United States Sault Ste. Marie Canal. -- Large Donations of Michigan Land By Congress To Build The Canal -- Eastern Capitalists Undertake And Complete The Work -- First Passages -- Subsequent Improvements -- New Lock Opened In 1896.
Other Canals, etc. Improvement Of The Waters Connecting the Great Lakes -- System of the St. Lawrence River -- Hay Lake Channel -- St. Clair Flats Canal -- Detroit River -- Canals of the St. Lawrence River -- Canal System of Ohio -- Portage Lake Ship Canals -- Ship Canal Companies -- Purchased by Government -- Sturgeon Bay and Lake Michigan Ship Canal -- Improvement of the Illinois River -- Illinois and Mississippi Canal -- Chicago Drainage Channel -- Deep Water-way to Ocean Tide -- Project to Connect Georgian Bay And Lake Ontario -- Ottawa and Georgian Bay Canal -- Pittsburgh Ship Canal.
THE desirability of connecting by navigation the waters of Lake Superior with those of the lower lakes must have suggested itself to every active mind interested in the great lakes a half century ago. Copper mining was beginning to attract settlers in that region, and increased lake traffic to and from Lake Superior demanded the construction of a ship canal.
Charles T. Harvey, of Nyack, N. Y., was largely instrumental in drafting the State law to govern the prosecution of the projected work. It was at his instigation that the size of the locks was increased to 350 feet in length and 75 feet in width, with a lift of 18 feet to overcome the difference between the levels of the lower St. Mary's river and the waters of Lake Superior.
Prior to the commencement of actual work on the canal, Capt. Augustus Canfield, of the United States Engineer Corps, had been designated on the part of the general government to superintend the work on its behalf, while Colonel Glenn, of Niles, Mich., a civil engineer, was designated as the resident engineer on behalf of the State of Michigan (the latter subsequently selected as his assistant Mr. Nichols, who had more or less experience with canal building by a long supervision of the Erie canal and its branches between Buffalo and Albany, N. Y.). They encountered many difficulties and serious obstacles in the undertaking.
In the winter of 1853 and 1854, the managers of the syndicate being somewhat discouraged as to the reported progress of the work, which was due in part to the in-frequency of the transmission of the mails between Sault Ste. Marie and the East, and Mr. Harvey being unable to leave the work as then progressing for the purpose of visiting the managers, J.T. Whiting, who had become a prominent business man at Sault Ste. Marie, undertook to visit and give to the managers of the syndicate a personal statement as to the actual condition and prospective progress of the undertaking. The journey was duly accomplished, although it involved a walk on snow shoes from Sault Ste. Marie to Saginaw, a distance of about 400 miles.
The result of the trip proved highly satisfactory in stimulating the directors of the canal company to have the work pushed with renewed energy from and after the opening of navigation in the following spring. All obstacles and perplexities were conquered in such a manner that the canal was completed April 19, 1855; but, owing to a leak in the north bank, no boats were passed through until June 18, following, when the steamer Illinois, commanded by Capt. Jack Wilson, passed through it bound up, en route for the then generally used ports of Lake Superior. She was followed the same evening by the steamer Baltimore, commanded by Capt. John Reed, bound down for Buffalo. From this date the canal, with its locks, was brought into general use.
Sheldon McKnight and the Chippewa Portage Company, prior to the completion of the canal, had placed the following named propellers and side-wheel steamers on the route between Cleveland, Detroit, Sault Ste. Marie and the various ports on Lake Superior, viz.: The Monticello, Baltimore, Peninsular, Ben Franklin, London, Albany, and Illinois, the Monticello, Baltimore and Peninsular having been hauled across the portage as the business required.
Only five years after these improvements on the canal were completed the development of the commerce of Lake Superior was such as to show that further facilities would be needed as soon as they could be obtained. The River-and-Harbor Act of August 5, 1886, appropriated the sum of $250,000 for beginning the work of enlarging the canal and the construction of a new lock and approaches. Following the passage of that Act a general project for the work of enlargement was submitted. The purpose was to give a navigation of 20 feet in depth. The traffic could no longer be subjected to the risk of interruption through an accident to a single lock. A new lock 800 feet long and 100 feet wide throughout, with 21 feet of water on the sills and a lift of 18 feet, forms part of a proposed improvement. The prism of the canal was deepened so as to correspond with the available draft of water in the lock. The estimated cost of this improvement was $4,738,685. Two years of valuable time were lost through the failure of Congress to make proper appropriations for the work, but the River-and-Harbor Act of 1890 contained an appropriation of $900,000 therefor, which was followed by a further appropriation of $600,000 in the sundry civil bill of March 3, 1891. The River-and-Harbor Act of 1890 also contained a provision authorizing the Secretary of War in his discretion to contract for the entire work, thus committing Congress definitely to sufficient appropriations for its rapid and continuous prosecution. The opening of this new lock occurred August 1, 1896.
In the year 1887 it began to be evident that the United States Sault Ste. Marie canal, large as it is, was rapidly becoming too small for the increasing demands that were being made upon it. Vessels were not uncommonly compelled to wait twelve hours, and in some cases thirty-six hours, for their turn to lock through it. The Canadian Pacific railroad steamers were among those that had at times to wait. Besides these considerations, the Government of the Dominion of Canada could not ignore the fact that differences might arise between England and the United States, which would close the United States canal to Canadian commerce and vessels. For these reasons it appeared the part of prudence that a canal, independent of the United States canal at all times, should be constructed, and the result was the Canadian Sault Ste. Marie canal.
