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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Octorara, these, by means of dams, have been raised ten and twelve
feet to the level of the canal.


Its defects consist in the want of sufficient breadth of the locks,
which do not admit the rafts and wide flat bottomed boats generally
used in bringing down the country produce, and in want of water at
the lower end of the canal. This last defect may be remedied by
extending the canal seven hundred yards lower down along the edge
of the river; and it is probable that as timber will become more scarce
and valuable in the upper branches of the Susquehannah, boats of a
diflerent construction will be used. In the mean time the annual
tolls have not yet amounted to $1,000, whilst the annual expenses
are stated at $1,200, and the capital expended at $250,000.

The attempts made to open a communication from Middletown, m
the Limestone Valley, to Philadelphia, partly by canals, and partly
by means of the Schuylkill, will be noticed under the head of
"Interior Canals."

VI. Ohio.

The navigation of the Kanawha and of the eastern branches of the
Tennessee, Monongahela, and Allegany, in their course through the
mountains, may at a future period be improved. But, from the foot
of the mountains, all those rivers, and particularly the Ohio, flow with
a much gentler current than the Atlantic rivers, a circumstance
easily accounted for when it is recollected that Brownsville, on the
Monongahela, and at a distance of two thousand miles by water from
the sea, is only one hundred and fifteen feet more elevated than Cum-
berland, on the Potomac; whilst this river, with all its meanders,
reaches tide water within less than two hundred miles. All those
rivers at the annual melting of the snows rise to the height of more
than forty feet, affording from the upper points to which they are
navigable a safe navigation to the sea for any ship that can pass over
the bar at the mouth of the Mississippi. As early as the year 1793, a
schooner built on the Monongahela, between Brownsville and Pitts-
burg, reached New Orleans by that extraordinarv' inland navigation,
and arrived safely at Philadelphia. This first essay stimulated the
spirit of enterprise so conspicuous in the American character, and
numerous, vessels, from one hundred to three hundred and fifty tons
burden, are now annually built at several shipyards on the Ohio, even
as high up as Pittsburg, and bringing down to New Orleans the pro-
duce of the upper countr5^ consumed there, carry to Europe and to the
Atlantic ports of the United States the cotton, the sugar, and the
tobacco of Louisiana and of the States of Tennessee and Kentucky.

That branch of national industry gives value to the immense forests
of the Ohio and of its numerous branches, and will soon make a con-
siderable, and perhaps necessary, accession to the shipping of the
United States, and has a tendency to diminish the price of freights
from New Orleans to the other American and to foreign ports. The
importance of this last consideration will be duly felt, if the magnitude
of the exports of which New Orleans is destined to be the emporium,
be contrasted with the probable amount of its importations; for such
are the labor, time, and expense necessarv to ascend the rapid stream
of the Mississippi, (and the nature of its banks, annually overflowed
on a breadth of several miles, precludes the possibility of towing paths,)
that, whilst the greater part of the produce of the immense country,
watered by that river and its tributary streams, must necessarily be

31673— «. Doc. .325. 60-1 36


exported through its channel, the importations of a considerable por-
tion of that country will continue to be supplied from the Atlantic
seaports, by water and land communica~tions, susceptible of con-
siderable improvement; and thus, unless another outlet be found for
a portion of the exports, or unless the upper country can supply
vessels, those exports must necessarily pay a double freight.

The only impediments to that navigation are on the Tennessee,
"the Muscle Shoals," of which no particular account has been received,
and on the Ohio, the falls of Louisville. Ordinary boats can with
difiiculty pass these in summer, and the navigation is, even during
the freshets, dangerous for the large vessels. The attention of the
legislature of Kentucky, and of the inhabitants of the western
country, generally, has, therefore, been particularly drawn ta the
opening of a canal at that place. A company has been lately incor-
porated by the State of Kentucky for that purpose, with a capital
which may amount to $500,000, but a small portion of which has
yet been subscribed. The expense, however, is estimated at a sum
less than the nominal capital.

