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Pennsylvania Canal (North Branch Division) facts for kids

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North Branch Pennsylvania Canal
North branch canal near shickshinny.jpg
North Branch Canal near Shickshinny in about 1900
Length 169 miles (272 km)
Locks 43
Status Historic, abandoned
Construction began 1828
Date completed 1856 (1856)
Start point Chemung River
End point Susquehanna River

The North Branch Division of the Pennsylvania Canal was a historic waterway that ran 169 miles (272 km) along the North Branch Susquehanna River between southern New York and north-central Pennsylvania in the United States. At its southern end, the canal connected with the West Branch Canal and the Susquehanna Division Canal at Northumberland, while on the north it connected with the Junction Canal and the New York canal system. Built between 1828 and 1856, the North Branch Canal was part of a large transportation network that included Pennsylvania's Main Line of Public Works.


The first segment of 55 miles (89 km) was begun in 1828 and completed in 1831 to Nanticoke Falls. In 1834, a project called the Wyoming Extension increased the canal's length by 17 miles (27 km) past Wilkes-Barre to Pittston. A final extension of 97 miles (156 km) from Pittston to the New York state line was started in 1836 and finished in 1856.

The complete canal had a total of 43 locks that overcame 334 feet (102 m) of elevation between its end points. The southern end was 420 feet (130 m) above sea level, and the northern end was at 754 feet (230 m).

The privately built Junction Canal of 18 miles (29 km) linked the North Branch Canal to Elmira. There the Junction Canal connected with the Chemung Canal, which led north to Seneca Lake and the Erie Canal. Through these connections, boats using the Pennsylvania Canal system were able to travel as far as Buffalo and Lake Champlain.

In 1858, the canal from Northampton Street in Wilkes-Barre to the state line was sold to the North Branch Canal Company, which in turn sold it to the Lehigh Valley Railroad in 1865. The railroad laid tracks along portions of the canal towpath and operated both until 1872, when it was authorized by the state legislature to close the canal.

Locks (first segment)

Hanging rock North Branch Canal
Hanging rock, road, railroad, canal, and Susquehanna River near Catawissa in about 1890–1901
No. Lift   Canal mile
0.0 miles
0.0 km
Northumberland Canal Basin
1 11.49 feet (3.50 m) 1.2 miles (1.9 km)
2 11.21 feet (3.42 m) 14.2 miles (22.9 km) 2 miles (3.2 km) above Danville
3 10.65 feet (3.25 m) 21.7 miles (34.9 km) Rupert
4 5.51 feet (1.68 m) 23.1 miles (37.2 km) Bloomsburg
5 9.63 feet (2.94 m) 30.0 miles (48.3 km) Stoneytown
6 8.48 feet (2.58 m) 36.2 miles (58.3 km) Berwick
7 8.92 feet (2.72 m) 39.3 miles (63.2 km) Beach Haven
8 1.93 feet (0.59 m) 55.8 miles (89.8 km) Guard lock at Nanticoke

Chenango Extension

In 1863, the New York Legislature authorized construction of another canal, the Chenango Canal Extension, meant to run about 40 miles (64 km) along the North Branch Susquehanna River from Binghamton, New York, to the Pennsylvania – New York border. The plans called for construction of an east–west crosscut canal linking the Chenango Canal Extension to the North Branch Canal, which followed the Chemung River rather than the North Branch Susquehanna River north of Athens. Cost overruns, waning enthusiasm for canals, and funding delays led to abandonment of the project in 1872, after most of the work on the northern 30 miles (48 km) of the line had been completed. Beyond planning, no work had been done on the southernmost 10 miles (16 km) when the project ended.


Susquehanna Riverlands in Salem Township, 8 miles (13 km) south of Wilkes-Barre, has 0.5 miles (0.8 km) of river walking path and filled canal owned and managed by Pennsylvania Power and Light Company.

Lock No. 1 and a section of the original North Branch Canal in Northumberland were intact in 1986 as was Lock No. 2 below Bloomsburg. Occasional sections of canal bed remained between Shickshinny and West Nanticoke, and the West Nanticoke guard lock was intact. Canal bed was visible from the Lackawanna River toward Ransom and largely intact above Vosburg between Lackawanna Campground and Horse Race Falls. At Laceyville a museum known as the Oldest House was once a lockkeeper's house. Other remnants such as crib work, canal embankments, iron spikes, and timbers could be found here and there along the full length of the canal.

Points of interest

Feature Coordinates Description
Athens 41°57′26″N 76°31′05″W / 41.95722°N 76.51806°W / 41.95722; -76.51806 (Athens, Pennsylvania) Town near the northern terminus
Wilkes-Barre 41°14′34″N 75°52′50″W / 41.24278°N 75.88056°W / 41.24278; -75.88056 (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania) City near the midpoint of the canal
Northumberland 40°53′30″N 76°47′51″W / 40.89167°N 76.79750°W / 40.89167; -76.79750 (Northumberland, Pennsylvania) Town at the southern terminus
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