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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proper levels or by means of short tunnels across favorable parts of
the ridge. It will at present be sufficient to point out the principal
communications now in use.

The distance from Lake Erie to Lake Chetoughe, an extensive and
important and elevated reservoir which is the source of the Cano-
wango, a branch of the Alleganj^, is seven miles by a continual ascent,
the elevation of which is not ascertained.

From Presque Isle, on Lake Erie, to Le Bceuf, on French Creek,
another branch of the Allegany, the distance is sixteen miles, and a
company is incorporated by the State of Pennsylvania for making an
artificial road across that portage.

The navigation from Lake Chetoughe and from Le Boeuf to Pitts-
burg oft'ers no impediment whenever the waters are high; and the
greater part of the salt now consumed in the northwest counties of
Pennsylvania, as far as Pittsburg, and some distance down the Ohio,
is brought from the salt springs of New York by Oswego, through
Lake Ontario; thence across the portage of Niagara to Lake Erie;
and thence, by either of the two last mentioned portages, to the waters
of the river Allegany.

The distance fi'om the place where the Cayuga, a river emptying
into Lake Erie, ceases to be na^'igable to the navigable waters of the
Muskingum, which empties into the Oliio one hundred and sevent}"
miles below Pittsburg, is only six miles; and a company is said to be
formed for the improvement of that communication.

Sandusky River and the Scioto take their sources in the same swamp.
The navigation of the Miami of Lake Erie is interrupted by some falls;
but its upper branches approach those of the ]\Iiami of the Ohio, and
of the Wabash, and are stated as being nearly on the same level.

The Ilhnois River, which empties into the Mississippi above St.
Louis, rises in a swamp, which, when the waters are high, affords a
natural canoe navigation to the source of Chicago Creek, a short stream,
which falls into Lake Michigan at its southern extremity.

Another communication generally used by the Indian traders is that
from Green Bay, also in Lake Michigan, to the ^lississippi by Fox
River and the Wisconsin. Nor is there any doubt that, if the inland


navigation between the North River and the lakes was completely
opened, the whole Indian trade either of the Mississippi by Lake
Michigan, or of the northwest by Lake Superior, must necessarily
centre in an Atlantic port of the United States — a consideration of
minor importance as a commercial object, when compared A\'ith the
other advanta'j:es of that great communication, ])ut of great weight
in its relation to the pohtical intercourse of the United States with the


Under this denomination will be included all the canals of wliich
any kiiowleilge has been obtained, and which are not immediately
on the rivers opening communications with the western waters or
with those of the St. La\vrence, although some of them may be con-
sidered as extending those commimications to more remote seaports.
The documents from which the information is extracted will be found
under the letters C c.

I. Merrimack.

The naAdgation of that river, which, rising in the State of New
Hampshire, falls into the sea at Newburyport, after a course of one
hundred and eighty miles, is interrupted by several falls. A canal,
called Blodget's Canal, has been opened around Asmoskeag Falls;
lower down, and about forty miles from the sea, the Essex Canal,
foiu" miles in length, and admitting boats drawing tliree feet and a
half, will open a coimnunication around the Patucket Falls, efi'ecting,
through three locks, a descent of thirty-four feet. From the lower
extremity of the canal the river is naAdgable to the head of the tide
at Haverhill, although the fall be fortj^-five feet within that distance.
No particular account has been received of the capital expended, but
it is beheved that the work will be profitable to the undertakers.

The Middlesex Canal, uniting the waters of that river with the
harbor of Boston, is, however, the greatest work of the kind which has
been completed in the United States.

That canal, 12 feet wide and 3^ feet deep, draws its supply of water
from Sudbury or Concord River, a branch of the Merrimack, and,
from the summit ground, extends six miles, with a descent of 28 feet,
to the Merrimack above the Patucket Falls, and 22 miles, with a
descent of 107 feet, to the tide water of the harbor of Boston. The
descent to the Merrimack is effected by three, and that to the tide
water, by nineteen, locks. They are all 90 feet long, t2 feet wide, of
sohd masonry and excellent workmanship.

