Glens Falls Feeder Canal

The Glens Falls Feeder Canal is a canal that has supplied water to the summit level of the Champlain Canal since its its completion in 1828. The feeder's primary purpose was ensuring that the Champlain Canal's summit level had sufficient water even in times of drought. The feeder's water supply was directly from the Hudson River north of Fort Edward near Glens Falls. Locks were built along the canal which allowed boats to travel the length of the canal and enter the upper Hudson River.

The importance of this canal can not be underestimated even today. By providing a seemingly endless supply of water to the summit level of the Champlain Canal, theoretically the Champlain Canal would never run dry. Unlike the summit level on the Erie Canal, there was no need for reservoirs. The modern Champlain Canal uses the canal as its sole water supply, nearly 200 years after its construction.

Navigation along the feeder canal was also important. Above Fort Edward, lumber from the Adirondacks would be carried down to towns like Glens Falls and be cut using the river's power. The wood then would be dried and loaded onto boats and sent down the Champlain Canal to the eastern seaboard. The seven mile canal required 14 locks; thats one for every half mile. Moreover, the locks were not evenly spread across the canal. 13 of the 14 locks were within the final mile connecting to the Champlain Canal. Lock 14 was a guard lock at the head of the feeder canal that allowed boats to continue from the canal and on to the Hudson River.

Contents

History

The feeder canal was not the original or planned source for supplying water to the original Champlain Canal. Rather a 30 foot high dam was built in Fort Edward north of Roger's Island and another feeder canal was built to supply water to the canal. In 1820 contracts were let for the dam and it was built, but later in 1822 it had a catastrophic failure allowing a 900 feet wide wall of water to head down stream. The dam was rebuilt and in 1829 a guard lock was added as the junction of the feeder canal and the river.

During the same time period, in 1821 it was determined that an additional feeder would be beneficial and a survey was conducted. The canal was approved and during the following year it was decided to make it not only a feeder, but a navigable feeder. The seven mile canal was completed in 1828.

Upgrades

During 1835 the guard-lock at the northern end of the Glens Falls Feeder was rebuilt of stone. The following year the entire feeder canal was approved to be enlarged and have 12 of the 13 wooden locks rebuilt with stone. During the years of 1837 and 1838 12 locks were rebuilt of stone from nearby Kingsbury quarries. The entire enlargement was completed in 1839. During 1843 the Glens Falls feeder dam raised 18 inches and during the same year the Fort Edward Feeder and dam were abandoned.

In 1846 the guard-lock on feeder was rebuilt yet again. In 1856 the remaining wooden lock on the feeder was rebuilt of wood. A big bevel to be cut off Glens Falls feeder locks during 1868. The following year the dam and guard-lock underwent reconstruction. The dam was appropriated $25,000 to rebuild it of stone (completed 1872 after delay of contractor backing out). The guard-lock underwent a $10,000 rebuild for its 3rd reconstruction (completed 1871).

In 1873 the final wooden lock was rebuilt of stone (completed 1875). During 1880, due to a severe drought the division engineer advises construction of a reservoir above the Glens Falls Feeder. 1891 saw the constructing of a wall at head of guard-lock on Glens Falls feeder. August 3rd, 1893 saw a breach of the canal near the Delaware and Hudson Company's railroad bridge. The breach delayed navigation 11 days until it was repaired and re-watered. During 1896 the people of NY ratified the deepening of the canal to 7 feet.

During the Barge Canal Era

The 1903 Barge Canal Act enlarged the Champlain Canal to today's dimensions, but Glens Falls Feeder Canal still had businesses requiring cheap shipping. Thus the Fort Edward Junction Lock was built to allow boats to continue to use the canal. The canal remained in use until the 1940s when boat traffic dwindled and the canal was left largely unmaintained.

Today's canal

The feeder canal remains in use as a feeder to the modern Champlain Canal, as a power source for mills and recently as a recreation destination. Due to maintenance continuing to the 1940s, the canal is in excellent condition. Some locks have been over-hauled for modern uses and the doors were removed. Because 13 of the 14 locks are within a one-mile stretch at the southern end, self-guided historical tours are quite easy to make.

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