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The downfall of the Lehigh Navigation

Despite the success that the Lehigh Navigation had in 1855, the Lehigh Valley Railroad between Mauch Chunk and Easton was completed that same year. This competition proceeded to decrease the usage of the Lehigh Navigation (Hugh Moore Historical Park and Museums). Railroads provided a much quicker form of transportation than the canal. Besides the speed,, the railroads were also beneficial because they operated during the cold winter months when the canal froze over (Zagofsky, 1997).

In June 1862, the Lehigh Navigation was practically destroyed by a devastating flood. The Upper Grand Section was replaced by an extension of the Lehigh and Susquehanna Railroad while the lower section of the canal was rebuilt. In 1869, the railway was extended southward to Easton. It was then leased by the Central Railroad of New Jersey in 1871. In 1901, another flood once again destroyed large portions of the canal; and it was once again rebuilt (Hugh Moore Historical Park and Museums). Besides the railroads, the Great Depression also decreased the operations of the Lehigh Canal. In the 1930’s, the only boats travelling on the canal were used to dredge coal silt out of the canal (Hugh Moore Historical Park and Museums). The last canal boat captain on the Lehigh Navigation was Alan Strohl in 1942 (Zagofsky, 1997). His journey ended in Walnutport as a storm began to role over the area (Everett Kaul). The canal was not rebuilt.


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