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Authored by Kayla Setters
March 27, 2017

Celebrating the 200th Anniversary of the Erie Canal

This year marks the 200th Anniversary of the Erie Canal since its construction start date on July 4, 1817 in Rome, New York. The Canal is widely considered one of the most important works of civil engineering in America and is said to be the first waterway connecting the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. When the canal was built, there were no railroads and the only way to travel from Albany on the Hudson River to Buffalo on Lake Erie was by horse-drawn vehicles, a trip that could take two weeks. The canal revolutionized the way goods and products were transported.

Erie Canal Early Years

Pictures courtesy of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

De Witt Clinton, a former U.S. Senator and the sixth Governor of New York, was a key member of the Erie Canal Commission and driving force behind the creation of the canal. He proposed that the $7 million canal would benefit New York City by providing a faster and cheaper route for shipping commodities. Critics called the canal “Clinton’s Big Ditch” because they thought the idea of the canal was reckless and a waste of money. His criticizers were wrong in the end. Within a year of the completion date, the canal proved to be a significant boost in the New York’s wealth and revenue. The Erie Canal turned the North into a global economic and industry powerhouse and gave New York its nickname “the Empire State.”

 

Erie Canal Builders 1817
Erie Canal Lock 4 Early Years

Pictures courtesy of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

The original 363-mile-long canal connecting the east and west was dug entirely by hand with mining axes, shovels, and by blowing through mountains using gunpowder, a chemical explosive. It inspired the production of canals throughout the United States, including the Oswego Canal. Since the canal opened in 1825, the canal dimensions have been enlarged three times to allow more traffic and accommodate larger ships.

Blount Cruising Erie Canal

Go where the big ships cannot with Blount Small Ship Adventures. Travel from New York to Montreal on Locks, Legends & Canals Cruise or journey from Chicago to Warren on Blount's Great American Waterways Cruise


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