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An abandoned four-flight lock on the Black River Canal in Lewis County, New York.


The Black River Canal was a canal built in northern New Yorkmarker in the USAmarker to connect the Erie Canal to the Black River.

Description of the canal

In 1828, a survey for the Black River Canal Company proposed 34 miles of traffic canal, 11 miles of feeder canal, and 40 miles of navigable river from Rome, NYmarker in Oneida Countymarker to Carthage, NYmarker in Jefferson Countymarker to allow the communities of Northern New York access to an inexpensive mode of transportation for commerce. Originally the Canal Commission's intent was to complete a route that would terminate at the St. Lawrence river in Ogdensburgmarker at the northern edge of St. Lawrence Countymarker. The canal when finished only went to Carthagemarker and yet still possessed all of the traits proposed in 1828 and rose a modest . 109 locks were required to raise and lower the barges in this relatively short distance. Some of the locks were in consecutive series of four and five due to steep grades. The summit of the Black River Canal ("BRC") passed through Boonvillemarker in Oneida Countymarker, where it met with a feeder canal that originated in Forestport, NYmarker. The northern end of the canal proper terminated at Lyons Fallsmarker in Lewis Countymarker while canal boat traffic continued through to Carthagemarker by way of improvements to the navigability of the Black River itself and the assistance of steamboats. 2 additional locks and 4 dams on the river were needed to accomplish this feat.

Brief history of construction and partial abandonment

Work commenced, after many years of planning and obtaining legislative support in 1837. Testing began in 1848 with the influx of a reduced quantity of water into the system to test for leakage and structural faults. By 1850, part of the canal north of Rome was in service, and the extension to Port Leyden was completed by the end of the year. In 1855, the entire planned length was finished. Damage from a burst dam in 1869 delayed the canal's opening for that year. By 1887 a repair program was instituted to correct damaged locks, worn by years of use. In 1900, the canal north of Boonville was determined to be uneconomic and was subsequently abandoned.

Legacy of the canal

This canal was the longest-surviving of the Erie Canal's feeder canal system, remaining in use in some segments until c. 1920. By 1925, the canal was declared an abandoned waterway. Parts of the canal are still visible, and part of the course was along the current NY Route 12.

The name "headwaters" is still in current use in the Boonville area, mark the source of the water and the reservoir to feed the canal with water.

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