Of the 225+ locks that we have transited with Arkansas Traveler, four stand out.
One is on the Tennessee River, upstream from Florence, Alabama (See posts from September, 2010) and makes the list because of sheer height of its lift. The aesthetics are amazing.
The other three locks are on the Trent-Severn Waterway. Two are lift locks. This technology is similar to that of a balance. The upper pan, after adding the weight of an extra foot of water (1,500 tons), lowers, pushing the lower pan up. An enormous hydraulically driven piston facilitates the motion. You enter the pan, tie to the rails and rise, floating in a grand metal shoebox. The varying weights of the boats in each pan do not matter as each vessel displaces its own weight in water that flows out of the pan as the boat enters.
The Peterborough Lift Lock was built in 1904 and is the world’s largest hydraulic lift lock. It is an engineering marvel.
The Kirkfield Lift Lock, also on the Trent-Severn Waterway, is spectacular. When traveling east to west on the TSW from Trenton to Severn, Ontario, you enter the Kirkfield Lock from the top as the Severn River flows toward Georgian Bay. You are perched on the edge of the world, looking into an emptying river that will carry you forward.
The third lock isn’t a lock at all, but a railroad track carrying a carriage that portages vessels over an isthmus of land and lowers them 58 feet back into the Severn River. It is called the Big Chute.