Would you believe that the impressive stretch of water before you was once a creek?
As early as the 17th century, settlers to the New World realized that the nation's growth would depend upon transportation of goods by land and water. Recognizing that only a narrow strip of land separated two great bodies of water—the Chesapeake Bay and the Delaware River—early business leaders proposed a waterway to connect the two, shortening water travel between Baltimore and Philadelphia by more than 300 miles.
Mud, Sweat & Tears!
Despite early financial and engineering setbacks, construction of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal began in earnest in 1824, with some 2,600 men digging and hauling dirt from the ditch. Laborers toiled with pick and shovel at the immense task, working for an average daily wage of 75 cents. Can you imagine the sound of the laughter, shouting and curses of all these men hard at work? Finally, in 1829 the C&D Canal was open for business—one of the most expensive canal projects of its time, but also one of the most commercially important, even today.
To Learn More visit the C&D Canal Museum, located here in historic Chesapeake City. Explore the exhibits and enjoy the waterwheel and pumping engines preserved on the site.
Take a Hike! Watch ship traffic as you stroll along the multi-purpose C&D Canal Greenway Trail, which runs along both the north and south banks of the Canal from Delaware City to Chesapeake City.
"The workmen live in companies of fifteen or twenty in shanties—frame buildings along the canal, provided with a cook, or board in more private houses erected for the purpose."-American Watchman, May 17, 1825.
(Inscription under the photos in the upper center)
Onlookers marveled at the ships that passed through the C&D Canal. Image courtesy of Cecil County Historical Society. Officials and workers inspect the canal at the Chesapeake City end of the route in 1867. The old steam pumping station in the background provided water to supply the locks. Image courtesy Cecil County Historical Society.
Fast Facts-How Big is it?
At 450 feet wide and 35 feet deep, it's big enough to accommodate oceangoing vessels. A completive swimmer would need about seven hours to swim its 14-mile length.
Who's in Charge of it?
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Philadelphia District
Why is it Important?
One of the world's busiest canals, with ships carrying millions of tons of cargo annually, the C&D is one of only two sea-level commercial canals in the U.S.