This canal is constructed through St. Mary's island, on the north side of the rapids of St. Mary's river. The length of the canal across the island is 3,500 feet, and as a considerable amount of excavation was required to form channels of approach both at the upper and lower ends of the canal, the total length of the canal and its approaches is 18,100 feet.
The first money appropriated for the construction of this canal was $8,145, in 1888, and in 1889 the sum of $34,019 was voted for the construction of this great work. For contract purposes the work on this canal and its approaches was divided into three sections, and contracts entered into as follows for the performance of the work: For the lower approach, January 30, 1889; for the upper approach, March 26, 1889, and for the canal and lift lock, November 20, 1888.
The scheme covered by these contracts contemplated a lift lock with a chamber 600 feet long and 85 feet wide, the depth of water on the sills to be 16 ½ feet at the lowest stage of water known. The width of the gate entrance to the lock was to be 60 feet, the lock being designed to pass two vessels at a lockage. The prism of the canal was to be 18 feet below the lowest known water level of the river above St. Mary's island. Afterward, however, a supplemental agreement was entered into, June 19, 1891, by which the following dimensions were to be given to the lock: length of lock chamber, 650 feet; width, 100 feet; depth of water on the sills, 19 feet; and the time of completion was extended from May 10, 1892, to May 10, 1893. A second supplemental contract was therefore made with the contractor April 5, 1892, by which it was agreed that the lock should be 900 feet long and 60 feet wide, and that the water should be 20 feet, 3 inches on the sills at the lowest stage of water in the river below the lock. The date for the completion under this agreement was fixed for December 31, 1894.
Still later a further supplemental agreement was made by which the date of completion was fixed at July 1, 1894, and in this agreement it was stipulated that the water should be 22 feet deep below the lowest known water level.
By the changes thus agreed upon, the lock, when completed, would be able to pass three vessels at a time, one of the regular lake type, 320 feet long, and two others of the Welland-canal type, each 255 feet long. The canal proper has a width of 152 feet at the water level, and at the bottom of 145 feet, and the depth is such that vessels drawing 20 feet of water can pass at the time of extreme low water.
The water was let into this canal October 15, 1894, and the steam tug Rooth, was locked through by hand. But it was not until Saturday, September 7, 1895, that the canal was formally opened to navigation by passing through the new Canadian passenger steamer Majestic, under command of Capt. Peter M. Campbell, commodore of the Great Northern Transit Line, with some 700 passengers on board. On Monday, September 9, 1895, the canal was formally opened to public business, the first lockage consisting of the American steamers Uganda and City of London, with a tonnage of 3,383, loaded with 146,000 bushels of wheat, on a draught of water of fourteen feet, four inches. The first day's work of nine hours consisted of the passing through the lock of forty-one vessels; with an aggregate tonnage of 44,469 tons, with green hands and not a mishap. Up to the close of navigation for that season, December 6, 1895, the canal was operated only during the day, the range lights at the entrances not having been erected.
The canal was opened for the season of 1896, May 7, and up to the close of the fiscal year, June 30, 1896, there were 1,640 lockages, passing through 2,938 vessels, with an average time of twenty minutes to a lockage. The registered tonnage of vessels passing the canal for the year was 2,398,715 tons.
Following is a statement of the amount of money spent on this canal project from 1872 down to the close of the fiscal year, 1896: In 1872, $949; 1888, $8,145; 1889, $34,018; 1890, $176,568; 1891, $325,336; 1892, $341,474; 1893, $589,801; 1894, $1,316,529; 1895, $466,151; 1896, $189,986. With the exception of the amount spent in 1872, the above sums were expended on the construction of the canal. The entire amount of money expended on this canal up to June 30, 1896, was $3,471,118, of which sum there was spent for construction the sum of $3,448,011.
The improvement of the waters connecting the Great Lakes is the most important part of the work undertaken by the Government of the United States in connection with the aid it has extended to navigation and commerce thereon; for, as a chain is no stronger than its weakest link, so the navigable depth of the Great Lakes is no greater than that of their shallowest part. The object in view in the work being done is to secure a ship channel through rivers and straits connecting the lakes with each other between Chicago, Duluth and Buffalo. Before improvements commenced under the project for this work the available depth of water for navigation in the waters connecting the Great Lakes was about 16 feet. An available depth of 20 feet having been provided for at St. Mary's Falls canal, Hay Lake channel and at Lime Kiln Crossing in the Detroit river by previous Acts of Congress, the remaining shallows in the connecting waters of the lakes were grouped into one project, with the exception of Detroit river between the City of Detroit and Lake Erie.
20 feet in the shallows of the connecting waters of the Great Lakes, between the three great cities of Chicago, Buffalo and Duluth. The estimated cost of this work was $3,340,000, and this amount was appropriated from 1892 to 1897, the last ap-priation, that of June, 1897, being for $1,091,000.
