July 18, 2022

Parks Canada

The backlog of boats at the Big Chute has been cleared.

A big “Thank-you” goes out to the hardworking staff at Big Chute for clearing the backlog. All boats that wanted to go over, crossed Big Chute Wednesday, July 13.  The patience and understanding by the boaters who were affected by this delay was greatly appreciated by the Parks Canada staff.

The backlog originally resulted from a temporary reduction of the Parks Canada workforce due to COVID-19 infections. With specially-trained staff out with COVID, Lock 44 – Big Chute Marine Railway services had been reduced until the current available staff recieved training in the full operation of the site. Mainly, capacity had been reduced to transit larger vessels.

Vessels that have unique hull configurations, a beam wider than 11.5’ and/or are required to “hang” off the back of the cart had faced delays although the staff continued to transit as many vessels as possible that fall outside of the limitations.

Big Chute is the only one of its kind in North America. Its operation is challenging and complex, where many variables need to be considered. Lifting large vessels completely out of the water on a 3-story high rail cart requires multiple experienced staff as well as numerous safety checks and balances. The type of vessel, gravity, water conditions and public safety are just some of the factors that operators must keep in mind - add in multiple hydraulic systems, and you can begin to understand the complexities.

It is important to note that training must be completed in real-time, with real vessels – ranging from small paddlecraft to cruisers to sailboats with large and fixed keels so that partly resulted in the delays.

Parks Canada originally estimated that a return to normal service would resume by the middle of this week, (July 18 to 22) but thankfully for the big boats that had to wait, they were able to move much more quickly than that.

The Parks Canada press release stated that they appreciate the public’s patience and understanding. Boaters can follow them on Twitter @TSWBoaterInfo for the most up-to-date information.

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