Canals

Illinois & Michigan, Wabash & Erie, Syracuse Erie Canal, Delaware & Hudson, Chesapeake & Ohio and Chesapeake & Delaware  

Lockport the Illinois and Michigan Canal and Museum

The Illinois and Michigan Canal connected the Mississippi and Great Lakes Basins. making agriculture in northern Illinois profitable by opening-up connections to eastern markets and leading to the creation of Chicago.

Connecting Lake Michigan and the Illinois River was first envisioned by French explorer Louis Joliet and a 96 miles long canal was finally constructed between 1836 and 1848; Chicago was the eastern and LaSalle the western terminus with the latter becoming a transshipment point from canal boats originating in Chicago to steamboats heading for St Louis and New Orleans.

illinois and michigan canal tourA Cultural Meeting Point between North and South

Canal and Steamboat basins were located at locks 14 and 15 with New Orleans steamboats unloading molasses, sugar, coffee, fresh oranges and lemons whereas the Chicago cargo included lumber, stoves, wagons, and the latest clothing styles from the east. The local farmers hauled corn and wheat for onward shipment to Chicago and points east while passengers hustled to make connections to canal boats bound for Chicago or steamboats headed to St. Louis and beyond.

Mastery of the American Mid-Continent know more about it

The Wabash and Erie Canal

The Wabash and Erie Canal provided traders with access from the Great Lakes to the Ohio River; 460 miles long, it was the longest canal ever built in North America. The waterway was a combination of four canals: the Miami and Erie, the original Wabash and Erie from Junction to Terre Haute, Indiana, the Cross-Cut Canal from Terre Haute to Point Commerce, and the Central Canal from Worthington to Evansville.

The Interpretive Center is an open-air village located on the banks of the canal in Delphi, Indiana. The interpretive center includes a model canal with a miniature reservoir, aqueduct, lock, and gristmill. The model canal boat General Grant shows the type of boats that carried freight on the canal during its final years of full-scale operation from the 1860s to 1874.

Canal designThe Wabash & Erie Canal Association is dedicated to Indiana’s canal heritage. The center serves as a physical focus of a 2.5-mile (4.0 km) segment of the canal that has been rebuilt and reopened as a waterway and parallel towpath.

Travel along the canal was accomplished by canal freight and passenger packets. The passenger packet consisted of a series of rooms and a main saloon where meals were taken. This room was converted into a men’s dorm for sleeping. The women’s saloon was towards the back of the boat.

The Packets were Pulled by Horses and Oxen know more about it

Syracuse New York and the Erie Canal Museum

Syracuse stands at the northeast corner of the Finger Lakes region and is a city comprised of many neighborhoods which were originally villages that joined the city over the years. Land to the north of town is generally flat while land to the south is hilly.

A major Crossroads for two Centuries with the Erie Canal its Branches and a Rail Network

Syracuse University is a major research center and in 2010 the city was rated fourth among the top 10 places to raise a family in the United States.

Downtown Syracuse is a storehouse of historical facts and a repository of sometimes forgotten custom and legend. Its buildings transcend time and provide us with a window on both the past and the present.

ECM 1The Erie Canal Museum is dedicated to preserving the 1850 National Register Weighlock Building, the last remaining structure of its kind, and to telling the incredible adventure story of the Erie Canal.

The collections of the Erie Canal Museum consist of nearly 60,000 artifacts, covering a wide variety of items reflecting the culture of the 19th and early 20th centuries in upstate New York.

European and English canal systems proved the feasibility of inland waterway transportation and provided fine examples to be improved upon. As the need for improved inland transportation became obvious for westward expansion, America plunged into an era of canal building activity. From the days of the birchbark canoe, the early trade routes of the Northeast utilized New York’s waterways know more about it

The Delaware and Hudson Canal

History a British blockade preceding the War of 1812, which 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:  given the weight of the coal and the poor condition of the roads, a water route would be required.

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.

DAH1Anthracite 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 know more about it

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal operated from 1831 until 1924 along the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., to Cumberland, Maryland. Construction on the 184.5-mile (296.9 km) course began in 1828 and ended in 1850 with the completion of a 50-mile stretch to Cumberland, rising and falling over an elevation change of 605 feet (184 meters) that required 74 locks. A planned section to Pittsburgh and the Ohio River was never built.

Traders south of New York City began to seek their own transportation infrastructure to link the burgeoning areas west of the Appalachian Mountains to mid-Atlantic markets and ports. The canal principally transported coal, and sometimes West Virginia limestone, wood, lumber, sand, and flour. In 1938, the abandoned canal was obtained from the B&O by the United States and is now the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal national historic park.

Charles F Mercer C&O Canal Great Falls MDBoatmen and their families were an independent lot often intermarrying within their own group. They frequently fought amongst each other and with lockkeepers over company rules. During winter when the boats were tied up, they lived in their own communities away from others. One boat captain observed that on the canal, women and children were as good as the men.

Life on a freight boat cabins were 10 feet by 12 feet, and housed two bunks, each 36 inches wide, supposedly for one person, but often occupied by two. While most cabin floors were bare, 14 had linoleum covering. The cabins were divided between sleeping quarters and the stateroom by a diagonal wall. The feed box, 4 feet by 4 feet, in the center boat, often doubled as sleeping quarters with a blanket thrown over the feed. Occasionally the deck was used for sleeping.

Cooking was done on a stove, burning corncobs (from the mule feed) or sometimes coal. Washing clothes and children was typically done at night by moonlight, after tying up the boat, along the side of the canal. Food and provisions for the trip (e.g. flour, sugar, coffee, salt pork and smoked meat were bought in Cumberland. Boatmen carried chickens or pigs on the boats and fish caught in the canal also served as food, as well as turtles know more about it

Delaware City Chesapeake City and the C&D Canal

The Delaware City Historic District is significant for its architecture, for its beginnings as a planned settlement, and for its importance as a nineteenth century canal-oriented transportation center. The town was envisioned by its backers as a place that would develop into a major shipping and trading point for traffic that passed along this trans-peninsular trade route, and so, its early plans were based on the completion of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.

Delaware City is located 14 miles from Wilmington, 40 miles south of Philadelphia and is situated in the eastern central area of New Castle County, strategically located at the eastern terminus of the C&D Canal where it joins the Delaware River.

Chesapeake City was separated into north and south sections when the C&D Canal was built through the middle of the town. The two were connected by a drawbridge until 1942 when that was destroyed by a freighter that struck it. The current bridge opened in 1949. The town contains numerous old homes that have been converted into bed and breakfasts, restaurants and the local historical museum.

Chesapeake City MD Along CD CanalThe Chesapeake & Delaware Canal is 14 miles long, 450 feet wide and 35 feet deep across Maryland and Delaware, connecting the Delaware River with Chesapeake Bay. The C&D Canal is owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Philadelphia District. The project office in historic Chesapeake City is also the site of the C&D Canal Museum and Bethel Bridge Lighthouse.

The US Army Corps of Engineers played a vital role in determining a canal route which opened for business in 1829. Today’s canal is a sea-level, electronically controlled waterway.

The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering and Mechanical Engineering landmark. The canal is unique as the sole major commercial navigation waterway in the United States built during the early 1800s still in use.

The C&D Canal Museum in Chesapeake City provides visitors with a glimpse of the canal’s early days. The steam engines are the oldest of their type in America still on their original foundations know more about it

Connect for Travel on America’s Canals