United States. Inland Waterways Commission.

Preliminary report of the Inland Waterways Commission. Message from the President transmitting a preliminary report online

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plete on any given line all the improvements, however chstant, which
may be necessary to render the whole productive, and eminently

The early and efficient aid of the Federal Government is recom-
mended by still more important considerations. The inconveniences,
complaints, and perhaps dangers, wliicli may result from a vast
extent of territory, can no otherwise be radically removed or prevented
than by opening speedy and easy communications through all its
parts. Good roads and canals will shorten distances, facilitate com-
mercial and personal intercourse, and unite, by a still more intimate
community of interests, the most remote quarters of the United States.
No other single operation, within the power of government, can more
effectually tend to strengthen and perpetuate that union which
secures external independence, domestic peace, and internal hberty.

With that view of the subject the facts respecting canals, which
have been collected in pursuance of the resolution of the Senate, have
been arranged under the following heads :

1. Great canals, fi'om north to south, along the Atlantic seacoast.

2. Communication between the Atlantic and western waters.

3. Communications between the Atlantic waters, and those of the
Great Lakes, and river St. Lawrence.

4. Interior canals.


The map of the United States will show that they possess a tide
water inland navigation, secure from storms and enemies, and wliich,
from Massachusetts to the southern extremity of Georgia, is prin-
cipally, if not solely, interrupted by four necks of land. These are
the Isthmus of Barnstable, that part of New Jersey which extends
from the Raritan to the Delaware, the peninsula between the Dela-
ware and the Chesapeake, and that low and marshy tract which
divides the Chesapeake from Albemarle Sound. It is ascertained
that a navigation for sea vessels, drawing eight feet pf water, may be
effected across the three last, and a canal is also believed to be prac-
ticable, not, perhaps, across the Isthmus of Barnstable, but from the
harbor of Boston to that of Rhode Island. The Massachusetts Canal
would be about twenty-six, the New Jersey about twenty-eight, and
each of the two southern about twenty-two miles in length, making
altogether less than one hundred miles.

Should this great work, the expense of wliich, as will hereafter be
shown, is estimated at about three millions of dollars, be accomj^lished,
a sea vessel entering the first canal in the harbor of Boston would,
through the bay of Rhode Island, Long Island Sound, and the harbor
of New York, reach Brunswick on the Raritan; thence pass through
the second canal to Trenton on the Delaware, down that river to
Christiana or Newcastle, and through the tliird canal to Elk River and
the Chesapeake, whence, sailing down that bay and up Elizabeth
River, it would, through the fourth canal, enter the Albemarle Sound,
and by PamHco, Core, and Bogue sounds, reach Beaufort and Swans-


borough in North Carolina. From the last-mentioned place, the
inland navigation, through Stumpy and Toomer's sounds, is continued
\ntli a chminished draught of water, and by cutting two low and
narrow necks, not exceecling tlu-ee miles together, to Cape Fear River,
and thence by an open but short and direct run along the coast is
reached that cluiin of islands between wliich and the main the inland
navigation is continued, to St, Marys along the coast of South Carolina
and Georgia. It is unnecessary to add any comments on the utility
of the work, in peace or war, for the transportation of merchandise
or the conveyance of persons.

The several papers untler the letter A, heremth transmitted, con-
tain the information wliich has been received on those several intended
communications. The substance udll now be stated.

I. Massachusetts Canal.

1. Sandwich Isthmus between Ba"rnstable Bay on the north and
Buzzards Bay on the south had first attracted the public attention.
Surveys and levels were taken for the purpose of ascertaining the
practicabihty of opening a cross cut to be supplied by the sea itself
from the mouth of Back River in Buzzards Bay to the mouth of
Scusset River in Barnstable Bay.

The (hstance was found to exceed seven miles; the elevation of the
liighest intermediate ground is forty feet above low water mark in
Barnstable Bay ; the depth of water at the mouth of Black River does
not, at low water, exceed seven feet and a half, and the channel to that
spot through Buzzards Bay is obstructed by shoals. The tide wliich
rises but tliree feet and a half in that bay rises three hours and a half
later, and more than eighteen feet in that of Barnstable. The shore
on which that formidable tide would operate is an open beach without
any harbor or shelter whatever. Independent of other obstacles, it
was apprehended that the same natural causes wliich had formed the
isthmus might fill the canal, or make a bar at its entrance, and the
])roject seems to have been abandoned.

