The Delaware and Raritan Canal in Central New Jersey
For part of the 19th Century, England maintained a technological lead over its former colonies in America.Canvass White, who’s grandfather had fought for independence helped to turn the tide with a waterway in central New Jersey.As a rising apprentice working to complete the Erie Canal in the 1820s, White took several months leave to study canal design in England.He returned from his trip armed with notebooks stuffed with drawings and notes.
In 1830, New Jersey chartered a new canal, the Delaware and Raritan, that would cut days off of a journey between Philadelphia and New York City.The “Straight Turnpike” (now Route One) that opened in 1807 was as unreliable as the ocean routes between Trenton and New York, especially in the winter months.Canvass White, now in his early 40s, would be named Chief Engineer of the Delaware and Raritan Canal. His design would carry freight and personal craft for almost 100 years, far longer than most of the other canals in the U.S., which were quickly put out of business by faster, more efficient railroads.
The canal that opened in 1834 from Bordentown to Trenton to New Brunswick was 44 miles long.A few years later, a “feeder” canal from Bull’s Island upriver on the Delaware was opened to traffic, leading to the most successful decades of the 1860s and 1870s, when about 80% of the freight was Pennsylvania anthracite coal.By the 1890s, railroads eroded the D&R’s profitability, but it remained open until 1936 when it was ceded to the State of New Jersey.
There it sat for more than a generation until the canal was placed on the US Register of Historic Places in 1973, and 60 miles were opened as a State Park in 1974.The canal towpaths became a National Recreation Trail in 1992.There are now 70 miles of trails in the D&R Canal network, with a few notable disconnects.In 1966, the Trenton Freeway (Route One) was built over the canal.The canal still flows beneath the roadway.The section connecting to the Delaware River in Bordentown has been abandoned.
Howard Green, research director of the New Jersey Historical Commission described the D&R Canal most succinctly: “It has gone from being the machine in the garden, to being a garden in the machine.”
Today the Park is used for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, walking, running, biking, birdwatching, and public events relating to the history of the canal.There are many access points just off Route One.Check out the maps here to find one!
Peter Evans NJ Trenton Jun 23, 2022 Parks Technology Waterways
Location: Trenton, NJ
Peter Evans Jun 23, 2022
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