The work was divided into eight sections according to the locality, as follows: Section 1.--A channel 21 feet deep and 300 feet wide at Round Island shoals, St. Mary's river. Section 2.--A channel 21 feet deep and 300 feet wide in Little Mud lake, St. Mary's river, between the lower end of Sugar island and the lower end of the "Dark Hole." Section 3.--A channel 21 feet deep and 300 feet wide through a reef in St. Mary's river, abreast of Sailors' Encampment island. Section 4..--A channel 21 feet deep and 300 feet wide through a shoal in Mud lake, St. Mary's river, a mile and a half below Sailors' Encampment island. Section 5.--A channel 21 feet deep and 2,400 feet wide at the foot of Lake Huron. Section 6.--A channel 20 feet deep from deep water in St. Clair river through St. Clair Flats canal to deep water in Lake St. Clair, with a width above St. Clair Flats canal not greater than 650 feet; thence gradually narrowing to the canal; thence for the full width of the canal for its entire length; thence gradually widening to a width of 800 feet at deep water in Lake St. Clair. Section 7.--A channel 20 feet deep and 800 feet wide through Grosse-point flats, Lake St. Clair. Section 8.-- A channel 21 feet deep and 800 feet wide through the bar at the mouth of the Detroit river.
To obtain a navigable depth of 20 feet a depth of 21 feet is required where the excavation is through solid rock or through shoals infested with boulders, and a depth of 20 feet where the cut is through soft material.
Contracts were entered into December 31, 1892, for the eight sections. The time originally set for the completion, November 30, 1895, was extended one working season by the terms of the contracts themselves, owing to the exhaustion of available funds in October, 1895. All the contractors, however, preferred to continue the work, notwithstanding no payment could be made until further appropriations were made.
On June 30, 1895, Sections 1, 4 and 6 were practically completed, and Section 5 was dredged to about 20 feet over a width of 1,800 feet, and was used by vessels during 1895. During the year 1896 Sections 2, 3, 5 and 8 were practically completed, and the lower 20,000 feet of Section 7 completed and thrown open to navigation.
According to the report of Lieut.-Colonel Lydecker, engineer in charge of the work, while it is difficult to estimate with accuracy the effects upon commerce of these improvements, yet to them was due the increase of traffic through St. Mary's and Detroit rivers, which in the former case amounted to 14 per cent., or 1,886,720 tons, and in the latter case to 7 per cent., or 1,582,800 tons.
Before improvements were commenced here the channel through Hay lake was restricted in depth at Sugar Island rapids and at Middle Neebish to an available draft of about 6 feet, and the course was very irregular and dangerous. In addition to these obstructions, there were other shoals in Hay lake requiring removal to make the channel available for any considerable increase in draft.
The original project of improvement of 1882 provided for a channel 300 feet wide and to a depth of 17 feet, leaving the then navigable channel in St. Mary's river at Sugar Island rapids (about 2 ½ miles below the canal), through these rapids into Hay lake, and then by the way of Middle Neeb-ish, rejoining the navigable channel at the foot of Sugar island; thus saving a distance of 11 miles, and obtaining a route which can be so marked by lights as to be navigable at night, a condition impracticable by the old channel, except by the use of a great number of lights. Afterward the project was so modified as to require a channel from 20 to 21 feet deep.
The estimated cost of the improvement as so modified was $2,659,115. On June 30, 1895, the entire channel had been dredged to a width of 300 feet, and to a depth of 20 and 2! feet, and the entire commerce of St. Mary's river with some unimportant exceptions was using this channel, which was practically opened for traffic June 7, 1894.
The amount of commerce benefited by this improvement is practically all that passing through the St. Mary's river, as only a few of the small vessels still use the old Lake George channel. The two important points connected with this improvement are the saving of 11 miles in distance, and the rendering of these waters navigable at night. They are considered of inestimable value to commerce.
This canal was made necessary from the fact that originally the St. Clair river emptied into Lake St. Clair through seven principal mouths or passes, the channel used by vessels, previous to the construction of the present canal, being known as the North channel of the South pass. This was improved in 1855-1858 to a depth of 11 feet. Before any improvement was made there was a depth of about 6 feet over the bar at the mouth of this pass. The present St. Clair Flats canal was projected in 1866 with the view of obtaining a straight channel 13 feet deep and 300 feet wide across the flats east of the mouth of the old channel. The work as thus designed was completed in 1871. In carrying on the work it was considered sufficient to obtain a depth of 18 feet and to postpone obtaining a depth of 20 feet until the general project for a continuous depth of 20 feet along the entire length of the route should be in a more advanced stage. It was estimated that the 18-foot channel would cost $365,000, and that a 2O-foot channel would cost $513,559. Total appropriations are $764,810, and the expenditures to June 30, 1898, $761,751.
At the present time there is a channel 2ofeet deep from deep water in St. Clair river through the canal to deep water in Lake St. Clair. The commerce benefited by this improvement is the same as that passing through the Detroit river, which, in 1895, amounted to about 25,850,000 tons, and had an estimated value of $275,000,000. The amount expended on the improvement up to June 30, 1896, was about one-third of one per cent of the commerce for a single season.
The canals of the St. Lawrence river, while not strictly a part of the navigation of the Great Lakes, are yet so intimately connected therewith that a brief reference is made. In descending the St. Lawrence river from Lake Ontario, the first canal encountered is the Galops canal, on the north side of the St. Lawrence river. It is divided into three divisions, called the Galops, the Junction and the Point Iroquois divisions. The Galops division was opened for traffic in 1846, and was the original Galops canal. The new Galops locks are the most westerly on the St. Lawrence river. This division extends upward from the village of Cardinal about two miles to the head of the Galops rapids, which commences about seven miles east of Prescott.