2. The ground was also examined between Barnstable Harbor on
the north and Hyanus Harbor on the south at some distance east of
Sandwich. The breadth of the peninsula does not exceed here four
miles and a half, and there would be a harbor at each end of the canal.
The same difference exists in the tides which rise four feet in Hyanus
and sixteen feet in Barnstable Harbor. The entrance of this is
obstructed b}^ shoals, but the great obstacle to a cross cut is the
elevation of the intermediate ground, estimated at eighty feet above
tide water. Navigable ponds on that liigh ground might, perhaps,
form part of a lock canal, and supply the remainder with water;
but a canal, frozen in winter, would not have effected the great
object in view, wliich was to enable vessels from sea to proceed in
milter from Marthiis Vineyard to Boston %vithout saiHng around Cape
Cod. Although the difficulty of the navigation from Boston to Barn-
stable diminishes, the utility of this communication, as one of the great
Unks in tliis hue of inland navigation, it may be resorted to should
that which ^\^ll be next mentioned prove impracticable for sea vessels.

3. The attention of the legislature of Massachusetts, under whose
authority the grounds at Sandwich and Barnstable had been examined.


has lately been turned to a direct communication between Weymouth
landing, within the harbor of Boston and Taunton River, which
empties into the bay of Rhode Island. A favorable report has been
made during the last session, of which a copy has lately been obtained.
The distance from tide water to tide water is twenty-six miles by
one route and twentj^-three and a quarter miles by another. The
highest intermediate ground is one hundred and thirty-three feet
above tide water, but maybe reduced ten feet by digging to that depth
the length of a mile. Two ponds, known by the name of Weymouth
and Cranberry, the largest and least elevated of which covers five
hundred acres and is fourteen feet higher than the summit of the
proposed canal, will supply the upper locks with water by feeders
four miles long. Whether the quantity of water contained in those
ponds, and estimated equal to a daily supply of 450,000 cubic feet,
wall be sufficient for a sloop navigation, and whether any other ponds
or streams may be brought in aid, does not seem to be fully ascertained
After descending twenty feet towards Weymouth and seventy towards
Taunton an ample supply for the lower locks will be derived from
other large ponds, the principal of which are known by the names of
Braintree and Nippinitic. The expense may, on a supposition that
the route is partly through a rocky soil, be estimated as follows:

Digging twenty-six miles, at $30,000 per mile $780, 000. 00

Lockage, two hundred and sixty feet, at $1,250 a foot 325, 000. 00

Feeders, purchase of land, &c 145, 000. 00

1, 250, 000. 00
II. New Jersey Canal.

A company was incorporated some years ago by the legislature of
New Jersey for opening a canal between the Raritan and the Dela-
ware. Acting under the erroneous opinion that the navigation of
small rivers might be improved and used as a canal, the company
intended' to have united, by a cross cut of one mile, the Assampink
or Trenton Ci-eek with. Stony Brook, a branch of Millstone River, and
to have descended Trenton Creek to the Delaware and Stony Brook
and jVIillstone River to the Raritan. The capital, which was inade-
quate, was not paid; but their survey of the intended route has shown
the practicabiHty of a canal for sea vessels on a proper plan. The
distance from Brunswdck to Trenton is twenty-six miles, and the only
obstacle on the way is the ''sand liills," some distance west of Bruns-
wick, These may, it is said, be avoided by a deviation which would
not increase the distance more than two miles, and they may, at all
events, be perforated as has been done by the turnpike company,
who have opened a road on a straight line between the two towns
■sdthout having in any place an angle of ascent of more than three
degrees. The liighest intermediate ground between Assampink and
Stony Brook is only fifty feet above tide water, and it is suggested
that the summit level may be taken seven feet lower, cutting seven
miles through a level meadow between the confluence of the Assam-
pink and Sliippetankin creeks and Rowley's Mill, near the confluence
of Stony Brook and Millstone River.

An adequate smjply of water wall be drawn by short feeders from
Philip's Springs, Trenton Creek, Stony Brook, and Millstone River,
all of which arc more elevated than the route of the canal, the ''sand
hills" excepted.


The deptk of water at the two extremities of the ©anal taken a.t low
water are — — feet at Brunswick, and ten feet at Lamberton, one
mile below Trenton.

