Restorable Canals


ACS Restorable Canals & Navigations

Among the 4,000 plus miles of canals and navigations built during the canal era and later closed by the early 20th Century are several that could be restored to public navigation if enough public interest existed.  The American Canal Society believes that such restoration would assure their preservation while enhancing the economy of the communities along their route.  Reopening is not a matter of technology, but rather vision and political will.  The waterways in this group are as follows:

United States

Delaware Division Canal

State: Pennsylvania
Route: Bristol (tidewater) to Easton along the west bank of the Delaware River
Length: 60 miles
Status: Entirely owned by the state as Delaware Canal State Park
Locks: 24 each – 11′ x 95′ with some double width.
Watered from Easton to north side of Bristol, but filled in for the final mile, but not built over except one obsolete school in Bristol.  16 obstructions in lower 10 miles.  These  obstructions are the result of limited vision in the 1950’s and 60’s.  One of these (at US 1) was removed in 2004.
Projects on going to improve water flow, towpath, and locks.  Lock 4 and Lock 22/23 restored to near  operable condition.  Lock 11 being restored in 2004 to operable condition.
Much damage occurred on this canal, particularly north of New Hope, in two “50 year” floods in the fall of 2004 and spring of 2005.  A third “50 year” flood occurred in June 2006! Fortunately, the third flood occurred before funds had been expended to repair damage from the first two. There is much pressure to repair the damage and to do so in a way that reduces future damage.

Lehigh Navigation, Lower Division

State: Pennsylvania
Route: Easton to Jim Thorpe
Length: 46 miles
Status: Sections owned by various towns and private groups.  Connects to the Delaware Division Canal.
Locks: 44 each 22′ x 100′
Dams 7, 8, & 9 replaced by concrete dams.  Other dams breached.   Section 8 restored as  Hugh Moore Park in Easton and home of mule drawn, canal boat ride.  Section 7 is a series of town/city parks from Allentown to Easton, but unrestored.  Water flows in most of this section.  Some upper sections are parks, but more difficult to restore.

Schuylkill Navigation (parts)

State: Pennsylvania
Route: Philadelphia to Port Carbon
Length: Originally 108 miles
Status: Sections owned by the state, various towns and private groups.
Connects to tidewater at its lower end.
Locks: 71 each 18′ x 110′
The lower 4 dams and some higher up are intact, as are a couple of the canals.
The lowest dam (Fairmount) was bypassed by a short canal & lock, now filled in, but not built on.
The next (Flat Rock) is bypassed by the Manayunk Canal, still in water with derelict locks.  This canal has been redeveloped as a park.
The third (Plymouth) was bypassed by the Conshohocken Canal, now mostly filled in.
Alternate routes appear possible.
The fourth (Norristown) was bypassed by a canal on the right bank, now filled in.
Further upstream, Black Rock Dam fed the Qakes Canal which is mostly intact & watered (the upper 2-1/2 miles of the 3-1/2 mile length).   The inlet lock (60) has been restored and was reopened to navigation on May 1, 2005.  The lower mile including the outlet Lock (61) was covered by a dredging impoundment, but may still be state owned. The dredgings are being removed and used for fuel overseas.

Delaware & Raritan Canal

State: New Jersey
Route: Bordentown on the Delaware River tidewater to New Brunswick on the Raritan River tidewater
Length: 43 miles plus 23 mile navigable feeder
Status: Owned by state as a state park
Locks: 14 each 24′ x 220′
Note: This is the missing link in the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway forcing a dangerous ocean passage                      at Sandy Hook, NJ
Locks converted to spillways.  Feeder watered entire length.   Main canal watered from feeder to  just south of Landing Lane north of New Brunswick.   Filled-in and covered by highways in Trenton.  Filled in and covered by highways in New Brunswick except near final lock.  Derelict between south Trenton & Bordentown (this section is easily visible from the new River Line light rail).  Towpath of Feeder and of main canal east of Trenton in heavy use for recreation.

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal

State: Maryland
Route: Washington DC (tidewater) to Cumberland
Length: 184 miles
Status: Entire canal owned by the National Park Service as the C&O Canal National Park
Locks:  locks, 15′ x 90′
Towpath open entire length.  Canal watered from Georgetown to first dam.   Remainder of  canal derelict, but towpath open entire length.  Some restoration projects underway.  Monacacy Creek Aqueduct recently fully restored, but dry. Mule drawn canal boat rides at Georgetown & Great Falls Tavern.

Delaware & Hudson Canal (lower half)

State: New York
Route: Eddyville on Rondout Creek (tidewater) to Port JervisLength: 56 miles to Port JervisStatus: Public and private ownershipLocks: 56 lift locks, one guard lock 15′ x 90’Condition: Derelict, but summit level watered at each end.  Most of route intact.Note: This canal has always been the economic engine of the valleys it passes through.

Glens Falls Feeder Canal

State: New York
Route: Old Champlain Canal junction at Fort Edward to Hudson River west of Glens Falls
Status: Owned by New York Canal Corporation and still used to feed the Champlain Canal
Condition: Locks are derelict.  Canal west of US 4 in Hudson Falls available for canoeing.

Schuylerville, NY

State: New York
Route: Old Champlain Canal junction lock at Barge Lock 5 south to basin at Schuylerville
Status: Canal in water. Three bridges and one lock need restoration.
Locks: 1
Condition: Lock is derelict.  Three bridges needed. Would restore boating to Schuylerville basin.

Muskingum Navigation

State: Ohio
Route: Marietta on the Ohio River to Dresden
Length: 91 miles
Status: Owned by the State of OhioLocks: 11 each 36′ x 175′
Being restored by state.  Locks that are not currently being repaired are in service on summer weekends.  However, information is not readily available on the internet.

