History of Lehigh Canal with current photographs

The Lehigh Canal

The Lehigh Canal
A Virtual Tour

Old print showing canal boats being loaded with anthracite coal at Mauch Chunk

Mauch Chunk, Packerton, Weissport, Perryville, Lehigh Gap, Walnutport, Lockport, Treachlers, Laury's Station, Siegfried, Northampton, Catasauqua, Allentown, Bethlehem, Hopesville, Glendon, Easton. These are the communities along the Lehigh River. Many of these communities existed and prospered prior to the coming of the Lehigh Canal, but some of them came into existence as a direct result of the construction of the canal. These canal towns grew into existance to serve the canal system and, in turn, to be served by it.

At the height of its financial success the Lehigh Canal was considered to be the largest capacity and longest running towpath canal in America. Consisting of 9 dams and 52 locks and covering a distance of 46.6 miles. It was a marvel of engineering feat in its time and remains so today.

This virtual tour will begin at Mauch Chunk (known as Jim Thorpe, PA since 1953), and will travel south and east, or downstream, along the east bank of the Lehigh River to eventually arrive in Easton, PA and the confluence with the Delaware River and the Delaware Canal.

Not all fifty-two locks exist today (November, 2002), and some are completely overgrown and near impossible to reach due to damage to the towpath caused by floods. Some were destroyed in later years when the railroad was rerouted or a new highway was built or widened. But, thanks to the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company, the local communinities through which the canal flows and the United States Congress for delegating the canal as the "Delaware and Lehigh Canal Heritage Corridor" many of the locks are now accessible and a few have been restored. This virtual tour will include the majority of the locks in whatever state of preservation. As you move downstream from lock to lock, you may click on any photograph to view an enlarged version for closer inspection.

Lock #1 was a guard lock and was on the eastern bank of the Lehigh River. A dam was built at Mauch Chunk to form a slack water pool that served to allow canal boats to load the anthracite coal into the boats on the western bank of the river (see print at top of page), and then float the loaded boat to the eastern shore where they entered the canal system. The dams also were necessary to provide water for each of the canal sections.


This is a period postcard view of guard lock #1 looking at the lower end of the lock. This view shows the dam, the bridge that crossed to Mauch Chunk and the town of Mauch Chunk across the river. The bridge piers were just below the lower end of the guard lock. The towpath utilized a portion of the bridge and then followed a small wooden bridge that can be seen in the lower left of this photograph. The Lehigh Valley RR station is shown to the right above the canal. The Central of New Jersey RR station is shown across the river in Mauch Chunk proper. It is the building with the conical roof with the elongated platform next to the tracks. The bridge no longer crosses the river at this point, the dam no longer exists and the Lehigh Valley Railroad station is gone. The CNJ station is now a musuem and tourist attraction.


This is another long view of guard lock #1 looking at the lower end of the lock. The town of Mauch Chunk can be seen across the river.


A period photograph of guard lock #1 as it appeared in the early twentieth century.


Guardlock #1 as viewed from the canal bed looking downstream through the canal. As can be observed, this lock is overgrown with trees and vegetation. It is also apparent that no water flows through the canal at this point. The upper and lower wooden gates are gone and the interior wooden lining along the walls is missing. The maximum lift of this lock was 1.4 feet. The dam that provided water to this section of the canal was washed out by a later flood.


Looking back upstream from within guard lock #1.


This view is from the interior of the guardlock looking back upstream.


This view of guardlock #1 is from atop the right or 'berm' side wall looking back upstream.


Lock #2 and the 'weigh lock' are located downstream about 1/2 mile below the first lock. Lock #2 is nearest the river with the weigh lock immediately adjacent. Both locks are of rough stone construction with some concrete added in later years. This view is from the towpath along side of lock #2 looking across lock #2 and with the weigh lock berm wall evident above the lock.





View a map of the area of the Lehigh Canal

View a more detailed map of the Canal System

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copyright © 2003 by Everette Carr. All rights reserved.

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Lehigh Canal & Navigation Company
History of the Lehigh Canal