Point Iroquois Canal was opened for traffic in 1847, commences at the village of Iroquois and extends to Presque Isle, a distance of three miles, overcoming the Iroquois rapid, and other stretches of swift water above the point. The lockage is five and one-half feet.
The Junction Division connects the other two divisions, commencing at Presque Isle, and extends to Cardinal, about two and one-half miles. It was opened for traffic in 1856. It is simply an embankment, and the fall in this portion of the works is one and six-tenths feet.
Next in descending the St. Lawrence river is the Rapide Plat Canal, which extends upward from Morrisburg, and is the government point on the entire system of canals on this river. This canal was opened for traffic in 1847, and it is about three and three-quarter miles in length.
Farran's Point Canal overcomes a short, swift rapid above the village of Farran's Point, about five miles west of Dickinson's Landing, at the head of the Cornwall canal. Farran's Point canal is about three-fourths of a mile in length.
Cornwall Canal surmounts the Long Sault rapids, has a total lockage of 48 feet, and was opened for traffic in 1843. It extends westward from Cornwall to Dickinson's Landing, a distance of 11 ½ miles. It is on the north side of the St. Lawrence river.
Soulanges Canal is also on the north side of the river St. Lawrence. It is a most important work, the construction of which was commenced in 1892, and is still in progress. It extends from Lake St. Francis down to Lake St. Louis. Up to June 30, 1896, the amount of money expended in the construction of this canal was $1,950,596.
Lachine Canal is on Montreal island, connecting Lachine with Montreal. Up to June 30, 1896, there had been spent on this canal for all purposes the sum of $12,207,949. During the fiscal year ending June 30, 1896, the lowest water in this canal occurred in November, 1895, when, in the Old Lock, at the upper sill it was eight feet one inch. During the same year the highest water occurred in April, 1896, in New Lock, No. 1, on the lower sill, 39 feet 8 inches.
The largest locks on this system of canals are 270 x 45, and the smallest 200 x 45, the depth of water varying from nine feet to 14 feet. When the present work of enlargement is completed, the canals here will be of much greater service to lake and ocean navigation, and their use will be correspondingly increased.
Rideau Canal connects the river Ottawa, at the city of Ottawa, with the eastern end of Lake Ontario, at Kingston. The total length of the canal is 126 ¼ miles. The number of locks ascending is 35, those descending being 14, and the total lockage is 446 ¼ feet--282 ¼ feet rise and 164 feet fall. The dimensions of the locks are 134 feet in length, and 33 feet in width, the depth of the water on the sills being 5 feet, the navigable depth through the several reaches being 4 ½ feet. The Imperial Government spent on this canal $3,911,701.47, and the entire amount expended by the government prior to June 30, 1895, was $4,084,156.87 for construction purposes; for renewals, $245,478.84; on staff, $776,509.36, and for repairs, $506,113.62. Thus the entire amount expended on this canal up to the end of the fiscal year, 1895, was $5,612,258.
Murray Canal extends through the isthmus of Murray, and connects the waters of Lake Ontario with those of the Bay of Quinte, thus enabling vessels to avoid the open lake navigation. The dimensions of the canal are as follows: Length between the pier heads, 5 1-6 miles; breadth at bottom, 80 feet; depth below lowest known lake level, 11 feet. The works comprise a cut through the isthmus 4 ¼ miles long, and improvements in the way of dredging and other work to the entrance channels at either end to a total distance of 9 ½ miles. There are four swing bridges across the canal. Near its western terminus is the village of Brighton, in the harbor of Presqu' Isle, from which point to Port Dalhousie the distance is 120 miles. On the Murray canal the government spent in capital, or in the construction proper of the works, $1,247,470.
The present Government of Canada is engaged in improving the canal system, connecting Lake Ontario and the lower St. Lawrence, so as to provide for a minimum depth of 14 feet. It hopes to accomplish this work within two years, and thereby increase the navigation of this route to the seaboard.
In November, 1817, the year in which the Erie canal was begun, De Witt Clinton, president of the board of canal commissioners of the State of New York, addressed a letter to the governor of Ohio, soliciting such aid as the State of Ohio could give toward the construction of the Erie canal. This letter, accompanied by a special message, was transmitted by the governor of Ohio to the Legislature, and was considered by a joint committee of the two houses. This committee submitted a report and a resolution setting forth the advantages to Ohio of the proposed Erie canal, and offering such aid as the State could give.
This report does not appear to have been further considered: but it led to the further consideration of the question which was of much more immediate interest to the people of Ohio, viz.: that of extending the proposed line of navigation from Lake Erie to the Ohio river, by which means a continuous line of navigation would be obtained from the Hudson river to the Mississippi river.
From 1822 to 1825 several canal routes across the State were surveyed. An Act in 1825 authorized the construction of a canal from Lake Erie to the Ohio river, along the Muskingum-Scioto route (the Ohio canal), and another canal from Cincinnati to Dayton in the Miami valley. Work was begun on both canals--on the Ohio canal, July 4, 1825, and on the Miami canal on the 21st of the same month. The construction was carried forward with energy during the next eight years, by which time the original system was practically completed. The continuation of the Miami canal from Dayton to Lake Erie was resumed under Acts of December 31, 1831, and March 3, 1834. It was carried on largely by the aid of congressional grants of land to the State of Ohio, and the canal was finally completed to Lake Erie in 1845. This canal was known successively as the Miami canal, Miami Extension canal, the Wabash & Erie canal and the Miami & Erie.
