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History of Trent-Severn Waterway on tap at virtual museum forum

Charlie Ellins will talk about the history and current status of 'one of the finest interconnected systems of navigation in the world' at May 18 event

The Orillia Museum of Art & History (OMAH) hosts Charlie Ellins as guest speaker on Wednesday, May 18 at 7 p.m. via Zoom with his talk The Trent-Severn Waterway – Then and Now.

The Severn River, Couchiching Lock 42 and the Big Chute Marine Railway are in our own backyard. They are part of The Trent-Severn Waterway (TSW), a National Historic Site.

The TSW is an extraordinary canal operated by Parks Canada, an agency of Environment and Climate Change Canada. Its scenic, meandering canal route has been called “…one of the finest interconnected systems of navigation in the world.”

The canals are popular waterways that cater to recreational boaters, including canoeists and kayakers, as well as land-based visitors. It took incredible human ingenuity, the cooperation of several levels of government and almost ninety years to build it.

Indigenous peoples have played a vital role influencing the development and natural balance of the TSW. The water route was key to the fur trade and the lumber industry, and by harnessing the water power, mill towns grew up along the TSW.

The waterway expanded as timber barons, farmers, merchants and commercial travellers bought passage from town to town. It developed into a fully navigable system of locks, dams and man-made canals, making it at a world-famous tourist destination today.

Our speaker, Charlie Ellins, has an intimate knowledge of the waterway gained by growing up along it. Up until 2004, he spent his summers on Lake Couchiching and then permanently ever since. He has travelled the TSW several times in both directions in various boats. 

Ellins has been with the Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons for over 50 years teaching navigation and safe boating. He is Port Captain (TSW) for the Great Lakes Cruising Club and is Transport Canada certified to deliver vessels and/or teach boat handling.

Please join us as Charlie Ellins tells the storied history of the Trent-Severn Waterway and where it is today.

Click here to register and receive a link to the talk. Or call Monica at 705-326-2159 or email

Admission is free, donations to OMAH are appreciated.