It’s hard to picture today, but when the C&D Canal first opened in 1829, it was just about 60 feet wide and 10 feet deep. A whole section of the canal would have fit into some of the vessels that traverse it today.
Locals called it “The ditch,” which was something of an apt describe. Even so, the original canal was something of an engineering marvel when it opened and the realization of a longtime dream, beginning with the first European settlers to the region.
For example, imagine how this “ditch” was dug so many years ago. Without the benefit of modern equipment, the first canal diggers literally had to rely on shovels, pics, wheelbarrows, and buckets. This was truly back-breaking work even at a time when people were more used to physical labor. Even more daunting is the thought that those canal diggers had to shovel their way through Summit Ridge, which towered more than 70 feet above the surrounding countryside. Does your back ache yet?
We are lucky today that those early canal diggers were such hard workers. Our little town of Chesapeake City has sprung up on the banks of this canal and even experienced a heyday as a small port town as lumber, produce, and other goods came through the locks on their way to Baltimore or to Philadelphia. Even today, the canal remains one of the busiest in the world for commercial vessels, not to mention recreational boaters.
If you would like to learn more, or simply share some of your own family’s canal history, please join us for one of two Canal History tours this summer aboard Captain DJ’s Chasin’ Dreams boat on July 21 or August 11. I will be narrating some of the history along the way and DJ will join in with his expertise on the actual commercial traffic on the canal. We will return to Chesapeake City with a beautiful Chesapeake Bay sunset off the stern.
Of course, health and safety is a particular concern this summer. As noted on Captain DJ’s website, the vessel is operating at reduced capacity to maintain distance between passengers. Masks will be required until the vessel is underway. I plan on wearing my mask except when I’m sharing a story about the canal during the Civil War or showing where the old canal lock used to be located. I’m hopeful that the fresh breeze and outdoors setting should make this a safe cruise and a good way to get out during this challenging summer. Please think about joining us because it would be great to see you!