The Ohio canal route extended from Cleveland, Ohio, at the mouth of the Cuyahoga river in Lake Erie, to Marietta, on the Ohio river at the mouth of the Muskingum river. The total length of the route is 246 miles, and the total lockage is 793 feet. This route is now in part occupied by a section of the Ohio canal from Cleveland to Dresden, a distance of 154 miles, and from the head of the Zanesville pool to Marietta by the slackwater improvement of the Muskingum river, a distance of 83 miles.
The Ohio canal is a State work, but the Muskingum river improvement, which was originally a State work, is now the property of the United States, and is maintained in good condition and operated free of tolls. The Ohio canal is 40 feet wide at the surface of the water, 26 feet wide at the bottom, 4 feet deep, and has locks that admit boats carrying 90 tons. The Muskingum improvement is 6 feet deep, and has locks 160 feet long and 36 feet wide, admitting boats carrying 500 tons of freight.
The central route is that extending from Sandusky bay, on Lake Erie, to Portsmouth, on the Ohio river. From Columbus to Sandusky bay, with the exception of 17 miles in Sandusky river, the central route is not now navigable.
In the early day, when Ohio was sparsely settled, and when the State was comparatively poor, she could not afford to build a canal on each of the three routes above described, and still riot one of the routes could satisfy all interests. The result was that when it became a question as to the construction of a public highway by water the local requirements of the population were taken into consideration and the early efforts of the State were directed to satisfying their demands. It was, therefore, decided that as the State was unable to construct canals on all the routes named, she would compromise by constructing a canal entering the lakes at as near as might be the northeastern corner of the State, at Cleveland, and terminating it as near as might be at the southwest corner of the State at the Ohio river.
It was found practicable to carry a canal across the divide between the Scioto and Miami rivers; but the engineers employed by the State concluded that one with sufficient water supply could be carried over the divide between the Muskingum and the Scioto valleys, via the Licking summit, and it was, therefore, decided to build the Ohio canal from Cleveland to the Tuscarawas and Muskingum valley, thence from the Wal-honding across the Licking divide to the Scioto at Lockburn, and thence to the Ohio river at Portsmouth. A canal from Cincinnati to Dayton was decided on at the same time in order to satisfy public clamor.
Later the western route was completed to Toledo, and the improvement of the Muskingum river was also undertaken and completed from Marietta to Dresden. Meanwhile the competition of railroads, which were introduced into Ohio in 1839, began to tell on the receipts of the canals. Popular opinion on the subject of public control of waterways changed, and in 1861 the State canals were leased to private parties for seventeen years, with disastrous results so far as the maintenance and repair of the mechanical structures were concerned. The canals were returned to the State at the expiration of the lease in a deplorable condition, and since then have been repaired and maintained at an annual expense of from $5,000 to $40,000.
But notwithstanding all their misfortunes the canals of Ohio have conferred great benefit upon the State. They reach nearly every city and town of importance, and their influence in building up these cities and towns, as well as the interior settlements and agriculture, can not be estimated nor conceived of by the receipts, cost and expenditures.
As actually constructed the Ohio canal extended from Cleveland, Ohio, across the Cuyahoga-Tuscarawas divide to the Muskingum valley at Walhonding; thence across the Licking divide to the Scioto river at Lockburn, and thence down the Scioto valley to Portsmouth. This canal is 308 miles long, with two summits, and lockage amounting to 1,206 feet. It cost the State $7,904,971. The receipts from tolls and privileges have been $10,300,215, and it has cost to operate and maintain it $6,460,451.
The Miami and Erie canal cost the State for original construction $8,062,680. It has produced in earnings $6,682,356, and its operating and maintaining expenses have been $4,938,368. The present value of these canals is estimated at $15,000,000. The State of Ohio, therefore, in them has on hand a property valued at nearly its original cost, which has repaid nearly one-third of the expense of maintenance and operation.
The Ohio canal made Cleveland what it is. This will be apparent when the effect of locating the canal through the Grand river valley is contemplated, instead of through the Cuyahoga valley. There would have been no city of Cleveland to-day, although there might have been a great city at the mouth of the Grand river.
This waterway, from the western shore of Keweenaw point to Keweenaw bay, on the eastern side of Keweenaw point, is a most important one, and its improvement was commenced many years ago by private enterprise. Better facilities for transportation were made necessary first by the copper interests centering in Portage lake as early as 1859. At that time there was at the mouth of Portage river a depth of about 4 feet, ranging from 3 feet to 5, over the bar, and consequently vessels arriving there anchored in the offing, transferred their freight by means of lighters over the bar, the lighters transferring it to scows upon which it was towed to the mines, a distance of 11 miles at a cost of about $4 per ton.
These numerous annoyances, delays and expenses led those interested to attempt a remedy by dredging the river and bar and constructing a breakwater. The parties interested were the Quincy, Pewabic, Franklin, Mesnard, Pontiac, St. Mary's, Albany and Boston, and Isle Royale mining companies, and Messrs. Sheldon and Douglas, two merchants and land owners. John H. Forster was employed as engineer, and a contract was made with W. W. Williams for securing a channel 10 feet deep and 80 feet wide at the bottom. Instead of using the original river mouth Mr. Forster selected a point further to the east where he laid out a breakwater and a canal leading to it through a tamarack swamp, the length of the cut being 1,200 feet. The object of the breakwater was to prevent the sand moved by northeast storms from filling up the mouth of the canal. The one pier that was considered necessary was built during the winter of 1859-60, and in June, 1860, the first lake steamer was piloted through the canal and river up to the docks at Hancock.