The expenses may be estimated as follows:

Digging twenty-eight miles, at^$20,000 per mile $560, 000. 00

Lockage, one hundred feet (probably less), at $1,250 per foot 125, 000. 00

Feeders, purchase of land and water rights 115, 000. 00

800, 000. 000
III. Delaware and Chesapeake Canal.

A company incorporated by the States of Delaware and Maryland
for opening this canal has commenced its operations; now suspended
for want of funds.

The canal will commence at Welsh Point, on Elk Kiver, an arm of
the Chesapeake, and terminate at a distance of twenty-two miles on
Christiana Creek, a branch of the Delaware. At low water the depth
of water in Christiana is nine feet, and in Elk twelve feet, within one
hundred feet from the shore. The tide rises four feet in both rivers.
The canal might, "vvdthout increasing the distance, be conducted to
Newcastle on the Delaware itself, instead of ending on Christiana

The highest intermediate ground over wliich the canal will be
carried on a level of thirteen miles in length is seventy-four feet
above tide water, the descent being effected by nine locks on each side.
The digging is generally easy, no expensive aqueducts or bridges,
nor any other obstacle but those which have already been overcome in
digging the feeder through a very rocky soil.

The supply of water drawn from Elk Eiver by a feeder six miles in
length, already completed, which is itself a boat canal three feet and a
half deep, umted by a lock of ten feet lift with the main canal, is
calculated to fill daily one hundred and forty-four locks, a quantity
sufficient on an average for the daily passage of twenty-four vessels.
A reservoir covering thirty, and wliich may be increased to one hun-
dred and fifty, acres will supply occasional deficiencies. Other
reservoirs may be added, and Christian, White, and Clay creeks may
hereafter be brought in aid of Elk River if the supply should prove
too scanty for an increased navigation.

The canal twentj^-six feet wide at the bottom and fifty on the top
on the water fine, being dug at the depth of eight feet, is intended for
vessels of forty to seventy tons, draAving seven and a half feet water;
but the banks, twenty feet wdde for towing paths and one of which
may be converted into a turnpike road, being raised three feet above
the level of the water, will, by increasing the height of the lock gates
one foot, admit a depth of mne feet of water in the canal, at which
depth it would perha])s be eHgible to dig at once. The locks, eighty
feet long, eighteen feet wide, and eight or nine feet deep over the gate-
sills, containing each eleven thousand five hundred to tliirteen thou-
sand cubic feet of water and with a Hf t of eight to nine feet each, will
be constructed of hewn stone laid in tarras. Those dimensions, both
of the canal and locks recommended by Mr. Latrobe, the engineer of
the canal, may be adopted in all the other canals for sea vessels on this
line of communication.


Tlic preseiil annual carriage across the peninsula, which would be
drawn through the canal, is estimated at forty-two thousand tons,
exclusively of passengers. This will be greatly increased by the
facility wliich the canal itself will afford to the commercial intercourse
between the two bays and to the conveyance of articles now carried
through other channels, or too heavy for transportation at the present
expense of carriage. The coals wanted for Pliiladelphia, and wMch,
brought down from the sources of the Susquehannah and Potomac,
but principally from the vicinity of Richmond^ would naturally pass
through the canal, have been alone estimated at more than one hun-
dred thousand tons a year. The annual carriage of all articles may,
in the present state of population, be fairly estimated at one hundred
and fifty thousand tons, and the direct annual saving to the com-
munity at $300,000; being at the rate of two dollars a ton for the
difference between land and water carriage across the peninsula, after
paying the tolls. These, at the rate of fifty cents a ton, wall give to the
undertakers a revenue of $75,000, leaving, after a deduction of $10,000
for annual repairs and of $10,000 more for attendance and contin-
gencies, a net income of $55,000.

The expenses of the whole work are estimated as follows:

Digging twenty-two miles, at $20,000 a mile |440, 000. 00

Eighteen locks, at $10,000 each 180, 000. 00

(The whole lockage, being one hundred and forty-eight feet, would, at
$1,250 a foot, amount to $185,000.00.)

P'eeder, (nearly completed) reservoirs, lock at the feeder, purchase of

water rights and land, including a debt of dollars, due by the

company 230, 000. 00

850, 000. 00

The interest on w^hich sum at 6 per cent is $51,000.