In order to open that canal, it was necessary to dig in some places
at the depth of 20 feet, to cut through ledges of rocks, to fill some
valleys and morasses, and to throw several aqueducts across the
intervening rivers. One of these, across the river Shawshine, is 280
feet long, and 22 feet above the river. All those obstacles have been
overcome, and boats of 24 tons, 75 feet long, and 11 feet wide, can
navigate the canal. Those in most general use are of smaller dimen-
sions, and are drawn by two horses at the rate of three miles an hour.
A raft of one mile in length, and containing 800 tons of timber, has
been drawn by two oxen, part of the way, at the rate of one mile an
hour. Common boats pass from one end of the canal to the other in


twelve hours. The capital expended on the work is stated at $478,000,
and the water-rights and necessary land cost a further sum of $58,000;
the total expense has exceeded $550,000. The tolls have never yet
exceeded $17,000 a year, but are increasing.

Several other canals have been contemplated in the State of Mas-
sachusetts, intended to unite the waters of Providence or Pawtucket
River, mth those of Charles River, which falls into the harbor of
Boston, and of the river Connecticut. The grounds have been sur-
veyed, but no particular description has been obtained, and the works
have not yet been commenced.

II. Schuylkill and Delaware.

A compan}^ was incorporated several years ago, b}^ the State of
Pennsylvania, for opening a canal from Xorristown, on the river
Schuylkill, to the tide water of the Delaware at Philadelphia. The
distance is 16 miles, the fall 53 feet, and the canal, deriving its water
from the Schuylkill, would have been carried on a level to Philadelpliia,
and in its descent to the Delaware suppKed the city \\dth water
and the shipping vriih docks. The expense had been estimated at
$533,000; the work was commenced, one-third part of the digging
effected, and a considerable sum expended; but, either from want of
funds, or from an improper selection of the ground, or from other
causes, not fully understood, tlie undertaking, if not altogether
abandoned, has been suspended for several years.

This canal was intended as the first hnk of an extensive western
communication. The Schuylkill from Norristown to Reading, 46
miles higher up the river, being navigable a great portion of the year,
was considered as the next link.

III. Schuylkill and Susquehannah.

Another company was incorporated for the purpose of opening an
inland navigation between Reading, on the Schuylkill, to Mddletown,
on the Susquehamiah. Both towns are in the great limestone valley,
bej^ond the Blue Ridge, and the distance is 70 miles. It had been at
first supposed that it would be sufficient to cut a canal four miles in
length, on the summit level, between the two rivers, and thereb}^ to
unite the Tulpehocken, wliich falls into the Schuylkill, %vith the
Quitipaliilla, a branch of the Swatara, which empties into the Sus-
quehannah. But it was soon ascertained that the original plan of
improving, by a succession of dams, the navigation of those small
rivers was erroneous, and that it would be necessary to cut a canal
the whole way.

The summit level is at an elevation of 310 feet above the Schuyl-
kill, and of 308 feet above the Susquehannah. Adjacent springs are
considered sufficient for the upper locks, and the creeks would, after
a short descent, afford an abundant supply. The proposed dimen-
sions of the canal were, a breadth of 20 feet at the bottom, and a
depth of 3^ feet, and the expense was estimated at near $1,500,000.

The work was commenced; the canal has been cut the whole dis-
tance of four miles on the summit level; five locks, made of brick,
have been constructed; land and water-rights have been purchased,
and a considerable capital has been expended. But although the
State of Pennsylvania has permitted the company to raise $266,600,


hy lottery, and is boiinil to pay to them $300,000 \vhenever the work
shall have been ct)m})leted, it remains suspended for want of funds.
The great lockage necessary for this canal is the princij^al objection
to that line of communication; and it has been suggested that a canal
from Columbia, on the Susquehannah, to tide water, or to the great
Delaware and Chesajx^ake Canal, would be much less expensive, and
equally beneiicial, both to the interior country and to Philadelpliia.
This question, as many others suggested in this report, can not be
decided by any but practical and skilful engineers.

IV. Appomattox.

A conipan}^ has been incorporated for opening a canal from the
upper end of the falls of that river, wliich is the south branch of James
River, to Petersburg, on the head of the tide. The distance is five
miles, and the descent more than 30 feet, to a basin about 60 feet
above the tide, in which the canal will terminate. The water is .
drawn from the river; and the canal, 16 feet wide, 3 feet deep, and
admitting boats of 6 tons, is nearly completed. The capital already
expended amounts to $60,000; but the company own thirty negroes,
and suppose that their labor, and a further sum of $10,000, will be
sufficient to build the locks, and to dig about half a mile, wliich
remains to be cut in order to open the communication between the
river and the basin. This work, wlfich has been carried on with much
zeal, and at a small expense, will open an important navigation of
near 100 miles.

