Fall '09

From the President

By David G. Barber

Canal wise, this has been a very interesting summer. In July, I went on a tour of various Midwestern canal sites. The trip began with a visit to Delphi, IN and a ride on the new replica boat, Delphi, then only in service for a couple of weeks. I also saw their new boathouse / warehouse and the new, masonry guard gate structure. This is a great, volunteer run canal park.

A couple of days later, I toured the Illinois and Michigan Canal and concluded the visit with a ride on the replica boat Volunteer at LaSalle, IL. This boat is less than a year old and is enjoying good patronage. At present, the Volunteer can only go from Lock 14 at LaSalle to just short of the Little Vermilion Aqueduct, but there are plans to extend dredging eastward. The boat can’t cross the aqueduct either because of the lack of dredging or because the state wants a structural inspection of the ten year old aqueduct. Maybe someone doesn’t know that a floating boat puts no additional load on an aqueduct.

The following day, which was very wet, I toured the Hennepin Canal. The Hennepin is watered throughout and retains all of its locks and many movable bridges of interesting designs. Prior to my visit, I had heard little about the bridges. Both the I & M and the Hennepin are Illinois state parks and very impressive for their preservation and for the as yet unrealized potential. The state doesn’t seem to realize the tourist draw that these canals could be, especially if navigation were restored.

I then went north, visiting the lock at McHenry, IL and the three locks on the Yahara River near Madison, WI. This was followed by a tour of the Fox – Wisconsin Waterway in Wisconsin of which I’ll write about in more detail separately. Included was a visit to the intact Eureka Lock on the Upper Fox River. This lock was operated for a few decades by the Berlin Boat Club after the Upper Fox was closed by the Corps of Engineers in the 1950’s. But, it has been out of service for four years. There is hope that the gates will be replaced and the lock returned to service in 2010. Restoration will reconnect Berlin, WI to Lake Winnebago.

A visit to the Lower Fox River showed many boats moving through the currently available locks at each end of the waterway and several of the other locks restored and ready for use. Their reopening has been delayed by other projects to rebuild or replace bridges over the waterway. Further lock rebuilding is affected by the availability of funding. This is probably the most active waterway restoration in the United States.

I then journeyed to southern Indiana and Ohio, where my attempts to visit two locks were thwarted by inadequate research, a confusing situation on the ground, and not having a GPS receiver. Lack of street signs in rural areas didn’t help either. But, I did get to visit the new and old McAlpine Locks at Louisville. The new lock was completed in 2009.

At the southern end of the Ohio and Erie Canal, I not only visited Lock 50, which has been cleared by local enthusiasts, and got a distant view of Lock 49 (which is in good condition on private property), but found a brand new parking lot next to Lock 48. The parking lot was so new, the paint on the spaces seemed barely dry. Clearance of the canal was also in evidence above and below the chamber.

I then journeyed north to Akron to see the new floating towpath at Summit Lake, the improvements underway at Lock 4 north, and the improved towpath trail at the Cascade Locks. On the way home, I stopped at Lockport, NY where planning is progressing to restore the northern set of five combined locks to operation.

Lastly, one of the biggest canal improvements this year is the completion of the restoration of Nine Mile Creek Aqueduct in Camillus, NY. This structure is now rewatered and boats are travelling over it. Camillus is another great, volunteer run canal park.

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