The capital originally subscribecl amounted to $400,000, divided
into two thousand shares of two hundred dollars each. One-half
of these has been forfeited, after a small payment of five dollars on
each share; $100,000 paid by the other stockholders have been
expended in preparatory measures in the purchase of water rights
and in digging the feeder, which was considered as the most difficult
part of the work; $750,000 are still wanted to complete the work, of
which sum $100,000 are payable by the stockholders, and the defi-
ciency of $650,000 must be drawn from other sources.

IV. Chesapeake and Albemarle.

1. The shortest communication between the Chesapeake and
Albemarle Sound is from North Landing, at the head of tlie tide of
Northwest River, which erhpties into Currituck Inlet, the eastern-
most arm of Albemarle to either Kemps ville or Great Bridge, at the
head of the tide of two dift'erent branches of the south branch of
Elizabeth River, which, passing by Norfolk, unites at Hampton
Roads with James River and the Chesapeake. The distance is stated
at seven miles, and the levels said to be favorable. It is believed
that the principal reason why this communication has not been
attempted is a bar in Currituck Inlet which does not admit the passage
of vessels drawing five feet water.


2. A company incorporated by the States of \'irginia and Noitli
Carolina for o])ening a canal throngh the Dismal Swamp has made
considerable progress in the work.

The canal extends twenty-two miles in length from Deep Creek,
a branch of the south branch of Elizabeth River, seven miles above
Norfolk to Joyces Creek, a branch of Pasquotank River, a northern
arm of Albemarle Sound. Vessels drawing eight to nine feet water
may ascend both creeks to each extremity of the canal.

The intervening ground along the eastern margin of the Dismal
Swamp is almost level, the rise towards the middle not exceeding
two feet above the two extremities, which are onh' eighteen feet and
nine inches above tide water. The digging is very easy; the only
obstacles arise from the stumps and roots of trees, and are nearly
overcome; and a single aqueduct or, rather, culvert over a small
run emptying into the Northwest River is necessary.

The swamp itself supplies at the depth at which the canal is cut
the water which has heretofore been wanted, and a sufficient supply
may be drawn by a feeder of three miles and a half in length, cut
through a perfect level from Lake Drummond, a natural reservoir
in the center of the swamp of fifteen miles in circumference and about
six feet higher than the water in the canal.

The canal as cut by the company is twenty-four feet wide and six
feet deep, with one bank on the west side for a towing path eighteen
feet broad. The whole digging, with the exception of two miles,
which must be deepened three feet, and of three-quarters of a mile in
another place not entirely finished, has been completed. The locks
at the two extremities of the canal are not built, but two have been
erected at some distance from each extremity, probably in order to
save some digging in the intervening space ; they are made of square
juniper logs and have cost only three hundred dollars each.

The expense of digging has not exceeded four thousand dollars a
mile; the whole capital expended amounts to one hundred thousand
dollars, of which the State of Virginia has furnished seventeen thou-
sand five hundred ; and it is stated that the whole work may be com-
pleted in one year, and will not, including the locks and the payment
of some debts contracted by the company, exceed twenty-five thou-
sand dollars. But the canal which by the original act of incorpora-
tion was to be thirty-two feet wide and eight feet deep, can, on its
present plan, be considered only as a local object, the principal
utility or which consists in bringing to market the otherwise useless
lumber of the swamp. The only boats which navigate it are flats,
forty feet long, six feet wide, drawing two feet of water, and carrying
eight thousand shingles.

It must, in order to become a national object, be capable of receiv-
ing vessels which navigate Albemarle Sound, and for that purpose
be restored to its first intended dimensions, or rather be widened and
deepened on the plan adopted for the Chesapeake and Delaware
Canal. The expense would be as follows:

Digging, ^^z, deepening to 8 feet, preserving the same level the whole
way, and widening to a proper breadth, 22 miles, at eight thousand

dollars a mile $176, 000. 00

Four stone locks, at ten thousand dollars 40, 000. 00

Feeder to Lake Drummond, aqueduct, and contingencies 34, 000. 00

250, 000. 00


3. The last-nieiitioiied canal is in the most direct Une of the com-
munication through Albemarle to Pamlico Sound and the adjacent
southern sounds. It has been objected that the navigation of
Pasquotank River was intricate, and that it would be more advanta-
geous to open a communication with Chowan River, wdiich, passing
by Edenton and then uniting with the Roanoke, forms Albemarle

A company was incorporated for that purpose, but the capital was
not filled, and no other operation performed but surveying the
ground. The intended canal on that route would commence at
Suffolk on Nansemond River, which empties into James River a few
miles above and west of the mouth of Elizabeth River, and passing
along the western margin of the Dismal Swamp would reach, at a
computed distance of thirty miles. Gates Court House on Bennets
Creek, a branch of Chowan River, which vessels drawing ten feet of
water may ascend to that spot.

