"Ohio Water Power Information"

The Miami and Erie Canal, extending 249 miles from Toledo to Cincinnati, Ohio, was built between 1825 to 1845. The canal had 19 aqueducts, guard locks, and 103 lift locks.**  *The series of 105 canal locks raised canal boats 395 feet above Lake Erie, and 513 above the Ohio River at Cincinnati, Ohio.  Each canal lock was 90 feet long by 15 feet. The peak of the Miami and Erie Canal at the "Loramie Summit" extended 21 miles from Lock 1-N in New Bremen, Ohio, to lock 1-S in Lockington north of Piqua, Ohio.*    *The entire canal system was 301.49 miles long and cost $8,062,680.07.

During the construction of the Miami and Erie Canal, it was a center of disease, and drunken violence.  Irish immigrants, convicts, and local farmers used picks, shovels and wheelbarrows to relocate the dirt and clay. This dawn to dusk labor brought in a wage of 30 cents a day.

By its completion in 1845, the Miami and Erie Canal was soon to have competition by the expanding railway system. From 1850 to 1860, the railway system in Ohio went from 375 to 2946 miles of track.  In the 1860's the City of Cincinnati received a 3/4 mile outlet of the Miami and Erie Canal for street and sewer expansion.  During that same era, Toledo was given several miles of the canal for similar purposes.  In 1861, the Ohio legislature passed a law allowing the leasing of canals for a ten year term to a private company for the annual rent of $20,075.  The lease included maintenance mandates of the canals; however, the law lacked conditions to provide documentation of the canal's value and condition at the time of the lease.  During this period, the canals deteriorated greatly.  In late 1877, the lessees refused to pay the rent of the prior six months. ***   

During the active life of the Miami and Erie Canal, canal boats made transportation of passengers and goods possible from Lake Erie to the Ohio River.  Passengers fees were 2 to 3 cents per mile, with the hauling of freight costing 2 cents per mile per ton with fees going down to 1.5 cents on trips over 100 miles.  The canal boats traveled 4 to 5 miles per hour. *

*** Canal minimum construction standards included:

  1. 4 ft. water depth

  2. 40 ft. wide at water level

  3. 10 ft. wide towpath in addition to mandated outer slopes

  4. All slopes are 4-1/2 ft. horizontal to 4 ft. perpendicular

Canal Boats could be up 14 ft. wide. *

Ohio Canals prior to the Civil War returned to the State nearly seven million dollars in net receipts.  The canals were also a major factor in Ohio's major population growth, wealth, and power. ***     * In fact, the population expansion in Ohio jumped 68%  between 1830 and 1840.*   *** Indirect effects of the Canals in Ohio include raising the prices of labor  and products within Ohio, which promoted the growth of industries such as agriculture and mining.  One such example was the price of a bushel of wheat grown in central Ohio, went from 50 to 75 cents. *  

A third major canal was proposed in central Ohio in addition to the Miami and Erie Canal on the west side of the state, and the Ohio and Erie Canal on the east side of the state.  This third canal would have run down the northern half of central Ohio along the west side of the Sandusky River from Sandusky Co. to Wyandot Co. at Upper Sandusky.  The canal would have then continued south along the Scioto River in Marion Co. , and later connected to the Ohio and Erie Canal in southern Franklin Co. near Lockbourne.**  But that canal was never built.


The Miami & Erie canal was a development and joining of three canals, the Miami Canal begun in 1925 and running from Cincinnati to Dayton, the Miami Extension and the Wabash & Erie Canal. Renamed the Miami & Erie Canal in 1849 it had one summit, the Loramie Summit, also called the Loramie Plateau, which was 374 feet above Lake Erie and 516 feet above the Ohio River a total lockage of 890 feet. From the Lake to the north end of the summit was 124 3/4 miles, the summit 24 miles and then 100 miles to the Ohio, totaling approximately 249 miles. It had 19 aqueducts, 3 guard locks, 103 lift locks, 50 to the north of the summit, 53 to the south, all constructed at 90 feet X 15 feet. The system cost $6.7 million or $12,000 per mile.
Several feeders helped supply water to the canal. These were the Wabash & Erie (18 miles from the junction to the Indiana border), the Sidney Feeder ( 14 miles ), Grand Reservoir Feeder ( 2 miles ), Loramie Feeder ( 1/2 mile ), Hamilton Side Cut ( 3/4 mile ), Middletown Feeder ( 1/2 mile ) and the Dayton Feeder ( 1/3 mile ) totaling 36 miles with one guard lock, 4 lift locks with 28 feet of total lockage.