The proposed canal would be near two miles in length, and must be
dug, in some places, to a depth of twenty-seven, but generally about
sixteen feet. The breadth at the bottom being twenty feet, with the
necessary slope, would make it, generally, sixty-eight feet wide at
top, and, in particular places, not less than one hundred. The fall at
low water is about twenty- two feet, and would require three locks, of
dimensions sufficient to pass ships of four hundred tons, and drawing
fourteen feet of water. The greatest expense will be that of digging,
and removing the earth, which may be estimated at four hundred
thousand cubic yards, and, according to the representation made of
the nature of the ground, will not probably cost more than $200,000.
To this may be added $100,000 for the locks and other necessary
works, making, altogether, $300,000. The greatest difficulty seems
to be the protection of the locks and canals against the rise of the
river, which sometimes overflows the whole ground through which the
canal must be opened.

The expense of the improvements suggested in the communications
between the Atlantic and western waters may be stated as follows:

1st. Four artificial roads from the four great western rivers, the Allegany,
Monongahela, Kanawha, and Tennessee, to the nearest corresponding
Atlantic rivers, the Susquehannah or Juniata, the Potomac, James
river, and either the Santee or Savannah, leaving to the several States
the continuation of those roads eastwardly to the nearest seaports.
Those roads should unite on each river points from which a permanent
and safe navigation downwards could, except during the driest season,
be relied on; and will, therefore, on each route, be estimated at one
hundred miles, making, altogether, four hundred miles, which, at
$7,000 a mile, the materials being generally on the spot, would cost.. . . $2, 800, 000

2dly. The improvement of the navigation of the four Atlantic rivers, from
tide water to the highest practicable point, effected, principally, by
canals around the falls wherever practicable, and by locks wherever
necessary. The most expensive of these would be the proposed canal
from Columbia, on the Susquehannah, either to tide water or to the
Delaware and Chesapeake canal; and, considering how much has been
effected already, and may still be done on the other rivers, by the
several incorporated companies, it is believed that every useful improve- ,
ment might be completed by a public expenditure not exceeding J, .500, 000

3d\\. The canal at the falls of the Ohio, estimated at .300, 000

4, 600, 000


Although a canal navigation, uniting the Atlantic and western
waters in a direct course across the mountains, appears impracticable,
yet those mountains may be turned either on the north, by means of
"the ^lohawk Valley ancf of Lake Ontario, or on the south, tlirou^h
Georgia and the Mississippi territory. The tirst conununication will
be noticed under the head of "The Kiver St. Lawrence and Great
Lakes." Of the second it will be sufficient to observe that the coun-
try lying between the sources of the rivers Chatahoochee and Mobile
and "the Gulf of Mexico is an inclined plane, regularly descending
towards the sea, and that, by followmg the proper levels, it presents
no natural obstacle to the opening of a canal fed by the waters of the
two last-mentioned rivers and extending from the tide water on the
coast of Georgia to the Mississippi. The distance, m a direct line, is
about five hundred and fifty miles, and, to be overcome, requires
only time, perseverance, and labor. When it is recollected that such
an undertaking would discharge the Mississippi into the Atlantic,
the remarks already made on the trade of that river and other obvious
considerations will sufficiently point out its immense importance.
Nor should the plan, on account of its magnitude, be thought chimer-
ical; for the elevation and other natural obstacles of intervening
ground, or want of a sufficient supply of water, and not distance,
are the only insuperable impediments to an artificial navigation.

This work, wliich is presented, not as an immediate, but as a distant
object, worthy of consideration, would probably require ten milHons
of dollars and tliirty years for its completion. The annual sales of
the pubhc lands in "the ^lississippi territory, which are estimated at
fifty milhons of acres, would, after paying the debt due to the State
of 'Georgia, afford sufficient fimds; and the increased value of the
residue would alone more than compensate the expense.

It is proper to add that an inland navigation, even for open boats,
already exists from New Orleans, by the canal Carondelet, to the lake
Pontchartrain, thence, between the coast and the adjacent islands, to
the l)ay of Mobile, and up its two principal rivers, the Alabama and
the Tombigbee, to the head of the tide, within the acknowledged
boundaries of the United States. The current of these two rivers
being much less rapid than that of the Mssissippi, they have long
been contemplated, particularly the Tombigbee, as affording a better
communication to the ascending or returning trade from New Orleans
to the waters of the Tennessee, from which they are separated by
short portages.


