Erie Canal


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Erie Canal,

artificial waterway, c.360 mi (580 km) long; connecting New York City with the Great Lakes via the Hudson River. Locks were built to overcome the 571-ft (174-m) difference between the level of the river and that of Lake Erie. With its three branch canals it forms the New York State Canal SystemNew York State Canal System,
waterway system, 524 mi (843 km) long, traversing New York state and connecting the Great Lakes with the Finger Lakes, the Hudson River, and Lake Champlain.
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.

After the American Revolution, the need for an all-American water route between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic coast was evident. Political unity, easy and inexpensive transportation, and increased trade (free from Canadian competition) were the anticipated benefits of such a route. Several land surveys followed, and by 1810, the issue was paramount in the New York legislature, where De Witt ClintonClinton, De Witt
, 1769–1828, American statesman, b. New Windsor, N.Y.; son of James Clinton. He was admitted (1790) to the New York bar but soon became secretary to his uncle, George Clinton, first governor of the state, and in that position (1790–95) gained
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 lent his political support. A canal commission, including Clinton, Gouverneur Morris, Stephen Van Rensselaer, and Thomas Eddy, recommended (1811) a canal to Lake Erie rather than to Lake Ontario. The canal bill, drawn up by Clinton in 1815, was debated in the legislature (1816–17), with New York City and the Lake Ontario interests opposing it vigorously. Although a presidential veto of a national waterway project forced the proposed canal's financial burden on New York alone, the canal bill passed the state legislature in Apr., 1817.

Work on the canal was carried on by gangs made up, in many cases, of European immigrants. The canal's course was entirely enclosed; streams and lakes were not incorporated into the waterway. The middle section (Utica to Salina) was completed in 1820; the eastern section through the Mohawk River valley was finished in 1823. Elaborate celebrations opened the entire canal in 1825; Clinton and other notables sailed from Buffalo to New York City, where Clinton emptied a barrel of Lake Erie water into the Atlantic Ocean. The canal was enlarged beginning in 1835; its most important branches, the Champlain (opened 1819), the Oswego (1828), and the Cayuga-Seneca (1829), were also enlarged. The Erie Canal contributed to New York City's financial development, opened eastern markets to Midwest farm products and encouraged immigration to that region, and helped to create numerous large cities. Its initial success started a wave of canal building in the United States.

Railroad competition, beginning in the 1850s, eventually destroyed the canal's long-haul advantages; however, for many years the Erie Canal was a profitable route. Tolls were abolished in 1882, however, because of its state of disrepair and to lure more traffic. Although some improvements were made (1884–94), inadequate navigability, the competition of Canadian routes, and the disclosure of fraudulent administration (the "Canal Ring") brought about plans for complete renovation and subsequent conversion (1905–18) into a large, modern barge canal. Unlike the original canal, the revamped waterway incorporated canalized rivers and lakes in the waterway; parallel sections of the old Erie Canal were abandoned.

Much tonnage was still shipped via the canal in the 1950s, but the opening of the New York State Thruway and the St. Lawrence SeawaySaint Lawrence Seaway,
international waterway, 2,342 mi (3,769 km) long, consisting of a system of canals, dams, and locks in the St. Lawrence River and connecting channels between the Great Lakes; opened 1959.
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 sealed the canal's commercial demise. Traffic in the late 20th cent. consisted almost entirely of pleasure boats, and a five-year overhaul in the late 1990s was undertaken to make the canal a major "recreationway." Commercial interest in the highly fuel-efficient waterway was renewed some in 2008 when energy costs soared to record highs.

Bibliography

See R. K. Andrist, The Erie Canal (1964); G. E. Condon, Stars in the Water (1973); R. Shaw Erie Water West (1996); C. Carol, The Artificial River (1996); P. L. Bernstein, Wedding of the Waters (2005).

Erie Canal

 

the most important component of the New York State Barge Canal System, a system of inland waterways in the northeastern United States, in the state of New York.

The Erie Canal connects the Great Lakes system with the Atlantic Ocean by way of the Hudson River. It is more than 540 km long and is 50 m wide. The canal extends from Buffalo, on Lake Erie, to Cohoes, where the canalized Mohawk river flows into the Hudson. The Erie Canal has 35 locks, the largest of which is 94.5 m long, 13.2 m wide, and 3.6 m deep. The canal handles about 4 million tons of freight annually, chiefly petroleum and petroleum products, construction materials, and grain. It was built between 1817 and 1825 and has been improved several times, most recently between 1905 and 1918. In the mid-19th century, the Erie Canal played a prominent role in the development of the interior of the United States.

Erie Canal

a canal in New York State between Albany and Buffalo, linking the Hudson River with Lake Erie. Length: 579 km (360 miles)
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