Ohio & Erie Canal (northern half plus Dresden Side cut)

State: Ohio
Route: Dresden on the Muskingum River to Cleveland on Lake Erie
Length: 150 miles
Status: Ownership public and private
Locks: 56 each 15′ x 90′
Watered from Pinery Dam to Lock 40 north, Akron to Barberton, & Clinton to  Massillon.   Much of the rest intact.  Long sections of park ownership.  3 locks in operable condition.   Towpath being opened as trail from Cleveland to Dover (New Philadelphia).

Ohio & Erie Canal (southern summit plus ?) (Added 10/3/05)

State: Ohio
Route: I-70 south thru Buckeye Lake and Deep Cut
Length: ? miles
Status: Ownership public and private
Locks: 56 each 15′ x 90′
North of Buckeye Lake, the canal is watered to the state fish hatchery, but the guard lock at the lake and an aqueduct are missing and a couple of road crossings are culverted.
The canal is watered and used by power boats through Buckeye Lake (former the summit reservoir) and south about a mile to Millersport.   South of there, the canal remains in water, but unused and on private property through the deep cut to Bickel Church Road.
There is little preventing restoration from I-70 to Baltimore, OH.

Hennepin Canal (Illinois & Mississippi Canal)

State: Illinois
Route: From the Illinois River at Great Bend (near Hennepin) to the Mississippi River at Rock Island with feeder to the Rock River at Rock Falls
Length: 104 miles main canal, 39 miles on Feeder
Status: Owned by the state as the Hennepin Canal State Park
Locks: 33 each 35′ x 170′ of reinforced concrete
Era: Opened 1907, Closed 1951
Feeder canal watered throughout.   Main Canal watered between about half way between Locks 5 & 6 and Lock 29.  All locks inoperable.  Aqueducts 1, 2, and 8 on the main canal removed and replaced by siphons.  Lock 1 submerged by changes in the Illinois River.   Entire feeder and 11 mile summit level are a connected waterway.  Towpath open as trail.  Various park facilities along route.   Watered canal open for boating between locks.

Fox – Wisconsin Navigation

State: Wisconsin
Route: Green Bay of Lake Michigan to the Wisconsin River at Portage
Length:  miles
Status: Owned by state.
Locks: 2 on the Portage Canal, 7 on the Upper Fox River, 17 on the Lower Fox River locks 35′ x 200′
Note: This was the most northern of the water routes between the Great Lakes and the  Mississippi River system.

Portage Canal: restored had two locks, one now with gates, one derelict.

Upper Fox River: Locks closed and some filled-in, some diked off except the lowest one at Eureka.  Two dams  removed. Eureka Lock being restored to navigation in 2011

 Lower Fox River: Locks and canal sections acquired by state from U.S. Army Corps of  Engineers in 2004.  Lowest two locks and upper one are in operation.  It is intended to restore all of the lower Fox River locks except Rapide Croche, which will be replaced by a boat lift to serve as a fish barrier. In 2005, the 5 Kaukauna Locks were stabilized.         

In 2006, the 4 Appleton Locks were rebuilt on time and under budget. (7 operational locks total in 2007)         

In 2008, the Cedars Lock, the Combined Locks and the mile long dike through the village of Little Chute was rebuilt. Also, the College Ave. bridge just upstream of Appleton Lock 4 was being rebuilt.          Operation of the Appleton and Cedars section is scheduled for 2008.          In 2009, the five Kauhauna Locks may be restored.

The lower Fox River is expected to be reopened to through navigation in the summer of 2010. See page 7 of the Friends of the Fox Spring 2009 newsletter.


Second Welland Canal (northern portion)

Province of Ontario, Canada
Route: Port Dalhousie on Lake Ontario to the Fourth Welland Canal at Thorold
Length:  miles
Status: Apparently owned by cities of St. Catharines & Thorold.
Locks: 27  each 26’6″ x 150′ except Lock 1 which was larger.
Depth: 9′
Note: This was the second of the four Welland Canals and could provide a route for smaller pleasure boats from Port Dalhousie to the top of the Niagara Escarpment independent of the large locks and ships of the current (4th) canal.  For great lake and canal capable boats, reestablishing this canal would create a cruising ring for smaller craft when combined with Lakes Erie & Ontario and the Erie & Oswego Canals.

Condition: Many of the locks along the route are intact, without gates, but with storm water flowing through them.  They continue to be neglected and abused due to the non-use.  Others have been filled-in, but may be intact below ground.  Some highways do impact the route for limited distances.  But there are no problems that could not be solved with imagination.   The route passes next to or through the commercial areas of Port Dalhousie, St. Catharines and Thorold.

South of Thorold, the fourth canal can be used to Lake Erie with a side channel to the City of Welland.  Port Colborne at the southern end has a large, popular marina and the channel of the first, second, and third canals with a new small lock and drawbridge could be used to bypass the large, fourth canal Lock 8.

Soulages Canal

Province of Quebec, Canada
Route: Lake St. Louis to Lake St. Francis along the north side of the St. Lawrence River
Length:  14.67 miles
Status: Owned by the Province of Quebec.
Locks: 5  each 46′ x 280′.  Locks 1, 2, 3 at the east end have a lift of 23’6″ each.
Lock 4 (3-1/2 miles west) has a 12′ lift
Lock 5 (western guard lock) has a nominal 1′ lift
Depth: 14′
Note: This canal was reported at the 2002 World Canals Conference to be under restoration by the province.

Shubenacadie Canal

Province of Nova Scotia, Canada
Route: Dartmouth Cove at Halifax Harbor to Cobequid Bay (upper end of the Bay of Fundy)
Length:   miles
Status: Owned by the Province

Revised 1/24/09