Vessels ascentl the river St. Lawrence from the sea to IMontreal.
The river Sorel discharges at some distance below that town the
waters of Lake George and Lake Champlain, wliich penetrate south-
wardly within the United States. From Montreal to Lake Ontario
the ascent of the river St. Lawrence is estimated at about two hundred
feet. From the eastern extremity of Lake Ontario, an inland navi-
gation for vessels of more than one hundred tons burthen, is continued
for more than one thousantl miles, through Lakes Erie, St. Clair, and
Huron, to the western and southern extremities of Lake Micliigan,


without any other interruption than that of the falls and rapids of
Niagara, between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The descent from
Fort Schlosser to Devils Hole, a distance of four miles, which includes
the perpendicular falls of Niagai'a, has, by correct measurement, been
ascertamed at three hundred and seventy-five feet. The whole fall
from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario is estimated at four hundred and
fifty feet, making the elevation of Lake Erie above tide water six
hundred and fifty feet.

Lake Superior, the largest of those inland seas, communicates with
the northern extremity of Lake Huron, by the river and rapids of St.
Marys. The fall of these is not ascertained; but it is said that a
small canal has l)een opened around the most difficult part by the'
Northwest Fur Company.

Five of the Atlantic rivers approach the waters of the St. Lawrence,
viz: The Penobscot, Kennebeck, Connecticut, the North or Hudson
River, and the Tioga branch of the Susquehannah. Tliis last river
w^ll afford a useful communication with the rivers Seneca and Gene-
see, which empty into Lake Ontario. The length of the portage has
not been precisely stated; and the general navigation of the Susque-
hannah has already been noticed. It may, however, be observed
that it is the only Atlantic river whose sources approach both the
western waters and those of the St. Lawrence.

The three eastern rivers afford convenient communications with
the province of Lower Canada, but not with that extensive inland
navigation which penetrates through the United States, within two
hundred miles of the Mississippi. No statement has been received of
any improvement having yet been made on the Penobscot or Kenne-
beck; and a very imperfect account has been obtained of some short
canals opened around the several falls of the river Connecticut. One
at Bellows Falls, in the State of Vermont, has been particularly men-
tioned, and is the highest improvement on the river.

What is called the North River is a narrow and long bay, which in
its northwardly course from the harbor of New^ York breaks through
or turns all the mountains, affording a tide navigation for vessels of
eighty tons to Albany and Troy, one hundred and sixty miles above
New York. This peculiarity distinguishes the North River from all
the other bays ancl rivers of the United States. The tide in no other
ascends higher than the granite ridge or comes within thirty miles of
the Blue Ridge or eastern chain of mountains. In the North River
it breaks through the Blue Ridge at West Point and ascends above
the eastern temiination of the Catskill or peat western chain.

A few miles above Troy, and the head of the tide, the Hudson from
the north and the Mohawk from the west unite their waters and form
the North River. The Hudson in its course ujnvards approaches the
waters of Lake Champlain, and the ^Vlohawk those of Lake Ontario.

I. Hudson and Champlain, or Northern Navigation.

A company was incorporated several years ago by the State of New
York for the purpose of opening this communication and a survey
taken by Mr. Weston, a copy or which has not yet been obtained.
From collateral information it appears that it was proposed to open
a canal twelve miles long, with a lockage of one hundred and six feet,
from Waterford, at the confluence of the Hudson and Mohawk, to the


upper end of the great falls of Stillwater. This was considered as the
most clifhcult part of the whole route, and the expense estimated at
$275,000. Another canal and lock would be necessary around the
falls of Fort Miller; but the remainder of the naviu;ation up the Hud-
son to Fort Edward does not reqidre any material im})rovement.

At some distance above Fort Edward it was intended to connect,
by a canal and locks, the Hudson with the North Wood Creek at Fort
Ami. The navigation down the creek to Skeensbo rough is used, but
requires to be improved. At this place, where falls render another
canal necessary, North Wood Creek empties into the south bay of
Lake Champlain, and thence is a natural sloop navigation through
the whole extent of the lake. The expense of the works from Fort
Edward to Skeensborough had been estimated at S200,000.

The funds of the company were insufficient and have, it is said,
been expended without much permanent utility at Stillwater and
vSkeensb o rough .

