Lambton Heritage Museum
Grand Bend, Ontario

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Grand Bend - Our Stories, Our Voice




Taking its rise in the Township of Hibbert, in the County of Perth, the River Aux Sables found its way by a crooked course some seventy miles long, through parts of the Counties of Huron, Middlesex and Lambton to its outlet into Lake Huron at a point some thirty-five miles in a straight line from its source. There is little doubt but that at a comparatively recent geological period the mouth of the river was at Grand Bend, but the winds and waves shifted the outlet further southwest each year.

The prevailing winds in this locality are from the northwest across Lake Huron, and, acting on the lake shore sand they were continuously shifting it into the outlet of the river and throwing it up to form the sand dunes of the peninsula extending from Grand Bend to Port Franks, a distance of about twelve miles.

Previous to, and during the time that the outlet of the river was at Grand Bend, all the lands of the Township of Bosanquet lying north of the north boundary of the Township of Williams, and the westerly portions of the Townships of McGillivray and Stephen, were flooded by the waters of the river during certain times of the year. The silt brought down by the river formed excellent soil, with the exception of about 2 200 acres - Lakes Burwell, George and Smith.

The Canada Company, which originally owned all the land in the Townships adjoining this tract, sold the lands in the neighborhood until all that was not flooded had been disposed of. This brought up the question of how best to drain the drowned land, and land which was subject to flooding.

To accomplish the first of these objects and to aid in preventing the second, the Canada Company, acting on the advice of their engineer Mr. Willson, let a contract in the winter of 1872, to construct a new channel for the river, commencing at a point on the river about one-half mile below the north boundary of Williams Township, and running northwesterly, nearly in a straight line, passing through Lake Burwell to join the river again about two miles above Port Franks.

This channel was about one and a half miles in length east of Lake Burwell, about one mile through Lake Burwell and one and one quarter miles west of Lake Burwell. In all, it was a total length of about three and three quarter miles.

The bottom width of the new channel was twenty feet throughout and the side slopes one and one-half to one. The section west of Lake Burwell averaged about thirty feet in depth (the maximum depth being sixty feet) through pure lake shore sand and gravel. Through the lake the excavation was vegetable matter, while the section east of Lake Burwell averaged about six feet through clay and vegetable matter. This contract was completed in the fall of 1875, and subsequently about ten miles of tap drains were constructed. Lakes Burwell and George were drained, leaving behind the area known as the Thedford Bog.

The cost of the work done by the Canada Company was about $80,000, benefitting about 16,000 acres of land.

There were subsequent improvements made to The Cut, in 1952, in the early 1960s and again in 1969. With the construction of the dam and reservoir outside Parkhill, the flow of water was finally regulated.


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