Sunday, February 7, 2021

Miami & Erie Canal

This map shows that Ohio had two canals connecting Lake Erie with the Ohio River. This north/south orientation for transportation and growth is why the early charters I read about when studying the Pennsy's Panhandle route had a north/south orientation. But the superior technology of railroads allowed them to connect the Midwest directly with the east coast making canals obsolete and changing the orientation of transportation across Ohio to be east/west. As can be seen on the map, the western canal was Miami & Erie. The reason for the name is that it was dug through the Miami Valley and the name Ohio & Erie was already used. Studying a map, I see the Great Miami River went north from the Ohio River up through Dayton, OH.

Erie Canal On Us Map [The link broke after I wrote the draft in 2018.]

The survey for the canal was made in 1822. Construction was recommended and legislation passed in 1825. Construction started July 25, 1825 near Middletown. (It didn't start on July 4 as was the custom back then because the Ohio dignitaries were starting the Ohio & Erie Canal that day.) The section from Cincinnati to Dayton was completed in 1829 and the whole canal was finished in 1845, three years before the Illinois & Michigan Canal was operational. The trip between Cincinnati to Dayton took a day, and two more days were needed to reach Toledo. The peak year was 1851 when about 400 boats generated $351,897 revenue for the canal. The canal closed in 1913 when a massive flood significantly damaged many facilities. [NewBremen, DaytonDailyNews]
The Miami-Erie Canal utilized 105 locks to raise and lower the canal boats along the 250-mile waterway.  Loramie Summit, 21 miles in length, was the high point of the canal - 521 feet above the Ohio River and 395 feet above Lake Erie.  The average canal boat was 78 feet long, 14 feet-10 inches wide, and cost approximately $2,100.  The Ohio canals were dug by hand with picks and shovels.  Occasionally, teams of horses and oxen were used to power slip-scoops and pull wagons. The Deep Cut, 6,600 feet in length, was the deepest excavation made along the Miami-Erie Canal, and ranged from five to 52 feet deep.  Three man-made lakes, Grand Lake St. Marys, Lake Loramie, and Indian Lake, along with the Miami, Mad, St. Marys and Auglaize Rivers served as the primary sources of water for the canal. [NewBremenHistory]
There were 19 aqueducts and the length of the canal was 248.8 miles. [NewBremen]
The canal commissioners estimated that the Ohio and Erie Canal would cost approximately 2.3 million dollars, while the Miami and Erie would cost 2.9 million. Once construction was completed, the canals combined actually cost 41 million dollars, 25 million dollars of which was interest on loans.[So cost overruns are not a recent invention.]...Usually canals in the northern half of the state were drained dry from November to April. During the winter months, workers would repair any damage that occurred during the earlier part of the year. In southern Ohio, canals generally stayed open the entire year. The difficulties Ohioans faced with the canals paled in comparison to the advantages that they garnered. Most importantly, the cost to ship goods from the East Coast to Ohio and vice versa declined tremendously from 125 dollars per ton of goods to twenty-five dollars per ton of goods....There is a short stretch in the Muskingum Valley near Zanesville still in operation today. [OhioHistoryCentral]

I saved the following two images from to help me plan my next trip between Columbus and Chicago. ODOT has a Byway Page for this canal. I have already made a trip that visited some canal related facilities. As I write notes using the photos I took, I will use the "canalME" label on those notes.


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