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Pennsylvania Canal (Susquehanna Division) facts for kids

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Susquehanna Division, Pennsylvania Canal
A network of east-west canals and connecting railroads spanned Pennsylvania from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. North-south canals connecting with this east-west canal ran between West Virginia and Lake Erie on the west, Maryland and New York in the center, and along the border with Delaware and New Jersey on the east. Many shorter canals connected cities such as York, Port Carbon, and Franklin to the larger network.
Map of historic Pennsylvania canals
Locks 12
Status Historic, abandoned
Original owner Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Construction began 1827
Date completed 1831
Start point Northumberland
End point Duncan's Island at the mouth of the Juniata River
Branch(es) Susquehanna Division
Branch of Pennsylvania Canal
Connects to North Branch Division, West Branch Division, Juniata Division Canal, Eastern Division Canal, Wiconisco Canal
Map of Pennsylvania NA
Compare this map with its major roads of today and its terrains with the above canal system map.

The Susquehanna Canal of the Pennsylvania Canal System was funded and authorized as part of the 1826 Main Line of Public Works enabling act, and would later become the Susquehanna Division of the Pennsylvania Canal under the Pennsylvania Canal Commission. Constructed early on in America's brief canal age, it formed an integral segment of the water focused transportation system which cut Philadelphia-Pittsburgh (pre-railroad) travel time from nearly a month to just four days. One of the system's navigations, the Susquehanna Canal/division created a mule-towed navigable channel 41 miles (66 km) along the west bank of the main stem of the Susquehanna River between a lock terminus near the mouth of the Juniata Tributary River and the canal basin at Northumberland. Meeting the West Branch Canal and the North Branch Canal at Northumberland, it formed a link between the public and private canals upriver and the main east–west Pennsylvania Canal route known as the Main Line of Public Works which was devised to connect Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, southern New York, northern Pennsylvania and Lake Erie using most of the far reaches of the Susquehanna's tributaries.

The engineering needs of the Susquehanna Canal, were modest in comparison to many contemporary projects, and construction was timed after other more difficult projects in the system were well under way. The Susquehanna Division Canal employed 12 locks overcoming a total of just 86 feet (26 m) in its 41 miles (66 km)s length It was begun in 1827 and was finished in 1831 in time to connect to traffic between the Union Canal and the Allegheny Portage Railroad, which lifted wheeled canal barges up one of the gaps of the Allegheny and over the Allegheny Plateau into the Allegheny-Ohio valleys.

Engineers faced complications at the southern end of the Susquehanna Division Canal, where it met the Juniata Division Canal and the Eastern Division Canal at Duncan's Island. Boats had to cross from one side of the Susquehanna River to the other between either the Susquehanna Division or the Juniata Division on the west side and the Eastern Division on the east side. They solved the problem by building a dam 1,998 feet (609 m) long and 8.5 feet (2.6 m) high between the lower end of Duncan's Island and the east bank of the Susquehanna. This formed a pool across which boats could be pulled from a wooden, two-tier towpath bridge at Clark's Ferry. Two Duncan's Island lift locks raised or lowered the boats traveling between the dam pool and the other canals.

Points of interest

Feature Coordinates Description
Northumberland 40°53′30″N 76°47′51″W / 40.89167°N 76.79750°W / 40.89167; -76.79750 (Northumberland, Pennsylvania) Town at the northern terminus
Duncan's Island 40°25′02″N 77°00′33″W / 40.41722°N 77.00917°W / 40.41722; -77.00917 (Duncan's Island)Coordinates: 40°25′02″N 77°00′33″W / 40.41722°N 77.00917°W / 40.41722; -77.00917 (Duncan's Island). Island at the southern terminus
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