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September 25, 2017
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October 27, 2017

Canal Crazy in Connecticut

By Bobby Shipman

Canal boat drawn by three horses, drawn by John Warner Barber, 1820s. The Connecticut Historical Society

Think back a long time. Think of a time before airplanes, before cars, and before trains. To send something over a short distance, you could use a horse-drawn wagon. But to send something over a long distance you would need a boat. What if there wasn’t an ocean or river nearby?

The solution: a canal! A canal is a kind of man-made river. It is made to transport goods on a boat pulled by horses.

In the early 1800s canal fever struck the United States. This was because of the Erie Canal in New York. The Erie Canal went from Albany to Buffalo. It connected the Hudson River to Lake Erie. It was completed in 1825.

Another reason for canal fever was money. Merchants had to pay to ship their goods through the canal. Companies formed to build and operate canals.

Canals in Connecticut

Connecticut went canal crazy, too. Companies formed to build six canals. Only two were ever built: the Enfield Canal, and the Farmington Canal.

The Enfield Canal was short. It was built to get around a stretch of rapids in the Connecticut River.

The Farmington Canal was long. It stretched from New Haven, Connecticut, to Northampton, Massachusetts. It went through two states and 80 miles! It opened in 1828. It closed in 1847 and was replaced by a railroad.

Bobby Shipman is a 5th grader at Tariffville School in Simsbury. This story is based on “The Ill-Fated Farmington Canal,” Connecticut Explored (Spring 2008), and “Connecticut” by Albert Van Dusen.


After the railroad closed in the 1980s, the canal route became a bike trail. Read about the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail HERE

Read about taking the stagecoach HERE

Read about Plainville and the Farmington Canal HERE