Thursday, December 21, 2017

Pathway to the Heartland and Great Lakes Landing Sites – Reason for the Erie Canal – Part VI

Continued from the last post, regarding the flat-bottomed boats that were all the boats that could move along the Mississippi prior to the dredging and deepening of the inner waterway system in North America.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began improving the Ohio River in 1824 by dredging sandbars and removing snags. The first lock and dam was completed in 1885 about five miles below Pittsburgh, and 12 more were built in 1910. Channelization of the river was completed in 1929 with 50 lock and dam structures in operation. This system was later replaced by a high rise system of 20 dams. Nine navigational projects (locks and dams) are in operation today along the Ohio river bordering Ohio. Many hazards exist for river boaters who are unaware or careless. Locks and dams help manage water flow along the river and have special rules. Commercial traffic is heavy on the river and poses its own problems. And the river current is ever changing, varying with water levels.
    During the 1800s Ohio built canals that connected Lake Erie and the Ohio River. The canal system created new markets for Ohio's goods, reduced the cost of shipping goods from the East, increased the number of people moving into the state, and encouraged the building of new towns. In 1822, the Ohio legislature created a commission to plan a canal system. This would connect Ohio, by way of Lake Erie, with the Erie Canal in New York State and with the eastern markets. It also would connect Ohio with New Orleans by way of the Ohio River and the Mississippi River.
The Erie Canal, dug from Albany, New York, to Buffalo, New Work

The Canal was dug from Waterford on the Hudson River just north of Albany westward to Lake Oneida, and then westward toward Buffalo (passing, by the way, close to the Smith home in Palmyra, New York), connecting to the Niagara River above Niagara Falls, which led south into Lake Erie.
    Dubbed “Clinton’s Folly” or “Clinton’s Big Ditch,” by its political opponents, the canal became the first transportation system between the eastern seaboard and the western interior of the United States that did not require portaging—carrying water craft or cargo over land, either around an obstacle in a river, or between two bodies of water. This is important to keep in mind, since it verifies that no type of boat larger than a flat-bottomed barge, could move inland from the Atlantic Coast to the Great Lakes or the Ohio and Mississippi River areas as theorists want to claim Lehi did.
    When completed, the canal covered 363 miles, held 36 locks, and rose 259 feet from the Hudson to Lake Erie. It was the second largest canal in the world (behind the Grand Canal in China), and greatly affected the development and economy of New York. In fact, it reduced the cost of supplies transported over its distance by 95% in a time when bulk goods were limited to pack animals and there were no railways, making water the most cost-effective way to ship bulk goods.
The first ship through the Portland Canal on the Ohio River at Louisville was the USS Uncas, named for a Mohican Indian Chief, which was an ocean tug, obtained by the U.S. Navy for duty during the blockade of Cuba during the Spanish-American War
In 1825, a private company began work on the first locks on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River, called the Louisville and Portland Canal, which took five years to complete its circumnavigation of the falls, having to dig the canal through solid rock. The first ship to pass through the newly dug canal and locks was the SS Uncas, in December 1830, and the canal was completed in 1833, six years behind schedule. Its 50-foot wide dimensions were huge compared to the Erie Canal and intended to permit full-sized ships to pass from one side of the falls to the other, and was the first major improvement to be completed on a major river of the U.S.
    The canal and locks were eventually bought by the Federal Government, which had invested heavily in their construction. They were used until well after the Civil War, when they were expanded and enlarged to accommodate larger steamships and barges. Before that time, no vessel could move past Louisville because of these rapids, forcing the portage of supplies and cargoes overland around the two-mile rapids. But by 1834, 170,000 tons was passing through the canal, and in three years, that increased to 300,000 tons. However, by the 1850s, around 40% of the steamboats on the Ohio were too large for the canal and required trans-shipment of their cargo around the Falls, carrying it overland the two miles to avoid the rapids.
    It should be noted that prior to the canal, despite the tremendous need, shipping could not move upriver from Louisville because of the rapids. Which should be clear to all theorists, that Lehi could not have sailed beyond that point under any circumstances heading to the Great Lakes as so many of these theorists claim.
    That brings us, then, to the St. Lawrence River as a means to reach the Great Lakes from the open sea. Today, the Great Lakes connect Ohio to the Atlantic Ocean and world markets by way of the St. Lawrence Seaway. One hundred years ago, the connection was by way of Lake Erie and the Erie Canal, which connected Lake Erie with the Hudson River and New York City's harbor, but that proved inadequate since it was not wide or deep enough to accommodate any type of ships, but only barges pulled by mule along parallel paths of the canal. In fact, the canal was faster than carts pulled by draft animals, and besides cutting transportation costs it gave New York City's port an incomparable advantage over all other U.S. port cities and ushered in the state's 19th century political and cultural ascendancy because it provided access to the inland cities and towns that the inland rivers could not.
    Now for those theorists who ill-advisedly claim that Lehi traveled up the inland waterways to the Great Lakes, it should be noted that before the canals were built the only way to ship quantities of goods from New York City to New Orleans was by ocean—no inland waterways were capable of being used before canals were dug, and later inland waterways were dredged, deepened, with dams and locks built. With the new canals, boats could carry people and goods by inland water from New York City to New Orleans.
    Ohio's canal system was the largest public project in the state's early history. The two canals and their many branches connected much of Ohio's interior to agricultural and commercial markets in the East. The canals also made shipping to New Orleans by way of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers available to many of Ohio's farmers and businesses.
    For those theorists who insist on claiming that Lehi sailed inland to the Great Lakes area via some inland waterway system, perhaps a little dose of facts might be in order.
    From the first days of the expansion of North America, colonists traveling into the interior or heartland of the continent came across a recurring problem—transportation between the coastal ports and the interior. This was not unique to the Americas, and the problem still exists in those parts of the world where muscle power provides a primary means of transportation within a region.
    An equally ancient solution was implemented in many cultures—things in the water weighed far less and took less effort to move since friction became negligible. And in most cases, like North America, when close to the seacoast, rivers often provided adequate waterways.
    However, in the Americas, the Appalachian Mountains, running parallel to the coast about 400 miles inland, ran over 1,500 miles (2,400 km) long (north to south) and formed a barrier range with just five places where mule trains or wagon roads could be routed, which presented a great challenge.
(See the next post, “Pathway to the Heartland and Great Lakes Landing Sites – the Ohio and St Lawrence Rivers– Part VII,” for more on what it took to make the Mississippi and inland waterways navigable for anything other than flat-bottomed, shallow-draft boats)

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