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The Ohio-Erie Canal was constructed in the early 19th century and connected the Ohio River with Lake Erie at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River. Many northeast Ohio towns, such as Canal Fulton, Peninsula, Zoar, Massillon and the City of Akron grew up around the traffic and commerce brought by the canal.
Today, the canal is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and portions of the canal and its many locks have been restored.
They make a fascinating living history museum about life in the Western Reserve during the early to mid-19th century.
The Canal opened in 1827, when the first boat left Akron and traversed the 41 locks and three aqueducts on the 37-mile route to Cleveland. The entire length of the canal was completed in 1832. The Ohio-Erie Canal carried freight until 1861 when the advent of the railroads made shipping goods via the canal economically unfeasible. Much of the remaining canal was destroyed in a flood in 1913.
Fun Facts about the Ohio-Erie Canal:
- The average speed of the first canal boats was three mph.
- The entire canal system as 308 miles long
- There were 146 lift locks to raise the boats a total of 1,206 feet.
- The lock numbering system began at the lower basin, near today's Exchange and Main Sts. in Akron. North of the basin was Lock 1 North; south of the basin was Lock 1 South.
- When he was a teenager, President James A. Garfield, worked on the Canal as a mule-driver.
The Ohio-Erie Canal Today:
Today, several portions of the Ohio-Erie Canal have been restored and are open to visitors. The Ohio-Erie Canal Historic District, located just south of Valley View, is a 24-acre stretch of land, including four miles of the canal and three locks. There are also restored sections within Cuyahoga Valley National Park and in Summit County, near Barberton. The Cleveland Metroparks System manages the portions of the canal that join Cuyahoga Valley National Park with Lake Erie.
The Towpath Trail:
The 84-mile Towpath Trail follows much of the original Ohio-Erie Canal Towpath. The hiking and biking trail currently starts at Harvard Avenue in Cuyahoga Heights, but will eventually go into Cleveland near Steelyard Commons. The trail continues south through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to Canal Lands Park in southern Summit County. Landmarks along the Towpath Trail include the historic Frazee House, 63-foot Brandywine Falls, the restored 1850s Mustill Store Visitor Center, Lock 3 Park in Akron, the Tomb of the Unknown Patriot of the American Revolution and the historic German Community of Zoar.