In the following year the Michigan legislature passed an Act to provide for the formation of a company to construct and to improve canals and harbors, and under this law the Portage Lake & River Improvement Company was incorporated, composed of the persons who began the improvement. Considerable sums were expended annually in maintaining and deepening the channel and straightening the river, and in placing buoys and beacons.
Still greater facilities were called for, and in 1874 extensive additional dredging was begun, the object being to obtain a channel 13 feet deep. In 1875 the old pier was widened and a new superstructure added. The income from tolls which were charged upon all vessels drawing more than 5 feet of water, the rates being fixed by Houghton county, steadily increased, enabling the company to provide for the expenses of the works and also to realize a handsome profit.
About 1880 pressure was brought to bear upon the company to reduce the tolls, and in 1885 they were reduced nearly fifty per cent, below what they had been from 1863. The opening of Portage lake enabled vessels to go within about two miles of Lake Superior on the west side of Keweenaw point, and it soon became obvious that it would be greatly to the advantage of commerce if the waterways were made continuous from the east to the west side of Keweenaw point. To construct the necessary canal, 2.1 miles long, involved an expense which the persons immediately interested could not sustain, and besides this it was perfectly clear that the benefit of cutting a canal through to Lake Superior would be national rather than local.
The Portage Lake and Lake Superior Ship Canal Company was organized under the law of Michigan in 1864, and by a joint resolution of the State of Michigan, Congress was asked to aid the enterprise by a grant of land. Minnesota passed a similar resolution February 24, 1865, and Congress responded by granting to the State of Michigan 200,000 acres of land by an Act approved March 3, 1865. But as the plan of construction adopted involved an expense larger than was at first contemplated, Congress was again appealed to to further aid the enterprise, by the Governor and Legislature of Michigan, the Legislatures of Wisconsin and New York, and by several of the large cities, and again Congress responded by granting an additional 200,000 acres of land by an Act approved July 3, 1866.
The canal was designed to be 13 feet deep and 100 feet wide, and to be provided with a breakwater at its Lake Superior end. Several years were spent in preliminary work, the original surveys being made by I. N. Green. In 1868 a small amount of excavation was made, and in the spring of 1869 work was resumed with great activity, and pushed through during that year and 1870. In 1871 the work was embarrassed for want of funds, and in this year the company failed, its name in the meantime having been changed to the Lake Superior Ship Canal, Railroad & Iron Co. But the work went on, and on October 18, 1873, Mr. Forster, who on June 1, 1869, had succeeded Mr. Greene as State engineer, certified that the works were completed according to law.
In May, 1877, after protracted litigation the works were sold under decree of foreclosure, being purchased by Mann & Wilson for the bondholders and creditors of the old company, who organized the Lake Superior Ship Canal, Railroad & Iron Co. The consideration mentioned in the deed to Mann & Wilson was $800,000. They sold the works to the new company for $100, subject to prior incumbrances amounting to $1,636,385, and accrued interest at 10 per cent.
The ship canal, as stated above, is 2.1 miles long. It was built under the grants made by Congress. At first it was 14 feet deep throughout its whole extent, and its least width at the surface was 100 feet. It widened out at Lily Pond to 200 feet, and thence again maintained a width of 100 feet nearly to Portage Lake. Throughout the whole extent of the canal its revetments consist of a front row of piles generally about six feet apart from center to center, capped a few inches above the water surface to support a single row of sheet piling; a row of anchor piles is driven about seven feet back and connected with the front row by timber braces.
The entrance of the canal at Lake Superior was formed by two practically parallel piers of substantial crib work. These two piers are 1,000 and 850 feet long. They are 100 feet apart at the shore line and widen to 240 feet at the lake entrance. The entire route from Lake Superior to Keweenaw bay is somewhat more than 24 miles long. Of this distance 16 miles traverse Portage lake, a long and narrow sheet of water with a depth varying from 30 to 40 feet, and with a width rarely less than 1,000 feet. The banks are usually high, and thus afford perfect protection against gales. It is a most excellent harbor of refuge when vessels are once inside.
Portage lake is connected with Keweenaw bay by a river about five miles in length, and through it runs a channel affording over 100 feet in width with a minimum depth of 14 feet. From the harbor entrance at Keweenaw bay a single pier was built.
Purchased by the Government.--The River-and-Harbor Act of September 19, 1890, provided for the purchase by the United States Government "of the two canals known as the Portage Lake & River Improvement canal from Keweenaw bay to Portage lake, and the Lake Superior Ship Canal, Railway and Improvement Company's canal from Portage lake to Lake Superior, being the water communication across Keweenaw point, Lake Superior, from Keweenaw bay to Lake Superior in the State of Michigan by way of Portage lake and river, and the artificial cut made by said companies to render them available to commerce and navigation, together with the works of improvement on Portage lake, the harbor works upon Lake Superior and Keweenaw bay, with all the lands and franchises connected therewith, free from all incumbrances, $350,000."
