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MARYLAND AT A GLANCE

WATERWAYS

CANALS


[photo, Lock 5, Chesapeake & Ohio (C & O) Canal, Potomac, Maryland]
  • Chesapeake & Delaware (C&D) Canal
    connects upper Chesapeake Bay with Delaware Bay

  • Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal
    formerly linked Georgetown in the District of Columbia and Cumberland, Maryland
  • Lock 5, Chesapeake & Ohio (C & O) Canal, Potomac, Maryland, April 2001. Photo by Ann J. Baker.

    [photo, Young fishermen, Southern Terminus, Susquehanna & Tidewater Canal, Havre de Grace, Maryland]
  • Susquehanna & Tidewater Canal
    formerly linked Pennsylvania Canal at Wrightsville, Pennsylvania, with Havre de Grace, Maryland

  • Young fishermen, Southern Terminus, Susquehanna & Tidewater Canal, Havre de Grace, Maryland, April 2005. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.


    In the first half of the 19th century, Maryland increased economic trade by building three canals. These canals allowed goods arriving in Baltimore Harbor to be shipped quickly into Pennsylvania and western Maryland. They also created a direct route from Baltimore east to the Atlantic. Though all three canals maintain partial operation, only the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal remains open to shipping.

    CHESAPEAKE & DELAWARE (C&D) CANAL
    One of only two canals still commercially active in the United States, the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal was first authorized by Congress in 1802, and connects upper Chesapeake Bay with Delaware Bay. Although construction began in 1804, it was halted in 1806 due to a lack of funding. Not until 1824 did construction resume, and in 1829 was completed.

    In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed a commission to establish the feasibility of converting the canal to service larger steam ships. The federal government purchased the Canal in 1919, dredged and restructured it, and, in 1927, reopened it to commercial traffic. The Canal underwent further expansion in 1954, and today provides for 40% of the ships seeking access to the Port of Baltimore.

    CHESAPEAKE & OHIO (C&O) CANAL
    Though never actually reaching Ohio, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal connects the City of Cumberland in Allegany County, Maryland, with Washington, DC. Chartered in 1825, the Canal measures over 180 miles, and rises more than 600 feet in elevation. Its construction began in 1828, but due to labor and funding problems was not completed until 1850. With budgets exceeding funds, and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad decreasing the need for the Canal, plans for an Ohio connection never were enacted. Not reaching its intended Ohio markets, the Canal, nonetheless, was able to remain viable by expediting coal, lumber and grain shipments from western Maryland to sites along the Chesapeake Bay.

    The Canal ceased operation in 1924. It was purchased by the federal government for use as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) program in 1934 and reopened in 1939 as a public park. In 1971, the Canal was designated a National Historic Park. Today, its entire length is maintained by the National Park Service.

    SUSQUEHANNA & TIDEWATER CANAL
    Construction of the Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal began in 1836. Operated from 1840 to 1894, the Canal linked Havre de Grace, Maryland, to the Pennsylvania Canal at Wrightsville, Pennsylvania. A relatively short expanse, the Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal stretched only 43 miles, yet it encompassed 29 locks. These locks were necessary to allow Canal boats to rise more than 230 feet in elevation in order to connect with the Pennsylvania Canal.

    Only small remnants of the Canal's original structure remain. The Susquehanna Museum maintains the original Lock House at Havre de Grace, while remains of the Canal may be visited at Susquehanna State Park.

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     Maryland Manual On-Line, 2009

    July 1, 2009   
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