Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Morris Canal
The Morris Canal was an anthracite-carrying canal that incorporated a series of water-driven inclined planes in its course across northern New Jersey in the United States. It was in existence for about a century -- from the late 1820s to the 1920s.
The Morris Canal stretched from Phillipsburg on the Delaware River at its western end to Jersey City on the Hudson River at its eastern end. Completed to Newark in 1831, the canal was extended eastward to Jersey City between 1834 and 1836. It greatly facilitated the transportation of anthracite coal from Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley to northern New Jersey's growing iron industry and other developing industries in New Jersey and the New York City area. It also carried iron ore westward through New Jersey to iron furnaces in western New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania, until the development of Great Lakes iron ore caused them to decline. By the 1850s, the canal began to be eclipsed by the construction of railroads, although it remained in heavy use throughout the 1860s. It was leased to the Lehigh Valley Railroad in 1871, taken over by the state of New Jersey late in 1922, and formally abandoned in 1924. Although it was largely dismantled in the following five years, portions of the canal and its accompanying feeders and ponds are preserved in places across northern New Jersey. It was considered a technical marvel because of its extensive use of inclined planes to overcome the large elevation changes necessary to cross the northern New Jersey hills.

On the canal's western end, at Phillipsburg, a cable ferry allowed Morris Canal boats to cross the Delaware River westward to Easton, Pennsylvania, and travel up the Lehigh Canal to Mauch Chunk, in the anthracite coal regions, to receive their cargoes from the mines. From Phillipsburg, the Morris Canal ran eastward through the valley of the Musconetcong River, which it roughly paralleled upstream to its source at Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey's largest lake. From the lake the canal descended through the valley of the Rockaway River to Boonton, eventually around the northern end of Paterson's Garret Mountain, and south to its 1831 terminus at Newark, on the Passaic River. From there it continued eastward across Kearny Point and through Jersey City to the Hudson River. The extension through Jersey City was at sea level and was supplied with water from the lower Hackensack River.
With its two navigable feeders, the canal was 107 mi (172 km) long. Its ascent eastward from Phillipsburg to its feeder from Lake Hopatcong was 760 ft (232 m), and the descent from there to tidewater was 914 ft (279 m). The surmounting of the height difference was considered a major engineering feat of its day, accomplished through 23 locks and 23 inclined planes. The planes were essentially short railways that allowed canal boats to be carried in open cars uphill and downhill, the plane cars being driven by a water-powered winch. The use of such devices had advantages over locks for large elevation changes in that they did not require the large amount of water needed by a "staircase" of locks and required less time to travel the vertical distance.

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