From Sault Ste. Marie to Duluth a direct distance of about 375 miles, the southern shore of Lake Superior conforms in general to the 46 [degrees ***] 30' parallel of north latitude; but midway between these two cities the rocky promontory of Keweenaw point projects northeast into the lake, compelling vessels engaged in the coasting trade to make a wide detour. The shores of this promontory, sometimes called the Cape Horn of Lake Superior, are bold with outlying reefs dangerous to navigation, and with no good harbor to afford refuge in storms. The great value to commerce of the waterway across Keweenaw point at its western end, is therefore readily apparent. About two-thirds of the length of this waterway was made many centuries ago, no one knows when, by nature in one of her convulsions, and vessels of the largest draft readily float in its waters. No locks were required throughout its entire length.
At the time of the purchase by the United States there was a poor 13-foot navigation; the channel was narrow and crooked; it was poorly marked and lighted; the entrance piers were in bad condition; the revetments were rotten or entirely gone; and there was a heavy tax upon commerce in the form of tolls. Since then all of these difficulties have been removed.
The project upon which the Government of the United States commenced the improvement of this waterway adopted in 1886, was as follows; to obtain a depth of 16 feet throughout the entire channel from lake to bay with a width of at least 70 feet at bottom; to renew the canal revetments; to reconstruct the piers at the Lake Superior entrance, and to continue them to 30 feet depth of water in the lake; to extend the pier at the Keweenaw entrance to 2O-foot depth of water in the bay, and at the proper
This is a waterway cut through the neck of land which separates Green bay from Lake Michigan, the canal connecting Sturgeon bay with Lake Michigan. The neck of land thus cut through is about one and three-eights of a mile wide, and has a maximum elevation of about 28 feet above the level of the lake. The canal was cut through by the Sturgeon Bay & Lake Michigan Canal Company, from 1872 to 1881, and is an open cut without locks or gates. It is 7,200 feet long, 100 feet wide at the surface of the water, about 65 feet wide at the bottom and 14 feet deep. Of the 14,400 feet of canal banks 8,437 feet were provided with pile revetments, and in continuation of the canal a channel was dredged into Sturgeon bay for a distance of 6,100 feet of about the same dimensions of the canal.
This canal is of great value to commerce, affording as it does a shortening of distance for many vessels over the natural outlet of Green bay into Lake Michigan of about fifty miles to the north, the avoidance of the dangers of the natural route, and makes Sturgeon bay available and accessible as a harbor of refuge for vessels on Lake Michigan. The main object in constructing this canal was to form a more direct water way from Menominee, Peshtigo and other ports in the southern part of Green bay to Milwaukee, Chicago and other ports in the southern part of Lake Michigan.
The United States Government, having purchased this canal, took possession of it April 25, 1893. The original project of improvement adopted in 1894, provided for building 6,000 linear feet of revetment, being an extension of the original revetment to Sturgeon, offsetting 30 feet on each side, so as to make this portion of the canal 160 feet wide at the surface of the water; and to obtain a depth of 15 feet.
During the closed season of navigation in Sturgeon bay and Green bay the canal was made the northern terminus of the Goodrich line of steamers, plying along the western shore of Lake Michigan, and large quantities of freight were landed at and taken from the Merchants' warehouse, which is situated near the lake end of the canal.
During the season of 1895 3,949 vessels passed through the canal. The total freight tonnage was 810,970. In 1896, 4,031 vessels, with a registered tonnage of 1,558,148, passed through; tons of freight 831,370. In 1897, 2,131 vessels passed up with 860,606 tons of freight; 2,283 vessels passed down with 87,999 tons of freight.
Nine regular transportation lines, with 44 vessels, use the canal. In addition a large number of steam barges, sail vessels and scows engaged in the general freighting business, use the canal continually, going both ways during the season of navigation, and a large local business is done by tugs in assisting sail vessels, scows, etc., through the canal.
This has been undertaken with a view of ultimately securing in connection with an enlargement of the Illinois & Michigan canal, of a deep waterway from the southern end of Lake Michigan to the Mississippi river, of sufficient capacity to accommodate large sized Mississippi river steamboats and for military and naval purposes.
The present project, adopted in 1880, contemplates the extension of the slack water improvement begun by the State of Illinois from the mouth of Copperas creek to the Mississippi river, a distance of 135 miles. The project includes the construc tion of two locks, 350 feet long, 75 feet wide, with a depth of seven feet of water over sills at low water of 1879, and dredging the channel where necessary to secure seven feet at low water in the pools thus created. The two locks have been completed and are in use. One of them is situated at Kampsville, 31 miles above the mouth of the Illinois river, and the other at La Grange, 79 miles above the mouth of the river.
In aid of the object aimed at the State of Illinois, aided by the United States Government, has constructed two locks of the dimensions above stated--one at Henry and the other at Copperas creek. In the construction of this work the United States had expended up to June 30, 1897, $1,344,096. The State of Illinois had spent an additional amount on the two locks of $747,747.
From the construction in 1889 of the La Grange lock the amount of business of the Illinois river up to June 30, 1896, increased over 200 per cent. The largest boat navigating the Illinois river was the Cherokee, 631 tons. The La Grange lock was opened for navigation October 21, 1889, and the Kampsville lock August 29, 1893. During the year ending June 30, 1896, the passages of steamboats and barges at La Grange lock numbered 504, with a tonnage of 129,297, and at Kampsville lock the number of steamboats and barges passing through was 592, with a tonnage of 165,686.