Unlike the Ohio & Erie Canal that was built in stages from North to South, the Miami & Erie would be built from South to North.

All the locks on the Miami & Erie Canal from Cincinnati north to the Loramie Summit and south from the Lake to guard lock below Independence were constructed of stone masonery with chambers measuring 90 X 15 feet. Between these two points there was little available stone and the locks were constructed of wood. It was estimated that these locks could be rebuilt every 8 years and still be less expensive than transporting stone from outside the area. Several locks were rebuilt in stone in the 1850's.

Like the Ohio & Erie Canal the Miami & Erie Canal was leased to 6 business men between 1861 and 1878 and returned to the State in great disrepair.

There is some dispute as to which of the main Ohio canals saw the greater traffic however, they both seem to have been very productive. It took 64 hours to make the full 249 mile trip. In later years the canal was slightly more productive than the Ohio & Erie Canal because the larger canal dimensions allowed steam boats to travel the canal.

A company proposed a system for towing the boats between Toledo and Cinncinati using electric locomotives. The "Electric Mule" experiments of the Miami & Erie Transportation Company was a disastrous failure. The company failing before the tracks were fully laid.

Between 1904 and 1909 the State Legislature put forth some effort to rebuild and reuse the Canal, proposing to replace all wooden locks with concrete. However they lost interest in 1910 in favor of the now more efficient railroads, sealing the fate of the canal for good. The last boat to haul cargo for pay was the "De Camp Statler" which made its final stop at Fort Loramie in 1912. In 1913, during the great floods which affected the entire Ohio Canal System an aqueduct over Loramie Creek was destroyed. The canal never recovered.

If you travel along the route of the Miami & Erie today you will pass through many thriving cities who owe their strength directly to the canals. Even when the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railroad built its tracks along the banks, paralleling it all the way the canal still thrived. As late as 1903 tolls on the canal were more than $70,000. The railroad lobbyists had even persuaded the Legislature to close the canal through downtown Cincinnati in an attempt to put it out of business.

The Miami Canal

The Miami Canal was part of the original plan of the Ohio Assembly in 1825 slated for immediate completion along with the full Ohio & Erie Canal. An extension to this canal was promised but not guaranteed. Groundbreaking took place at Middletown on July 21, 1825. With everyone focused on the through route it was thought that this section of canal would be set aside or neglected, however, sufficient workers were assigned so that work progressed well and water was let into the canal section between Middletown and Howell's Basin, at Lockington in October 1827. An Inaugural trip by boat was planned for November 4th but delayed until November 28, 1827 due to a breach in the embankment near Mill Creek Aqueduct. The remainder of the route was opened to Dayton in July 1828, when on the 4th of the month the Miami Canal was officially opened and dedicated. Construction of a 12 mile level section south of Howell Basin was slow and was not finished until 1929 when the canal finally wound through Cincinnati. In 1828 they finally began taking bids for the final extension of this section to join it to the Ohio River. This section, finished in 1833, descended to the river via 10 locks each with an 11 foot " drop", however, this section was never used much because of heavy and high water levels and silting of the lower locks.It would prove to be easier to off-load the cargo at Howell Basin and transport it by wagon the last couple of miles to the docks on the river, therefore, the working southern terminus would be at the end of Howell Basin, often called 12 Mile Level. Lockport Basin was at the end of the level and provided space for turning around. With the increase in canal traffic and its accompanying business it was soon evident that this basin would not be adequate for the intended job and a new larger basin, Cheapside Basin, was built to the south.
After leaving Cincinnati the canal, going North, traveled through the valley of the Mill Creek for about 20 miles. There it entered a series of ponds that were the source of Mill creek which connected the valley with the Great Miami. Following the east bank of this river it passed through to Middletown. This area was traversed with the help of 4 aqueducts, 2 of these made of wood, a canal feeder about 2 miles above Middletown on the Great Miami. A dam fed water into the canal through a half mile long channel. Water entered the canal through six timber culverts built into the towpath.
From Cincinnati to Middletown the canal was 44 miles long with 32 locks with a rise of 212 feet. This point of the canal was actually 215 feet above the Ohio. The other three feet were gained by the engineers in the level areas of the canal with a gradual rise at a maximum of 1 inch every mile.

The upper division of the Miami Canal began at the junction with the Great Miami Feeder from where it followed the east bank of the river 22 miles to Dayton. There were 22 locks along this section with a rise of 85 feet. The area was traversed with the help of several stone arched culverts, a wooden aqueduct, a feeder from the Mad River. This feeder was navigable by way of a lock with an 11 foot lift.