V. Neuse and Beaxjfort.

The harbor of Beaufort, in Nortli Carofina, and which must not be
confounded with that of the same name in South Carolina, admits
vessels drawing 18 feet of water. Ocracoke Inlet, the only navigable
entrance into the Pamhco and Albermarle sounds, that extensive
estuary of the rivers Chowan, Roanoke, Tar, and Neuse, has less water,
and is seventy miles from Newburn, on the last mentioned river.
The distance between Newport or Beaufort river and the Neuse being
only three miles, and the elevation of the highest intervening ground
no more than seven feet above tide water, a canal, uniting the two
rivers, was undertaken by a company incorporated for that purpose
by the State of North Carolina. All the shares have, from particular
circumstances, become the property of one individual; and the work
which had been commenced some years ago, is now suspended.

VI. Cape Fear River.

A company, incorporated by the same State for improving the
navigation of this river, after having exhausted a portion of their
funds, which did not exceed $12,000, in fruitless attempts to improve
the natural navigation, of the river, have opened a canal with a lock,
which opens a safe passage around the Buckhorn or Great Falls, seven
miles below the junction of the Deep and Haw rivers. Another canal,
six miles in length, wdth two locks, is necessary, around Smilie's Falls.
Nearly half that distance has been completed; but the work is now
suspended for want of funds. The legislature has lately authorized
the company to increase their capital.


VII. Neav Orleans.

The canal Carondelet, which has already been mentioned, extends
from Bayou St. John to the fortifications or ditch of the city, and
thereby opens an inland communication with Lake Pontchartrain. A
company is incorporated by the Territorial Legislature for the pur-
pose of repairing and improving that work and of uniting the canal
by locks with the Mississippi. Independent of other advantages, this
undertaking would enable Govermnent to transport with facility and
use the same naval force for the defence of both the Mississippi and
Lake Pontchartrain, the two great avenues by which New Orleans
may be approached from the sea.


A great number of artificial roads have been completed in the
Eastern and Middle States, at an expense varying from less than $1,000
to $14,000 a mile. The labor bestowed on the least expensive species
consists in shortening the distance, diminishing the ascent of hills,
removing rocks, levelling, raising, and giving a proper shape to the bed
of the roads, draining them by ditches, and erectmg bridges over the
intervening streams. But the natural soil of the road is used, instead
of covering it with a stratum of gravel or pounded stones.

It appears, by one of the papers marked D., under which letter will
be found all the information which has been obtained respecting
roads, that fifty turnpike companies have been incorporated since the
year 1803 in the State of Connecticut alone, and that the roads under-
taken by those companies are all of that description. Thirty-nine
of those roads, extending together 770 miles, are completed. The
most expensive is that from New Haven to Hartford, which has cost
$79,261, or, the distance being 34 f miles, at the rate of $2,280 a mile;
but about $18,000 of the capital have been expended in the purchase of
the land through which the road is carried. Thenett income on this
road, deducting the annual repairs and expenses from the annual
tolls, does not exceed $3,000. Of six of the roads, which, together,
extend 120 miles, no account has been received. The other thirty-two
extend, together, 615 miles, and have cost only $340,000, or, on an
average, at the rate of $550 a mile, and it seems that the aggregate of
annual tolls on the whole is $86,000, from which, deducting tne annual
repairs and expenses, amounting to $48,000, leaves a nett income of
$38,000, or of about 11 per cent on the capital expended.