The distance in a straight line from Waterford to Skeensborough is
fifty miles; and the expense of opening a permanent boat navigation
on a proper plan through the whole line is, from imperfect materials,
estimated at about $800,000. This communication would divert to
a port of the United States the trade of one-half of the State of Ver-
mont and of a part of that of New York, which is now principally
carried through the channel of the St. Lawrence and of the province
of Canada.

II. Mohawk and Ontario, or Western Navigation.

A company incorporated by the State of New York for the im-
provement of this navigation has made considerable progress, and
an accurate survey having been taken of the distances and levels of
the greater part of the route, the result Anil, in the first place, be

Dist. Fall.
Miles. Feet.

From the tide water at Troy to Lansing Mills on the Mohawk is found the
greatest impediment to the navigation of that river, consisting of the
Cohoes Falls, which are seventy feet perpendicular, and of a succession of

other falls, which continue to the North River 4§ 140

From Lansing Mills up the Mohawk to Schenectady the height of the river,
at the time when the survey was taken, prevented Mr. Weston from cor-
rectly ascertaining the levels. The fall for that distance is therefore

estimated at 12^^ 28i

From Schenectady to the Little Falls 57^ 110^

The Little Falls, which before the improvements made by the company,

interrupted altogether the navigation f 42

From the Little Falls to Fort Stanwix, now Rome 48 59^

This is the head of the na\'igation, and the summit level between it and
West Wood Creek, a branch of Lake Ontario, is nine feet and three quar-
ters above that part of the river Mohawk, where the navigation ceases. - - If 9f

12.T 390


The whole course of the Mohawk is therefore one liundred and
twenty-five miles in length, and the fall through that distance from
the summit level to tide water is three hundred and ninety feet.

Dist. Fall.
Miles. Feet.

At the distance of one mile and three-quarters is Wood Creek, the bed of
which is used to its entrance into Lake Oneida, the distance along its
meanders being twenty-three miles, but in the line in which a canal
might be cut, only fourteen miles, and the fall sixty feet 14 60

The Oneida forms a natural canal of twenty miles in length, and commu- 20
nicates by the Onondaga and Oswego rivers with Lake Ontario. The
distance by water down those tWo rivers to Oswego, on Lake Ontario, is
sixty-three miles. The upper part of the navigation is generally good,
but the last twelve miles from the Oswego Falls, which are not passable,
to Lake Ontario, are a continued rapid. The fall from Lake Oneida to
Lake Ontario has not been ascertained by actual measurement, but is
estimated at one hundred and thirty feet. From Rotterdam, on Lake
Oneida, to the mouth of Salmon Creek on Lake Ontario, a few miles east
of Oswego, the distance is twenty-two miles; and the ground being favor-
able, it is expected that the line of canal would not exceed twenty-six
miles 26 130

60 190

The elevation of the summit level between the Mohawk and the
waters of Lake Ontario, being only three hundred and ninety feet
above the tide water at Troy, and one hundred and ninety feet above
Lake Ontario, a canal navigation is practicable the whole distance.
Whether this should be attempted for a sloop or boat navigation
must depend principally, if not altogether, on the supply of water.
It is stated that the canal from the summit level to Troy must nec-
essarily follow the valley of the Mohawk, and perhaps occasionally
enter and cross the river. Calculated for a boat navigation the
expense may be estimated as follows :

Mr. Weston estimated the expense of a canal, from Lansing Mills to tide

water at Troy, around the Cohoes Falls, at. $250, 000

The distance from the summit level to Lansing Mill is 120 miles, and to
Lake Ontario, deducting the twenty miles occupied by Lake Oneida,
forty miles, together one hundred and sixty miles of canal, the digging
of which, at $8,000 a mile, is 1, 280, 000

The fall from the summit level to Lansing Mills is two hundred and fifty
feet, and to Lake Ontario one hundred and ninety feet, together four
hundred and forty feet' lockage, which will require fifty-five locks of
eight feet lift each. These at $7,500, the cost of the stone locks erected
by the company at the Little Falls, will cost about 420, 000

Feeders and aqueducts may be estimated at "C 250, 000

Making altogether two millions two hundred thousand dollars 2, 200, 000

It is not believed that a sloop navigation, if practicable, could be
effected for a less sum than five millions of dollars. The following
works have already been completed by the company:

At the Little Falls a canal three-quarters of a mile in length has
been opened, and a descent of 42 feet effected by six locks of solid
masonry, each of which is 70 feet long and 12 feet mde. At the
German flats, four miles alcove the Little Falls, another canal one
mile in length, with two stone locks of the same materials and dimen-
sions, effects a descent of ten feet.

