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Morris Canal in Jersey City

additional information about the Morris Canal

The stone entrance archway of the Morris Canal is visible on the New Jersey shore directly opposite the Guard Lock of the Delaware Canal. The Morris Canal was the most unique of America's towpath waterways. Designed to carry coal from the Lehigh Valley to New York harbor, it utilized a series of twenty-three water powered inclined planes along with thirty four locks (including tide locks, guard locks and feeder locks) to cross New Jersey.

It was completed in 1831 between Newark and Phillipsburg (where it connected with the Lehigh Navigation and Delaware Canal by means of an outlet lock and cable ferry which crossed the Delaware River). The Morris Canal enjoyed its first full boating season in 1832. In 1836, it was extended to Jersey City. Its total length, including navigable feeders, was 109 miles. During the 1850's and 1860's the original inclined plane water wheels were replaced with more efficient water turbines. The canal locks had been previously enlarged resulting in a 75 ton navigation limit by 1860.

Beginning in the 1840's large amounts of high grade New Jersey iron ore were shipped West on the Morris Canal to the prosperous anthracite iron furnaces of the Lehigh Valley and upper Bucks County. In 1866, traffic on the Morris Canal reached its peak when it carried 899,220 tons of freight. Competition from railroads, however, eroded the canal's role as a coal carrier and in 1871, the Lehigh Valley Railroad secured a long term lease of the Morris Canal.

Primarily concerned with utilizing the Canal's New York waterfront facilities, the Lehigh Valley Railroad never realized a profit from its acquisition. After 1889 the cable ferry to Phillipsburg went out of use. In 1905 a flood destroyed the Easton outlet lock. By 1915 commercial traffic on the Morris Canal ceased. In 1922 the Morris Canal passed into the hands of the State of New Jersey. The decision was made in 1924 to abandon the Canal and within five years the waterway was largely destroyed. In 1929, an abandonment report was issued marking the end of the Morris Canal.



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