Monday, January 11, 2010
South Hadley, MA - The Connecticut River was used as a highway to transport stones, hides, lumber, and other raw materials from the North and brought back Iron, Molasses, Sugar, Rum, and Manufactured goods. These items were transported by Flatboats which floated down the river and had to be poled or pulled back up. The round trip from Wells, VT to Hartford, CT took 25 days. The problem was around the South Hadley area, the river bed dropped 53 feet within 2 and a half miles causing rapids. A way to by-pass the rapids had to be found so a canal was built. The South Hadley Canal was the Nations first commercially operated canal. The canal was two and a half miles long and at the South Hadley Falls a unique way of getting the flatboats over the falls was built.
It was called the "Hampshire Machine" a 275 foot long, 30 foot wide, and 53 foot high stone inclined plain; it was capable of lifting 250,000 pounds. It took two years to build and was opened in 1795. Boats were floated onto a carriage and pulled up the inclined plain, waterwheels at the top supplied the power to pull the boats up; I believe a cable or rope was attached to the boat and the turning of the waterwheels would wrap around an axle and pull the boats up. The whole trip up the ramp took fifteen minutes. This model is located in the South Hadley Firehouse Museum.
This path brings you to a section of the canal still there. I walked down the path along the canal and did see "No Trespassing" signs so you can only go a short ways along the canal.
This part of the canal is still existing, there is a path from the Hadley Falls Canal Park(see bridge above ).
This is an overlook at Hadley Falls Canal Park, where you can have a great view of the Connecticut River and what is left of the canal.
A dam was built south of Northampton, MA to raise the water level to divert water into the canal. Citizens of Northampton brought suit against the canals proprietors in 1803, saying the backed up water caused them to suffer "fevers, miasma's(bad air caused by decaying material), and malaria". The inclined plain was close and a series of locks were put in in its place.