Dug by hand, mostly by Irish immigrants, the 66 mile D & R Canal was completed in 1834. 75 feet wide and 8 feet deep, the canal originally had 14 locks to raise and lower boat traffic.
The D & R Canal operated as an inland waterway between the Delaware and Raritan rivers, primarily transporting Pennsylvania coal to New York via mule drawn canalboats. The busiest years of the D & R Canal were in the decade following the Civil War, when it proved itself to be one of America's most important canals.
By 1843 mules were supplemented by steam powered boats. The D & R Canal was used by a great variety of commercial, pleasure and naval vessels. Many locks, spillways, tender's houses, and other nineteenth century structures remain intact and in use. The entire D & R Canal is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Corridor of Conservation and Recreation
Along its route of scenic beauty, the canal offers varied recreation and provides a natural habitat for plants and wildlife. Visitors can enjoy the sights and sounds of the natural world while canoeing, fishing, cycling, walking or horseback riding.
After 1932 the D & R Canal no longer provided a through route for vessels. Instead, the water itself became a resource which is of increasing importance to much of central New Jersey.