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Lachine Canal National Historic Site. If you want to work up an appetite for lunch—or just get some exercise—rent a bike on rue de la Commune and ride west along the 14-km (9-mile) Lachine Canal through what used to be Montréal's industrial heartland to the shores of Lac St-Louis. You could stop at the Marché Atwater to buy some cheese, bread, wine, and maybe a little pâté for a picnic in the lakefront park at the end of the trail. If paddling and pedaling sound too energetic, hop aboard an excursion boat and dine more formally in one of the century-old homes that line the waterfront in Lachine, the historic city borough at the western end of the canal that was once the staging point for the lucrative fur trade.
The Lachine Canal is all about leisure now, but it wasn't always so. Built in 1825 to get boats and cargo around the treacherous Lachine Rapids, it quickly became a magnet for all sorts of industries. But when the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959, allowing large cargo ships to sail straight from the Atlantic to the Great Lakes without stopping in Montréal, the canal closed to navigation and became an illicit dumping ground for old cars and the victims of underworld killings. The area around it degenerated into an industrial slum.
A federal agency rescued the place in 1978, planting lawns and trees along the old canal, transforming it into a long, thin park, or parc linéaire. The abandoned canneries, sugar refineries, and steelworks have since been converted into desirable residential and commercial condominiums. The bicycle path is the first link in the more than 97 km (60 miles) of bike trails that make up the Pôle des Rapides (514/364-4490 www.poledesrapides.com)
Two permanent exhibits at the Lachine Canal Visitor Services Centre, at the western end of the canal, explain its history and construction, and the center also has a shop and lookout terrace. You can take a guided boat tour (C$18, plus tax) of the canal from late May to early October (514/469-7443). 500 chemin des Iroquois, Lachine, Montréal, QC, H8S 4J5. 514/283-6054. www.pc.gc.ca. Free. 10-4. Angrignon.
Lachine Canal Nautical Centre. At the Lachine Canal Nautical Centre, open from May to mid-September, you can rent anything from a one-person kayak to a 13-passenger Voyageur canoe and paddle along the canal. Electric boat rentals are also available. 2985B rue St-Patrick, near Atwater Market, Old Montréal, H3K 1B9. 877/935-2925 or 514/842-1306. www.h2oadventures.ca. May and Sept., weekdays noon-8, weekends 9-8; June-Aug., daily 9-9.
Fur Trade at Lachine National Historic Site. In the waterfront park at the end of the canal, an 1803 stone warehouse has been converted into the Fur Trade at Lachine National Historic Site, a museum that commemorates the industry that dominated Canada's early history. 1255 boul. St-Joseph, H8S 2M2. 888/773-8888 or 514/283-6054. www.pc.gc.ca. Free. May 17-Oct. 8, daily 9:30-12:30 and 1-5; Apr.-May 14 and Oct. 12-Nov. 26, open only for group reservations.
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