As a family we enjoy biking along the towpath trail in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Well – C enjoys visiting the ice cream store located along the towpath and doesn’t mind biking there.
So what is the “towpath”? The name towpath dates back to canal days when horses or mules towed boats down the canal. The path to the side of the canal walked by the horses was the “towpath”.
While I love biking along the towpath in the National Park, the canal is mostly dry and the locks appear merely as walls along the dry ditch. It’s difficult to imagine the history of the canal just by biking the towpath, so I was thrilled when our local homeschool group scheduled a trip to the City of Canal Fulton and a ride on a replica canal boat.
The city of Canal Fulton and the Canal Fulton Heritage Society have built two replica canal boats. The St. Helena II was built in a historically accurate method with a wooden hull. After several years of service, it was in need of repair and has been retired. The replacement, St. Helena III, has a concrete hull for a longer life span.
In the early 1800s farmers from Ohio had a difficult time moving their goods to market due to a lack of reliable transportation. To solve the problem of transporting agricultural products to eastern markets, the state of Ohio developed two separate canals connecting the Ohio river to Lake Erie. The Akron to Cleveland portion of the Ohio-Erie canal was operational by 1827 and the entire canal was completed in 1832. The canal system in Ohio not only helped farmers find a market for their goods, but saw mills and grist mills sprang up along the canal as well. Eventually railroads replaced the canal systems as a primary transport system for goods.
Our tour took us down the canal to Lock #4. Unfortunately the lock is not operational at this time, however we were able to see the upstream gate holding water in the canal and out of the lock. The little building in the photo is the “lock house” where the operator of the lock lived.
The couple of hours we spent touring the museum and riding the canal boat brought a piece of history alive for us. Thanks to the City of Canal Fulton and the Canal Fulton Heritage Society for providing such a rich and vivid experience!