History a British blockade preceding the War of 1812 cut off the supply of imported bituminous coal led to the commercial development of Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal fields. But transporting the anthracite from the mines to coastal markets was a problem; a water route would be required given the weight of the coal and the poor condition of the roads.
The 108-mile 108-lock waterway operated from 1828 until 1898 transforming the economic landscape, as towns and villages sprang up along its route, and industries developed to exploit local resources such as lumber, agricultural products, and bluestone. The discovery of natural cement near High Falls in 1825 spawned the Rosendale cement industry, whose product was widely used in construction projects, including the Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty.
The Story of Mobility in America
Maritime Museums in Historic Towns
The High Falls – 16 through 20 – five locks were built in 1847, as part of a new route designed to accommodate increased traffic and larger canal boats. This section also included a loading quay, still visible just past lock 16. The canal locks were constructed of Shawangunk conglomerate, an indigenous stone. Each lock measured 90’ long, 15’ wide, and 15’ deep, and provided an average change in elevation of 12.6’. A leader in 19th century technology, the D&H Canal Company is associated with such innovations as:
the D&H Gravity Railroad designed by John Jervis to transport coal over a mountainous region;
Wire suspension aqueduct by John Roebling, a technology he later used in the Brooklyn Bridge;
Anthracite Canals created a steady supply of inexpensive coal—which then fueled America’s Industrial Revolution. Steam-powered factories burned anthracite coal, and began to manufacture products such as glass, earthenware, beer and spirits, replacing the work of artisans.
The D&H Canal Historical Society maintains a Canal Museum and Five Locks Walk trail to preserve canal-era artifacts, and document the canal’s creation, operation, and importance as an engine of economic development in the region and beyond.
Connect for Travel to High Falls New York and the Delaware & Hudson Canal