No particular account has been received of the roads in the other
Eastern States, but it is known that besides some of a similar descrip-
tion with those of the State of Connecticut several of a more expensive
kind ha,ve been completed, particularly in Massachusetts. The cost
has varied from $3,000 to $14,000 a mile, and amongst artificial roads
of the first grade may be mentioned those from Boston to Providence,
to Salem, and to Newburyport., These are all covered with an artificial
stratum of gravel or pounded stones and finished in the most sub-
stantial manner. Great expense has also been incurred in order to
shorten the distance without exceeding the angle of ascent, which is
fixed at five degrees, and it is stated that the road to Newburyport,
thirty-two miles in length, and in which marshes and rocks presented
considerable obstacles, has cost $400,000, or at the rate of $12,500 a


mile. Those expensive roads, however useful and permanent, appear
to be much less profitable than those of Connecticut. The Salem road
is said to yield slx per cent. Another road has been stated as yielding
eight per cent. The income of all the others in the State of Massa-
chusetts is said not to exceed on an average three per cent, and that of
the road from Boston to Newburyport amounts to no more than two
per cent.

A greater capital has been vested in turnpike roads in the State of
New York than in any other. In less than seven years sixty-seven
companies have been incorporated, with a nominal capital of near
$5,000,000, for the purpose of making more than three thousand miles
of artificial roads, and twenty-one other companies have also been
incorporated, with a capital of $400,000, for the purpose of erecting
twenty-one toll-bridges. Although no particular account has been
received either of the capital actually expended, of the annual amount
of tolls, or of the materials of the roads, it is known that great progress
has been made, and it has been stated that nine hundred miles of road
were already completed by twenty-eight companies, whose capital
amounted to $1,800,000, and who had two hundred miles more of road
to finish.

Those roads extend in every direction, but particularly from every
town or village on the North River, westwardly and northwestwardly
towards the waters of the Susquehannah and those of the Great Lakes.
The most expensive is that from Albany to Schenectady, fourteen
miles long, and which has cost at the rate of $10,000 a mile. Near one
hundred and forty miles of roads extending westwardly from Albany
and Schenectady appear to have cost at the rate of $2,500 or $3,000 a
mile. The expense of all the others does not seem, on an average, to
exceed $1,250 a mile.

More detailed information has been obtained respecting the roads in
New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

In New Jersey a turnpike road has lately been completed from
Trenton to Brunswick. The distance is twenty-five miles, the
greatest angle of ascent, three degrees; and the road is nearly in a
straight line, the only considerable obstruction being the "sand
hills," through which it was necessary to dig at the depth of thirty
feet in order not to exceed the angle of ascent. The road is thirty-six
feet wide, fifteen feet of which are covered with about six inches of
gravel. A few wooden bridges with stone abutments and piers have
be^n erected across the intervening streams. The whole expense is
stated at $2,500 a mile. From Brunswick the road will be extended to
Elizabethtown, and the work is now progressing. Another road has
been undertaken in the same State from Brunswick to Easton on the
river Delaware. The distance is forty-three miles, of which eleven
have been completed at an expense of $40,000. This road will be more
expensive than the preceding, both on account of the ground, the
bridges being more numerous, and the Blue Ridge (^msconekong
Mountain) intervening, and because a more substantial facing or
greater thickness of gravel is requisite. The funds of the company
are exhausted.

In Pennsvlvania artificial roads of the most substantial kind have
been completed or are progressing from Philadelphia in sundry


The principal are to Bristol and Trenton, twelve miles of which are
completed; to Germantown and Perkioman, with two branches to
Willow Grove and to Chestnut Hill; and to Lancaster and Columbia,
with a branch to Harrisburg.

The distance from Philadelphia to Perkioman is twenty-five miles
and a quarter; the two branches extend one ten miles and the other
seven miles and a half, making together near forty-three miles. The
angle of ascent is four degrees; the breadth of the road fifty feet, of
which twenty-eight feet, having a convexity of fifteen inches, are
covered with a stratum either of gravel eighteen inches thick or of
pounded stones twelve inches thick. One-half of the stones, forming
the lower part of the stratum, are broken into pieces not more than five
inches in diameter; the other half, or upper part of the stratum, con-
sists of stones broken into pieces not more than two inches and a half in
diameter, and this dift'erence in the size of the stones is represented as
a considerable defect. Side or summer roads extend on each side of the
gravel or stone road. The five miles next to Philadelphia have cost at
the rate of $14,517 a mile; the other twenty miles and ahalf at the rate
of $10,490 a mile. Yet there were no natural impediments, and only
small bridges or culverts were necessary. The capital expended on
these twenty-five miles and a half is $285,000; the tolls amount to
$19,000; the annual repairs and expenses to $10,000; the nett income to
about $9,000, or little more than 3 per cent on the capital expended.

