Navigating the Lock
The schedule for pleasure craft calls for the locking of downbound craft on the hour and upbound craft on the half-hour. Commercial traffic has priority, however, regardless of the pleasure craft schedule. For safety reasons, at no time will pleasure craft be allowed in the lock with tankers or large commercial vessels. In the absence of commercial traffic, the lockmaster may alter the schedule for the convenience of the small boater.
See our Press Release Page to get the most up to date hours for the Black Rock Lock.
As you approach the Black Rock Lock, you must inform the lock operators of your desire to pass and they, in turn, will indicate to you when it is safe to proceed into the lock. There are several methods of communication with the lock personnel, as follows.
If your vessel is equipped with a two-way radio, please establish contact with the lock on VHF (FM) Channel 16. Channels 12 and 14 are working channels. Do this well in advance of your arrival at the lock so that the passage of all vessels may be facilitated.
The signal of two long and two short blasts indicates to lock personnel that you wish to lock through. This signal should be given regardless of any other communication you may have established.
Red and green signal lights are located at both ends of the lock. A red signal indicates that the lock is closed in your direction and you should moor where the lock operator directs you and remain in your boat until the green light appears. The green signal means that you have clear entrance into the lock chamber, unless you have been informed by the lock operator that you are required to yield to a commercial vessel.
Proceed only when the signal light is green and enter the lock at a safe speed. The lock personnel will direct you toward one of the lock walls. You are required to hang on to one of the lines on the west lock wall.
Obey all the instructions of the lock personnel. Your total time in the lock will be approximately 20 minutes. The pool in the lock chamber will be raised or lowered 5 feet in approximately 11 minutes. When the pool reaches the proper level, the gates will be opened for your departure. Please exit the lock at a safe speed. The speed limit in the Black Rock Channel is 6 miles per hour.
Navigating the Channel
The Black Rock Channel extends from Buffalo Harbor to the Black Rock Lock. The waterway is 3 and 1/2 miles long and its navigation channel is at least 200 feet wide at all points. The lock and channel permit pleasure craft and commercial vessels up to 625 feet long with drafts up to 21 feet. The passage of commercial vessels is scheduled by radio from the Black Rock Lock. Pleasure craft are required to yield the right-of-way to commercial vessels because of the confined waters of the channel.
The channel is crossed by three bridges: the Peace Bridge, the Ferry Street Bridge and the International Railroad Bridge. The Peace Bridge, located 1.3 miles from the south entrance to the channel is a fixed bridge with a clearance of 200 feet above Low Water Datum* (LWD). The Ferry Bridge is located 1.9 miles from the south entrance. It is a lift bridge that has a clearance of 17.3 feet LWD when down. The signal for requesting the opening of this bridge is 1 long, 2 short. The last bridge before the lock is the International Railroad Bridge, 3.1 miles from the south channel entrance. It is a swing bridge which has a clearance of 17 feet LWD when closed. The signal for requesting the opening of this bridge is one long.
* All the clearances mentioned here are referred to Low Water Datum, elevation 569.2 feet above mean water level at Rimouski, Quebec (International Great Lakes Datum 1985.)