The Miami Canal totaled 66 miles, with a total lift of 297 feet, from Cincinnati to Dayton and started to be productive as soon as it was opened. In April 1830, 70 boats left Dayton and 71 arrived there. The canal was an extremely dependable, convenient and inexpensive form of transportation. In 1832, 1,000 passengers traveled the canal each week.

The Miami Extension

This extension was 160 miles with 103 locks and a rise of 890 feet. The canal was begun in 1833 after much controversy and debate about the need for the canal. However, the legislature in 1825 had all but promised to build this extension to the Miami Canal and public opinion finally won out over the opposition. It was to prove to be a profitable decision for the people of the state. The Miami & Erie Canal would be as busy or busier than the Ohio & Erie Canal. It was a great advantage to Ohio to have two through canals joining the Ohio River & Lake Erie. Permission was first given for a 32 mile extension to a point just north of Piqua at the mouth of Loramie Creek. In 1836 permission was granted to finish the extension and junction with Indiana's Wabash & Erie Canal at what would be Junction.
The canal extension followed the Auglaise and Maumee Rivers.
The Loramie Summit just north of Piqua was the only summit on the entire 160 mile canal. It was 23 miles long and fed water from both Loramie Creek and the Sidney feeder. From New Bremen at the north end of the summit the canal fell 217 feet over 57 miles with 32 locks to connect with the Wabash & Erie.
When built as the Grand Lake Reservoir to feed the canal, the lake produced, Now Grand Lake St. Mary's, was the largest man-made lake in the World. North of the Grand Lake Reservoir, Deep Cut, north of Kossuth, was a 6,600 foot excavation to enable the canal to cross the St. Mary's moraine, a ridge of blue clay which separates the St. Mary's watershed from the Auglaise watershed. It took 4-5,000 laborers 4 years to complete.
Middletown was the junction with the Warren County Canal which connected Lebanon with the mainline.

Wabash & Erie


On March 2, 1827 by an act of the U.S. Congress, every alternate section of what would become the Wabash & Erie Canal was granted to the State of Indiana to help in the construction of a canal from the head of the Wabash River, at the mouth of the Tippecanoe River in Indiana to the foot of the Maummee Rapids in Ohio. This meant that a significant portion (250,000 acres) of the canal in Ohio was infact owned by Indiana. Construction was to begin within 5 years and be finished within 20 years.
Officials from the two States met to resolve what could have become a major conflict and problem between the two States. In 1829-30 the two States ratified an agreement whereby the government lands within Ohio's borders were ceded to the State of Ohio and Ohio would build the canal from its northern terminus on Lake Erie to the Indiana State Line.
Groundbreaking on the Wabash & Erie took place at Fort Wayne, Indiana on February 22, 1832.


The Wabash & Erie Canal of Indiana was 462 1/2 miles (87 1/2 miles on Ohio) and was the longest canal built in the United States.
Ohio was reluctant to build or complete their portion of the canal and managed to delay the canal construction as long as possible fearing the competition from Indiana.

In 1842 the 37 miles of canal from the Indiana State Line to Florida at the foot of the Flat Rock Rapids was finally opened. The portion of the Wabash & Erie Canal that was not incorporated into the Miami and Erie was an 18 1/2 mile section from Junction, west to the State Line. This section consisted of 6 locks which ascended 28 1/2 feet. There were 2 slackwater dams and a 2,500 acre reservoir to supply the water for the canal in this section. In 1877 Indiana closed their portion of the Wabash & Erie Canal. This upset Ohioans to the extent that some dynamited the reservoir in 1887 and the portion of the canal from the State Line to Junction had to be abandoned in 1888.

On the Miami & Erie Canal

The Wabash & Erie section of the Miami & Erie Canal ran along the valley of the Maumee River. It was begun in 1837 but was not navigable until 1843 when a boat could be taken to near Toledo. Upon completion of this section of canal the system was officially designated as the Miami & Erie Canal in 1849.

Near Toledo there were three different branches built for the northern terminus of the canal. The Maumee Side Cut, a 1 1/2 mile channel with 6 locks allowing the canal to lock down to the Maumee River at Perrysburg. The Toledo Side Cut at 0.4 of a mile used two locks to lower the canal to Swan Creek. The Manhattan Extension was the northern most terminal with two locks. Difficulties led to the closing of the Maumee Side Cut in 1864 and the Manhattan Extension in 1871 leaving the Toledo Side Cut as the canals terminus.

Demise of the Canal

Between 1861 and 1878 the canal was leased to private enterprise that greatly neglected the canals maintenance. The flood of 1913 ended canal traffic as it did throughout Ohio. The Miami & Erie Canal was not officially closed until 1929.

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