike towards the St. Lambert locks, which I reached at 08:40
|Looking Back along the Seaway Dike|
This would be my first time I had crossed to the South Shore at the St. Lambert Locks since a my 1992 ride to Mont St Bruno on the day of the Tour de L’Ile of that year.
|Crossing at St. Lambert|
I crossed the bridge at the Seaway and rode up the bridge approach street to Victoria Boulevard. There I stopped at the corner depanneur for 15 minutes to buy water, gatorade, cookies, and a candy bar. I rode on through Ville LeMoyne along Rue St. Louis, to the junction of Hwy 116 and 112 where, after riding thorugh the interchange spaghetti, I came out on the far side and was able to head up the wide shoulder along Highway 16.
During my previous ride in this direction in 1992, I had been able to continue along the shoulder to the point where a frontage road coming from the opposite direction had ended in a turnaround circle. At that point, though undeclared, Highway 116 had effectively become a controlled-access freeway. Along the way there had been rail yards on the far side of the highway while on my side had been ditches filled with water and lots of bullrushes and other greenery, leading off to the back of the distant houses. Now, though, all was disturbed by the construction of a new railway underpass. I quickly got caught up in highway construction and was forced into the detour lanes, forced to share the narrow roadway with the cars that were angrily racing by. I finally came to the point where I had to dismount and walk the bike through the construction site in order to reach the end of the frontage road and avoid being forced onto the freeway.
Subsequent to the construction, I understand that Route 116 is now completely closed to bicycle traffic along its entire length, as it has been upgraded to a controlled-access freeway. I will never again be able to take this route. A new route is suggested across the South Shore to Chambly, a route which I have not yet tried.
Back tracking my way through the construction site, I was finally able to reach the frontage road I remembered fromm 1992 and was then able to follow this, as before, alongside the Hwy 116/112 freeway as far as the Chemin Chambly intersection, which I reached at 09:40.
In 1992, I had crossed Highway 112 at this point and had rejoined the frontage road alongside Route 112, in the direction of Mont. St. Bruno. Now, however, I chose to follow Chemin Chambly through the old part of St. Hubert and then out into the country. I was on road that was completely is new to me.
At first Chemin Chambly led me through the older commercial part of St. Hubert, and then through residential districts. It was not an overly busy road, as most traffic took the newer Route 112 bypass. I did not encounter open countryside until after I passed under the Highway 30 underpass. I had found the same to be the case back in 1992, although on a different road.
I felt better once I had reached the open countryside. I could see Mont St. Bruno, quite close, at 11:00. Mont Ste. Hilaire was more distant at 12:00 and Rougemont, the furthest, could be seen at 2:00.
Eventually, the tiny country road which was the old Chemin Chambly met up again with the newer and main Highway 112, coming out of St. Hubert. I was just at the entrance to the town of Carignan and quickly recognized the area. I would soon ride by the flea market that Sheryl and I have visited many times in the past, often with Alex or Tannissa. Along the busy highway, I was forced to ride upon the shoulder, which thankfully was quite wide. It would be a few kilometres before I would come to the crossroads and the small bridge leading into Chambly proper.
|Chambly: Entrance to Town
(First Photo Taken that Day)
|[See Unretouched Original]|
As soon as I crossed into Chambly, I stopped to take my first photo of the day. I was able to leave the main thoroughfare by exiting left to follow the old road into the centre of town. The quieter avenue led me along through an older residential section until I came out at the impressive Chambly basin. I arrived at the Chambly locks of the Canal at 10:40.
|Chambly: Looking out on the Chambly Basin|
I found myself high on a hill, looking out over the vast, watery expanse of the Chambly Basin, with Mont Ste. Hilaire rising in the distance. The Chambly Basin is where the Richelieu River widens into almost a lake at the foot of the Rapids. In the distance, I could see Ft. Chambly, sitting right at the base of the Rapids. I figured that I have travelled 35km thus far.
