Swift Rapids

A brief history

The colony of Swift Rapids came into being when the power plant was completed circa 1917 replacing Ragged Rapids generating station 3.2 kilometers up river.It is located on the Trent-Severn Waterway about 32 kilometers north-north-west of Orillia, approximately 26 kilometers up stream from Georgian Bay and the same distance down stream from Lake Couchiching.

Until the early 1960's the only access was by boat or aircraft. The site for Ragged Rapids, the power plant upstream, was flooded over when Swift Rapids went into service. Initially the plant was operated by the town of Orillia (Orillia Water Light and Power Commission (OWL & P)). However as of Nov. 1, 2000, OWL&P was dissolved and replaced by the Orillia Power Corporation.

The plant was manned two per shift 24/7, a first operator and a floorman. During this period, into the early 60's, the colony population would have been between 50 and 60 and comprised of plant superintendant, 4 first operators and 4 floormen, 2 marine railway operators (lockmaster and assistant) and a colony handy man. And of course their respective families. The 2 Marine Railway operators were employees of Transport Canada, the entity responsible for maintaining specified water levels in the Trent-Severn System. Parks Canada eventually assumed this role and do so today. Rounding out, but by no means the least of the colony families, was the handy man. During the summer he operated the company boat, as did the plant superintendant. This was the summer time link to the post office and CNR station 3.2 kilometers up river, to Morrison Creek landing 6.5 kilometers up stream where cars were left, or to Severn Falls, 4.9 kilometers down stream also accessible by automobile and CP rail. He was also responsible for the team of horses used to haul firewood, mail and people during winter and between seasons.

Prior to the locks being completed in the 60's, the previously mentioned marine railway was the means used to transfer boats from one level to the other, a 47 foot difference. A similar marine railway, updated and more efficient, is still in service at Big Chute downstream from Swift Rapids and accessable via Upper Big Chute Road out of the town of Coldwater Ontario; an interesting destination by road or water.

The children attended a one room school also operated by the OWL&P who supplied a competent teacher to grade eight level. Beyond this level the students were boarded in Orillia or Washago to attend high school. To-day the plant is remotely operated from a control Center in Orillia. A station operator lives at the colony to be available in emergencies and to perform switching and other routine duties.


Locks construction Photos

Photos from 2011, 2014. Freshet. Graphic of early Colony

Photos ©dmincoff may be downloaded for non-commercial use. Thanks. Contact