The Seaway Scramble (73km)
Updated: Apr 25, 2022
Route Author: Ed Daugavietis
Location: St. Catharines, Niagara Region, Ontario
Estimated Gravel Time: 30% (Off-Road Time 80%)
Distance: 72.5km (45.1 miles)
Suggested Tire Width: 38mm
Amenities: As this route tours the outskirts of the city of St. Catharines, there are many opportunities to rest and refuel. Some of the highlights include the two lighthouses overlooking Lake Ontario, one of several lock stations and vertical lift bridges along the Welland Canal, the viewing platform at the Lock 7 Viewing Centre, and, of course, the Avondale Dairy Bar.
Parking: Several parking options are available. For those starting from the north end of the loop, parking can be found at Jaycee Garden Park or the Port Dalhousie Public Parking lot. Meanwhile, those starting from the south are best served by parking at Port Robinson Park.
The 44.4km long Welland Canal connects Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, bypassing the Niagara River and Falls, thus providing a vital link for approximately 3,000 freighters that traverse the Great Lakes Waterway annually. Starting from the south-western shores of Lake Ontario, this route parallels the historic canal, remaining mostly on the trails, pathways and towpaths that ring the city of St. Catharines. Please bear in mind that this network of trails are shared-use with pedestrians, so please yield to foot traffic and have a bike bell handy.
Beginning from Jaycee Garden Park, cross the wooden bridge over Martindale Pond and head east to the lakeshore and the Port Dalhousie Range Front Lighthouse. From here, continue east, following the shores of Lake Ontario along the Waterfront Trail for approximately 5km to the Welland Canal and Canal Lock 1. After crossing the bridge over the canal, head north along the George Nicholson Memorial Trail to the mouth of the canal itself, and the small McIntyre Bay Lighthouse.
From the lighthouse head back south, past picturesque Jones Beach, to Seaway Haulage Rd., which offers a mixed gravel surface as it meanders south along the eastern shores of the canal to the Carlton Street Bridge and Canal Lock 2. While a bit early in the ride for an extended break, an ice cream cone at the nearby Avondale Dairy Bar makes for a tempting stopover!
Continue south as the route parallels the eastern edge of the canal for another 7km to the Glendale Avenue Bridge. Cross the bridge and follow the Welland Canals Trail past Canal Locks 4, 5 and 6, to the Lock 7 Viewing Centre. At 572 feet above sea level, this is the highest point of the canal system, and the viewing deck makes for an ideal spot for a rest, especially if you manage to coordinate your stop with a passing freighter (check the Seaway Schedule). Otherwise, be sure to explore the nearby Battle of Beaverdams Park (of Laura Secord fame) and historic downtown Thorold.
Leave Thorold and remain on the Welland Canals Trail for another 5.8km to the Allanburg Bridge. Cross the bridge and head south as the route joins Service Road West, remaining on this dirt trail for just over 4km to the Port Robinson Ferry. This free ferry operates from June to October, with limited weekend service in May. Be sure to check the schedule before you go.
Following the ferry crossing, the route heads back north along a paved towpath, paralleling the western edge of the canal for just under 4km to Holland Rd. Here, the loop leaves the canal behind as it follows the dirt trail to Beaverdams Rd. Make a right and continue on the paved shoulder, crossing Lake Gibson and past Ontario’s oldest Methodist church, to the Mel Swart Lake Gibson Conservation Park. Be sure to exercise caution when sharing the park’s narrow boardwalks with foot traffic. Dismount and walk as necessary.
Exit the park via Decew Rd. and make your way through the grounds of Brock University, following the trail west until you reach the gravel service road behind the University. Turn right on this gravel road and ride down the escarpment and left until the road ends at a grassy field. Continue on the single track trail along the edge of Twelve Mile Creek (easy to follow).
Stay on this dirt trail for 2km, before crossing the creek on the pedestrian bridge. After 2km of asphalt trail on the western bank, cross the creek again via an abandoned bridge that leads to the Merrit Trail. Continue on the Merrit Trail to its end at Martindale Rd. Remain on pavement as the route continues north to Lake Ontario, and meanders along a series of residential streets back to the start.