The highest intermediate ground is twenty-eight feet above tide-
water, and, consequently, higher than the surface of Lake Drum-
mond. But Bennets Creek and Curripeake Swamp were considered
as affording a sufficient supply of water. Should this prove adequate
the principal objection to this route will be that the canal lands at
Suffolk instead of Norfolk. This consideration and the capital
already expended on the canal from Elizabeth River to Pasquotank
seem to give a preference to this course. To which may be added,
that if it be preferable to strike the waters of Chowan River a lateral
canal may be hereafter opened along the southern margin of the
Dismal Swanip, from the southern extremity of the Elizabeth and
Pasquotank Cfanal to Bennets Creek or Edenton. Wliatever. route
may, after a critical examination of the ground, be thought the most
eligible, the opening of this communication will be more easy and less
expensive than either of the three northern canals.

The following table is a recapitulation of the distance to be cut on
the whole line and of the estimated expense:


Massachusetts Canal

New Jersey Canal

Delaware and Chesapeake Canal .
Chesapeake and Albemarle Canal



Weymouth to Taimton

Brunswick to Trenton

Christiana to Elk

Elizabeth River to Pasquo-















SI, 2.50, 000. 00
800, 000. 00
750, 000. 00
250, 000. 00

.54,S ! 3,050,000.00


The Appalachian Mountains, to use an ancient generic denomina-
tion, extend in a direction west of south, from the 42d to the 34th
degree of north latitude, approaching the sea, and even washed by
the tide in the State of New York, and thence in their southerly
course gradually receding from the seashore. Viewed as a whole,
their breadth may be estimated at one hundred and ten miles, and
they consist of a succession of parallel , ridges following nearly the
direction of the seacoast, irregularly intersected b}'^ rivers and divided
by narrow valleys. The ridge which divides the Atlantic rivers
from the western waters, generally known by the name of Allegany,


g reserves throughout a nearl}' equal distHiice of two hundred and
fty miles from the Atlantic Ocean and a nearly uniform elevation
of three thousand feet above the level of the sea.

Those mountains may, however, be perhaps considered as consist-
ing of two principal chains; between these lies tlie fertile hmestone
valley, which, although occasionally interrupted by transversal
ridges, and in one place by the dividing or Allegany ridge, may be
traced from Xewburgh and Esopus on the Hudson River to Kiiox-
ville on the Tennessee.

The eastern and narrowest chain is the Blue Ridge of Virginia,
which in its northeast course traverses, under various names, the
States of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, forms the -high
lands broken at West Point by the tide of the Hudson, and then
uniting with the Green Mountains, assumes a northerly direction and
divides the waters of the Hudson and Lake Champlain from those of
Connecticut River. On the borders of Virginia and North Carolina
the Blue Ridge is united by an mferior mountain with the great
western chain, and thence, to its southern extremity, becomes the
principal or dividing mountain, discharging eastwardly the rivers
Roanoke, Pedee, Santee, and Savannah into the Atlantic Ocean;
southwardly, the Chatahoochee and the Alabama into the Gulf of
Mexico, and, westwardly, the New River and the Tennessee. The
New River, taking a northwardly course, breaks through all the
ridges of the great western chain, and at a short distance beyond it
unites, under the name of Kanawha, with the Ohio. The Tennessee
pursues at first a southwest direction between the two chains until
having reached, and in a westwardly course turned, the southern
extremity of the great western chain, it assumes a northwardly
direction, and joins its waters with those of the Ohio a few miles
above the confluence of that river with the ^lississippi.

The western chain, much broader, and generally more elevated, is

Online LibraryUnited States. Inland Waterways CommissionPreliminary report of the Inland Waterways Commission. Message from the President transmitting a preliminary report → online text (page 62 of 83)