Story Explores Connecticut River Canals

Connecticut River Photo/Wikipedia
Connecticut River Photo/Wikipedia

The Connecticut River Watershed Council has an interesting story about the history of the various canals that were created along the river to make it navigable to barges, logging operations and other commercial vessels in the late 1700s and 1800s.

Here is an excerpt:

In 1794, the
2 Legislatures issued
a charter for a canal around Sumners Falls in Hartland, Vermont.

The Connecticut is the major river of New England true, but it is without a port city at its confluence with the sea due to the danger of navigating past the large shifting sandbars at the mouth of the river created by the enormous amounts of silt the river carries downriver, especially in the spring freshet.

The lack of a deepwater port however did not stop investors from making the river navigable along its entire length with numerous transport canals chartered and constructed between 1791 and 1828. They bypassed various falls and rapids to allow for travel along the river by flat boats and steamers bringing goods upriver and allowing great rafts of logs and wood products to head downriver.

The Vermont and New Hampshire Legislatures chartered many of these canals. The canal in Bellows Falls, chartered in 1791, completed in 1802 continued in service until 1858. The Atkinson family retained the charter until 1866. Once sold, the canal then powered mills with direct waterpower and eventually title passed to the New England Power Association presaging the coming of hydroelectric power.

In 1794, the 2 Legislatures issued a charter for a canal around Sumners Falls in Hartland, Vermont. In addition to managing the locks, Mr. Sumner built lumber mills and produced wood products that he shipped down river. A flood in 1856 swept away the canal, locks and factories. He never rebuilt the canal or factories. Eventually the title made its way to the New England Power Association.

Read more about the canals of the Connecticut River.