What Travel Writers Say

Sarnia's sensational waterfront

© By Mike Keenan

  With a population of 71,419, Sarnia boasts title as the largest city on Lake Huron. It's where three of the upper Great Lakes empty into the St. Clair River, and its natural harbour first attracted the French explorer, LaSalle, who named the site, "The Rapids." Eventually tired of "The Rapids," early villagers decided that a change of name was necessary, but could not agree on a substitute. English settlers favoured "Buenos Aires," and Scottish, "New Glasgow." To break the impasse, Sir John Colborne suggested "Port Sarnia," and in 1836, the name was formally adopted by a vote of 26 to 16. "Sarnia" was the Latin name for Guernsey in the Channel Islands off the coast of Normandy.
     The port still serves lake freighters and "salties" carrying cargos of grain and petroleum products, and one may view the heavily laden ships from the waterfront.
     Oil discovered in nearby Oil Springs inspired tremendous growth of the petroleum industry in the area. Oil Springs was first in North America commercially to drill for oil. "Chemical Valley," located down river, formerly adorned the back of the Canadian ten dollar bill. During WWII, Sarnia was at the forefront to develop synthetic petroleum-based rubber for wartime supplies. Refining and petrochemical production became a key to the city's economy, but the "Chemical Valley" has long since moved into decline.
     In 2002, Michael Moore, the radical documentary filmmaker (who delights in causing George Bush great grief), filmed segments of Bowling for Columbine in Sarnia, while interviewing people outside the local Taco Bell restaurant and the plaza beside it.
     Sarnia mayor Mike Bradley (interviewed in the film), named Moore an honorary citizen, and for Moore's 2007 film Sicko, he returned to Sarnia to interview relatives at Sears as well as in the Marina restaurant.
     Unfortunately, when we chose to walk along the waterfront and picnic at the scenic spot where Huron empties into the St. Clair, Moore was not about; however, it was a pleasant walk and a sunny day. And, I learned something from a local plaque: our second Prime Minister, Alexander Mackenzie (buried in Lakeview Cemetery, Sarnia) was a local contractor here. I also observed a modern building which resembled a ship.
     In 1938, the Blue Water Bridge was built to join Sarnia with Port Huron; in 1997, the bridge was twinned, making it one of the most important gateways on the north/south truck routes. This bridge followed construction of the St. Clair tunnel in 1891 - the first rail tunnel to pass under a river and an engineering marvel.

Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review. Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. His work is found in QMI published dailies such as the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Vancouver Sun, London Free Press, Calgary Sun, Winnipeg Sun and Edmonton Sun.

Photo Credits
Mike Keenan: Mackenzie sculpture and plaque, modern architecture, waterfront, picnic

If you go
This Destination
as seen on
City of Sarnia: http://www.sarnia.ca/
Tourism Sarnia-Lambton: http://www.tourismsarnialambton.com/
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Sarnia

What's happening, money, distance, time?
Media Guide: http://www.abyznewslinks.com/
Currency conversion: http://www.xe.com/ucc/
Distance calculator: http://www.indo.com/distance/
Time zone converter: http://www.timezoneconverter.com/

Transportation, visas, health, maps and temperature
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Google interactive map: http://maps.google.com/
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/


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