canal boatLife on a canal boat was a “family business.” Wives and children worked 15- to 20- hour days along-side boatmen.
The Delaware River Watershed provides water to over 17 million people and supports a world-class trout fishery and bald eagles.

D&H Canal History

Canals have been built for thousands of years for irrigation, drainage, and later, transportation. Goods could be moved more efficiently on water than on horseback or in wagons. Where no suitable water existed for navigation, early engineers designed canals.

Over 100-miles of man-made waterway, the Delaware and Hudson Canal was an engineering feat of pre-industrial America that brought a new form of energy from the hills of Pennsylvania out to the Hudson River. The work — done by hand with pick, shovel and blasting powder — was difficult and often dangerous.

coal carried by barges pulled down the delaware river

Coal carried by barges pulled down the river

From 1828 to 1898, mules pulled barges laden with anthracite coal along river valleys from Honesdale to the along the north bank of Lackawaxen River crossing into New York on Roebling's Delaware Aqueduct. From there the canal ran northwest on the New York side of the Delaware River to Port Jervis. Continuing to the Neversink River, through the valley of the Basherkill, Homowackkill, Sandburg Creek to Ellenville. From there proceeding alongside Rondout Creek toward the Hudson River where it was shipped on barges to New York City and up the river to Canada.

Locks became an intrique part of this route in 1847 when the canal was enlarged to accomodate 140 ton boats. On the way to the Roebling aqueduct, the locks lowered the canal over 70 feet, each dropping an average of 12.61 feet.

Set in TimeD & H Canal sign located in Deerpark, NY.

The canal was conceived in 1823 by William and Maurice Wurts, two Philadelphia dry goods merchants who had purchased large tracts of land in northeastern Pennsylvania rich in anthracite coal deposits. The brothers recognized New York City's need for fuel. They believed anthracite coal was the anser for cheap energy. The method for transporting the fuel had to be created and marketed.

The Wursts hired Benjamin Wright, who engineered the 350-mile Erie Canal. The estimated cost to finance the proposed 4-ft deep by 32-ft wide canal project of was 1.2 million dollars. This was to include 108 locks, 137 bridges, 26 basins, dams and reservoirs.

On January 7, 1825 the Wurts arrange a New York City gathering to offer stock for sale to finance the project. By the end of the night a newly-formed Delaware & Hudson Canal Company emerged.

The Canal operated successfully until the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company made a unique transition in 1898 into a railroad company, becoming America's oldest continously operating transportation company.

For more information about the Canal systems visit:

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