In 1825, the Ohio Legislature approved funding to construct an Ohio Canal system. It took 20 years, from 1825 to 1845, to complete the Miami-Erie Canal. The primary work force consisted of Irish, German and French immigrants who labored on the canal for 30 cents a day, food, whiskey and shelter. The world’s first off-shore oil well was drilled in the man-made canal reservoir of Grand Lake St. Marys. Increased competition from railroad companies doomed the Ohio canals, and the last section of the Miami-Erie Canal was abandoned in 1929.
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.
The canals not only carried people and freight, but served as swimming and fishing holes and ice rinks in the winter months. Today, there are three state parks, numerous local parks, state historical markers and community trails along the Miami-Erie Canal. Portions of the Miami-Erie Canal towpath are currently part of the Buckeye Trail and the North Country Trail.
Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) assumed responsibility for all state-owned canal lands in 1989, and the Division of Water operates all hydraulically active sections.
At Johnston Farm - Piqua, Ohio
Saturday – July 30, 2005
We had a marvelous time riding on the General Harrison. Andy Hite of the Ohio Historical Society entertained us with canal lore as we snacked and enjoyed the beauty of the restored canal. We were very fortunate to have Scott Murray and Mike Doepker share their music with us, with Rachel Barber singing some of our favorite songs. Many thanks to the organizers of this NBHA event, a fundraiser for the Lock One Preservation Project.