The distance from the Schuylkill at Philadelphia to Lancaster is
sixty-two miles and a quarter. Exclusively of the side or summer roads
twenty-four feet of the bed of the road are covered with a stratimi of
pounded stones, eighteen inches thick in the middle of the road and
decreasing each way to twelve inches. The valley hills are the most
elevated and steep on the road; but the angle of ascent nowhere ex-
ceeds four degrees. Stone bridges have been erected across all the
intervening streams. That across the river Conestogo, consisting of
nine arches, is private property, and the most expensive built by the
company is that across the Brandywine, consisting of three arches of
solid masonry, and which cost $12,000. The capital of the company
amounted to $360,000; but this being insufficient, it became necessary
to apply a considerable portion of the tolls to the completion of the
work. The whole expense amounts to $465,000, or at the rate of about
$7,500 a mile. The annual tolls have not yet exceeded $25,000, and
the annual repairs and expenses are estimated at $13,000, leaving a
nett income of about $12,000. The prospect of an increased profit,
derived from the proposed extension of the road, has, however, raised
the price of that stock nearly to par.

The Lancaster road, the first extensive turnpike that was com-
pleted in the United States, is the first link of the great western com-
munication from Philadelphia. It has been extended ten miles west-
wardly to Columbia on the Susquehannah, and another brancli is now
progressing northwestwardly to Harrisburg, also on the Susquehannah
and thirty-six miles from Lancaster. The State of Pennsylvania has
also incorporated two companies in order to extend the road by two
different routes as far as Pittsburg on the Ohio, and near three
lmn(h-e(l miles from Philadelphia. The southern route following tlie
main post road passes by fiedfoi'd and Somerset. The northern
route passes by Huntingdon and Frankstown, the highest j)oint to


which the Juniata branch of the Susquehannah is navigable. To this
route the State has authorized a subscription of SI 00,000.

Other roads in a northwest direction from Phihidelphia towards the
Genesee, and Presque Isle on Lake Erie, are also progressing and have
been encouraged by the subscriptions or donations of the legislature.
They are generally on a much less expensive plan than those in the
direction of Pittsburg. A section of thirty miles from Lausanne, on the
Lehigh, to Nescopeck, on the Susquehannah, has been completed at the
expense of S36,000 by a company, and it is intended to extend
it seventy miles further to Newton on the Tioga branch of the

In Maryland, roads extending from Baltimore in various directions
have lately been undertaken b}' several companies and are rapidly
progressing. On the falls turnpike, which ex'tends in a northerly
direction, about four miles of a road twenty-two feet Avide, covered
mth a stratum of pounded stones ten inches thick, and having an
ascent not exceeding four degrees, have been completed at the rate of
$7,500 a mile.

The ''Reistertown" turnpike, in a northwestwardly direction, ex-
tends sixteen miles to that village, whence two branches, extending
one nineteen and the other twenty-nine miles further, will enter
Pennsylvania at two different places. The road, twenty-four feet
wide, is covered with a stratum twelve inches thick of pounded stones
not more than three inches in diameter. The angle of ascent does
not exceed three degrees and a half. Ten miles have been completed
at the expense of $10,000 a mile, and the work is progressing. The
capital of the company amounts to $420,000.

The capital of the " Fredericktown " turnpike company amounts to
$500,000, and the company is authorized to open the great western
road as far as Boonsborough, beyond the Blue Ridge, and sixty-two
miles from Baltimore. The angle of ascent \dll not exceed four degrees,
the road has a convexity of nine inches, and on a breadth of twenty-
two feet is covered with a stratum ten inches thick of pounded stones
not exceeding three inches in diameter, over which are spread two
inches of gravel or coarse sand. The first twenty miles next to Balti-
more have cost at the rate of $9,000, and the next seventeen miles are
contracted for at the rate of $7,000 a mile.

The distance from Boonsborough to Cumberland, at the foot of the
Allegany mountains, following the present road, is seventy-three
miles, and although the company is not yet authorized to extend the

Online LibraryUnited States. Inland Waterways CommissionPreliminary report of the Inland Waterways Commission. Message from the President transmitting a preliminary report → online text (page 65 of 83)