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Posted Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

Historic Morris Canal Town Open for Fun and Learning

Morris County residents are invited to join the Canal Society of New Jersey for another day of family fun and entertainment at the Canal Society’s annual Canal Day, Saturday, June 22, during this 14th season of interpreting historic Waterloo Village in nearby Sussex County.boat tour on the canalTake one of the narrated boat rides on the historic Morris Canal.

The Canal Society of New Jersey will bring historic Waterloo Village back to life this weekend with canal boat rides, live music, building tours, exhibits, and demonstrations. A special feature will be the new Canal Boat Exhibit that will include the recently discovered remains of a real Morris Canal boat. In addition, New Jersey’s Division of Parks and Forestry will also be offering tours of its famous Lenape Indian Village.

In addition to live music preformed by singing historian Roy Justice, the special feature of the day will be a premier showing of a new animated video, produced and narrated by Jim Lee Jr., illustrating the workings of the Morris Canal’s famous Inclined Plane system. This innovative engineering, implemented in early 1800s, included 23 lift locks, 11 guard locks and 23 inclined planes as the canal traversed 1,674 feet in elevation change over 102 miles, from Phillipsburg to Jersey City.

Morris Canal History: Visit Waterloo for Canal Day on SaturdayMany of the historic buildings will be open including Smith’s Store, blacksmith shop, a water-powered gristmill, and the New Jersey Canal Museum.

Canal Society volunteers will be on hand to talk about Waterloo’s history and offer hands-on activities and demonstrations, and offer historic walking tours of the canal area.

Once a bustling inland port on the Morris Canal, Waterloo retains its character as a 19th Century canal town. Since 2007, the Canal Society and New Jersey’s Division of Parks and Forestry has gradually opened industrial and commercial buildings to interpret trades that were common in the 19th Century.

History of the Morris Canal, from the Canal Society of New Jersey:

In 1824 the Morris Canal & Banking Company (MC&BC) was chartered to build a canal that would carry coal, mined in Pennsylvania, to developing markets along the eastern seaboard. The canal would pass through the heart of New Jersey’s iron district and provide the long-needed transportation system that would create new commercial activity and enable rustic settlements like Dover and Rockaway to grow into thriving industrial towns. The canal opened for business in 1831 and then, in 1836, was expended from Newark to New York Harbor at Jersey City.

When completed, the canal extended 102 miles across the rugged highlands of New Jersey, from Phillipsburg on the Delaware River, uphill to its summit level near Lake Hopatcong, and then down to Jersey City. To accomplish this, a system of 23 lift locks and 23 inclined planes were built to overcome the impressive elevation change of 1,674 feet. The canal’s famous water-powered inclined planes were an engineering marvel that enabled canal boats to be raised or lowered up to 100 feet at a time.

Mule-drawn canal boats transported up to 70 tons of cargo and took five days to cross the state. In the heyday of the canal, hundreds of boats carried everything from coal and iron ore to agricultural products. As New Jersey’s first industrial transportation system, the canal promoted commerce and shaped the economic development of the northern part of the state.

By the early 1900s the canal had become obsolete. However, it took until 1924 to adopt a plan to close and dismantle the canal. The ownership of the canal’s vast water resources, including Lake Hopatcong, Lake Musconetcong, and Greenwood Lake, passed to the state of New Jersey. Today, the Morris Canal Greenway, a partnership between local communities and the Canal Society of New Jersey, seeks to preserve the surviving historic remains of the canal, interpret canal sites, and offer recreational opportunities to the public.

For more information about the canal, visit the Canal Society of New Jersey website.