Before the hydroelectric companies built dams on the river in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the lower reaches of the Susquehanna were shallow, rocky, and virtually unnavigable.
In the 1830s, Baltimore merchants campaigned for funding to build a canal from Wrightsville, Pennsylvania, to Havre de Grace, Maryland. In 1840, construction of the Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal was completed.
The canal paralleled the Susquehanna. It was 50 feet wide and approximately 6 feet deep. To overcome the river's steep 233-foot drop from Columbia to the bay, engineers designed 28 lift locks. The locks made it possible for vessels to carry lumber, coal, iron, fertilizer, grain, and passengers to the Chesapeake Bay and Baltimore. From its office in Wrightsville, customers could even purchase a ticket to Liverpool, England.
In 1855, over 8,000 boats used the canal, but competition from the railroads soon threatened the entire system. Boat traffic declined rapidly, and by 1894, the canal was abandoned.
Although much of the canal disappeared under the lakes created by the dams, a few sections are still visible. If you follow the nearby path on your left, you can see the remnants of Lock 1 and the canal bed.