On the summit level a canal one mile and three-quarters in length
and supphed with water from the river Mohawk by a short feeder,
unites that river and Wood Creek by means of two locks of the same


dimensions antl materials, one at each extremity of the canal. All
those canals are two feet and a half deep, twenty-four wide at bot-
tom, and tliirtj'-two at top, and admit boats of ten tons. It is proper
to state that at first wooden locks had been erected at the Little
Falls and brick locks on the summit canal. At both places the}' had
become totally unfit for service at the end of seven years, and it was
necessar}' to replace them ))y stone locks^a circumstance wliich
increased considerably the expense of the undertaking.

Several minor improvements have been made on the Mohawk, and
the navigation of Wood Creek, of wliich the ])rincipal defect is want
of water, has been improved by raising dams and b}" the erection of
four temporary wooden locks; but until a canal shall have been
opened the whole distance from the summit level to Lake Oneida, the
navigation will be imperfect and the profits inconsiderable.

The funds of the company do not enable them to undertake the
necessary improvements at the two extremities of the line, a canal
around the Cohoes Falls to tide water and another canal from Lake
Oneida to Lake Ontario. The usual portage at the first place is from
Schenectad}^ to Albany, and a very good and expensive artificial road
of sixteen miles, made by another compan}^, unites the two towns.
Another company has lately been incorporated for the purpose of
making an artificial road at the other extremity of the line from
Rotterdam, on Lake Oneida, to Salmon Creek, on Lake Ontario.

The capital of the company is two hundred and thirty-two thousand
dollars, of which the State of New York owns ninety-two thousand.
But, MTth the exception of one dividend of three per cent, all the tolls
have been applied to the works; and, including these, and a debt of
twenty thousand dollars due by the compam^, the whole expenditure
amounts to three hundred and seventy thousand dollars. The annual
tolls do not yet exceed thirteen thousand dollars.

III. Niagara.

The fall from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario has already been stated
at four hundred and fifty feet. A company had also been incorporated
by the State of New York for the purpose of opening a canal at this
place ; but it does not appear that anj^thing ever was attempted after
the survey had been made. The intention seems to have been to
open a canal navigation for boats only from Fort Sclilosser to Devil's
Hole; the lake itself and Giles's Creek would have supphed the w^ater,
and the expense was estimated at four hundred and thirty-seven
thousand dollars.

It is, however, evident that the canal, in order to be as eminently
useful as the nature of the undertaking seems to require, should be on
such scale as to admit vessels wliich can navigate both lakes. Con-
sidering the distance which in that case must be extended to about
ten miles, and the lockage of four hundred and fifty feet, it is not
beheved that the expense can be estimated at less than one million
of dollars.


The works necessary to effect water communications between the
tide water of the North River, the St. Lawrence, and all the lakes,
(Lake Superior only excepted,) are, therefore, estimated at four
milhons of dollars, viz:

Northern navigation to Lake Champlain $800, 000

Western navigation to Lake Ontario 2, 200, 000

Falls of Niagara for a sloop navigation 1, 000, 000

4, 000, 000

The papers relative to these communications mil be found under the
letter B. But their utility will not be confined to the extensive navi-
gation of the lakes themselves, for the mountains being completely
turned when arrived into Lake Erie, the ridge which separates the
waters emptying into that and into Lake Michigan from the northern
branches of the Ohio and from the waters of the Mississippi is of a
moderate elevation, and is gradually depressed in its course west-
wardly. There is no doubt of the practicabihty of opening canals
at a future period between several of those waters, either by selecting

Online LibraryUnited States. Inland Waterways CommissionPreliminary report of the Inland Waterways Commission. Message from the President transmitting a preliminary report → online text (page 64 of 83)