From my point at the top of the hill, I could see the series of locks climbing down to the water below. I stopped to buy a drink and some books as I looked around in the little museum. The whole area was groomed like a park, with tables and chairs for visitors to sit and watch the river traffic.
|Chambly Locks from Below||Chambly Locks from Above|
The canal locks were of the old-fashioned hand-manipulated kind. I watched the Parks Canada employees turning the hand cranks that closed the lock doors and opened the sluice gates. Slowly the pleasure craft rose up to the next level.
|Chambly Locks: Boats Entering|
|Chambly Locks: Lock Keepers Wait|
I rode on down to the bottom of the set of locsk, and out into the lake, to the end of the long pier, so that I can get a good look back up the hill.
|Chambly: Looking Towards Fort Chambly - On the River|
By the time I come back up, the boats were ready to head up the canal from the top lock. The bridge I had come over earlier was a swing bridge and I watched as the hand-cranks swungs it out of the way to let the boats through, and then cranked it.
|Chambly: Upper Locks||Chambly: Manually Operated Swing Bridge|
|Bridge is Open: Boats Go Through||Closing the Lock Gates|
I was taking photos as fast as I could, but alas had to change film right in the middle of the swing bridge operation and so missed some key shots. I sensed a problem with the film loading and hoped that it would be okay.
All in all, I made a half-hour sojourn at the Chambly Locks and was on my way by 11:20. The Chambly Canal bikeway led along the canal, following the towpath of old. After an initial paved section, it reverted to a gravel strip about six feet wide. The river itself was distant at first, and about thirty feet lower. It was separated from the canal by a small road and a line of houses. I was riding along behind people’s back yards, far below.
|Starting Out Along the Chambly Canal|
|Looking Down the Canal at First Reach|
|Chambly Canal: Gravel Path; Town Below|
|Chambly Canal Bike Path Detail|
|Chambly Canal: Railway Swing Bridge||Chambly Canal: Road Bridge: Rte 223 Crossing|
Eventually, the road along the river below rose up and crossed over to the far side of the canal, leaving a narrow spit of land as the only thing between the the river an me. At this point, the river was now only about fifteen feet lower, and I can clearly see and hear the rapids.
|Chambly Canal: River Lookout at Overflow|
|Chambly River View|
I saw, to my left, older canal works at a lower water level, intermediate between the current canal and the river. I guess the canal was at one time lower than it is today. After I passed by a dam, the water on the river was calmer.
|Dam on the Richelieu|
At 11:40 I reached to Ile Ste. Therese and the gravel trail gave way to a painted lane alongside a wide residential street fronting the canal. The "canal" widened into almost a small lake, perhaps due to the influence of the dam on the river.
|Bike Trail on Ile Ste. Therese|
At 12:15 I stopped at a “halte” in the town of St. Luc, on Ile Ste. Therese. It had become very hot and the headwind right in my face was tiring me. Low clouds low on the horizon looked to be about an hour away.
|Chambly Canal Bike Path Detail|
The trail continuesd on until, just before we passing under the bridges of the Hwy 10 autoroute, it left the street and headed back onto its own right-of-way. Once again I was riding along a narrow spit of land. On the hill, across the canal, I could see the built up area of town of St. Jean begin to appear. I rode by the hospital I had come to know in 1975 and 1991. Soon thereafter, I rode under the bridge of the freeway spur which heads towards Burlington, Vermont.
|Final Approach at St. Jean||Downriver from St. Jean at Canal Mouth|
At 12:50, I finally reached the end of the Chambly canal bikeway. It ended right at the old port section of St. Jean, where the marinas and boat stores lend a seaside resort feeling the the area. There was a multitude of boats are tied up at the wharf and a row of restaurants with outdoor terraces, all crowded with sun seekers. St. Jean is the last stop for boaters coming up from Lake Champlain.
Today St. Jean is a purely recreational port, but in days gone by it was an important transportation hub. Steamers would leave Whitehall, at the far southern end of the Lake Champlain, to cruise up to St. Jean where trains would ferry passengers on to Montreal. The Chambly canal was an important industrial link on the way to the Hudson River. Today the canal still serves boaters who wish to travel between Montreal and New York City.
I stopped for lunch at a waterfront greasy spoon and had a large soft drink and a tomato and cheese sandwich with fries. I called Sheryl to let her know how far I have come.
|Iberville Side Seen from St. Jean|
...and on to Iberville and Granby, and the next day as far as Magog.
Return to Menu