Placid canal harmed Susquehanna River
Codorus Navigation and the Conewago Canal might have come earlier, but the Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal was the longest waterway and most successful.
It ran along the Susquehanna River’s edge from Wrightsville to the Chesapeake Bay at Havre de Grace.
The canal was in itself a landmark, but part of its support system prompted a major change in river life.
A low-head dam downstream from the bridge at Wrightsville, constructed in 1840, created a slackwater pool for mules to pull boats across the river. The mules walked two newly constructed bridge towpaths, moving boats across the river to canal and railroad points in Columbia.
But the dam caused casualties.. .
It was the southernmost impediment on the river, keeping migratory fish, particularly shad, from returning to northern Susquehanna spawning grounds.
The following from “Never to be Forgotten” details the largest man-made, water-filled ditch to grace York County.
The Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal opens in 1840, five years after Pennsylvania issues a charter for the waterway. The 45-mile canal follows the west side of the Susquehanna River from Wrightsville to the Chesapeake Bay. The canal, run by a private company from 1840 to 1872, provides a vital trade route with Baltimore. The shallow, rocky Susquehanna makes river navigation difficult. Before its grand opening, the Susquehanna and Baltimore Railroad runs a line from York to Wrightsville. Dignitaries make the four-hour rail trip from Baltimore to celebrate the occasion. Their choice of rail travel suggests that the canal is becoming obsolete before it opens. Still, travelers could board a canal boat in York and travel to any port in the world without touching land. They could travel to the Susquehanna via Codorus Navigation, float down the river to Wrightsville and enter the canal to Baltimore. There, they could board a clipper ship. The Reading Railroad operated the canal until 1894, when a flood damaged it beyond repair. Miles of canal channel and locks still can be seen, particularly Lock 12 in the recreational area near Norman Wood Bridge, Lower Chanceford Township.