After much discussion, in which all the local engineers opposed it, this canal has been located on the Rock Island route, approved by the Secretary of War October 27, 1888, as directed by the Act of Congress of August 11, 1888. The object of the improvement is to furnish a navigable waterway from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi river, at the mouth of Rock river, in connection with the upper Illinois river, and the proposed enlarged waterway along the present line of the Illinois & Michigan canal. It proceeds from the Illinois river at its great bend one and three-fourths miles above the town of Hennepin; thence via Bureau Creek valley and over the summit to Rock river; thence by slack water in Rock river and canal round the lower rapids of Rock river to the mouth of that river. It is to be at least 80 feet wide at the water line, 7 feet deep, and to have locks 170 feet long and 35 feet in width in the lock chambers.
The first work was begun in July, 1892, near the mouth of Rock river on the construction of a canal round the lower rapids of that river, and since that date was carried on up to the close of the fiscal year ending June 30, 1897. There was expended on this improvement $1,203,887.
A history of the Great Lakes would be incomplete without mention of the Chicago drainage canal, one of the grandest feats of sanitary engineering in the world. Its purposes for navigation are secondary, and how important they may become, time only will demonstrate. The enterprise is an old one, and was born of absolute necessity. A fall of 6 ½ inches of rain, September 2, 1885, causing a tremendous flood from the Des Plaines river to sweep down the Chicago river into the lake, contaminating beyond all precedent the water supply of the city, gave impulse to the movement, which was followed by achievement. Bills for adequate drainage passed the State Legislature in 1886 and 1887. The sanitary district was organized and approved by popular vote November 5, of that year. The district is 18 miles long and from 9 ½ to 15 miles wide. The Chicago drainage board was soon after organized, and work was commenced in September, 1892. The total length of the Chicago drainage canal is 28.05 miles, extending from its connection with the south branch of the Chicago river at Bridgeport, Chicago, to Lockport.
The dimensions are: for 14.9 miles through the rock-cut, 160 feet wide at bottom, 162 feet wide at top; and in the glacial drift for 13.15 miles, 202 feet wide at bottom, and 290 feet at the water-line when the channel is carrying 22 feet of water. The channel at the junction of the Chicago river is 24.45 feet below datum; at the Lockport end, 30.1 feet below datum.
There will be let in from Lake Michigan, it is expected, a constant volume of 300,000 cubic feet of water a minute, at a current not exceeding three miles an hour. The grand total of excavation involved in the construction of main channel and river diversion was 40,000,000 cubic yards. The estimated cost of all the elementary work under contract is about $21,000,000. Of this, $2,600,000 was spent in acquiring right of way, and $18,700,000 in construction. The completion of the work, with extra right of way, unexpected litigations, etc., will bring the whole expenditure up to nearly $31,000,000.
Reports have been made by government engineers as to the possible effect of the Chicago drainage canal upon the lakes. It is fairly well established that the canal would lower the upper lakes from three to nine inches within two years, and reduce the flow of water over Niagara fully five per cent, and ultimately possibly even ten per cent.
This lowering of the lakes, and hence curtailing of draught to all lake vessels, may reduce the carrying value nearly a million dollars per annum. On the other hand an engineer of some repute has asserted that by obstructing to a certain degree the flow of water above Niagara Falls (at but small expense) the depth of all waters above could be increased from one to two feet.
The Chicago drainage channel is the greatest project on the Great Lakes, now in course of completion. The greatest project, not yet undertaken, but actively canvassed by the nation, and by a multitude of business interests, is the deep waterway from lakes to sea. Much has been written about its advantages and its disadvantages, whether it should be constructed and at public expense, as a government work, or by private capital. Its route to the ocean has invited animated discussion, for the waterway, if constructed, it is agreed, must exert a momentous influence upon commercial values and activities.
In pursuance of an Act of Congress, President Cleveland in 1895 appointed a commission, consisting of Lyman E. Cooley, of Chicago, James B. Angell, of Michigan, and J. E. Russell, of Massachusetts, to join with a similar Canadian commission, consisting of Oliver Howland, Thomas Keefer and Thomas Munro, in a preliminary inquiry respecting the project. It was pronounced feasible by both commissions. Taking a broad and far-reaching view of the matter it is recommended that a channel of not less than 28 feet navigable depth be constructed throughout. In their opinion the completion of the entire system as quickly as the work can be prosecuted with economy is fully justified. The route proposed contemplates the use of all the Great Lakes, between which and the sea there are mentioned several terminal routes which are feasible. The determination of one among the alternative routes from Lake Ontario to the Hudson river is made subject to information to be obtained from complete surveys and a full investigation of economic considerations.
In July, 1897, President McKinley appointed a second commission, consisting of Lyman E. Cooley, of Chicago, G. Y. Wisner, of Detroit, and Major James Raymond, of the United States Army, to investigate and report upon the several routes.
Subsequent to the appointment of the above commission, in 1895, Congress made another provision for the investigation of the same project. By its River-and-Harbor Act of 1896 the Secretary of War was authorized to ascertain the cost of a ship canal from the Great Lakes to the Hudson river, and the results of this investigation have just recently been made known in the report of Major Thomas W. Symons, of the United States corps of engineers. Major Symons' report is exhaustive, and adverse to the project.
As a result of his investigation Major Symons finds the most suitable route for a ship canal to be by way of the Great Lakes, Oswego, Oneida lake and the Mohawk and Hudson rivers. The route by way of the St. Lawrence river and Lake Champlain to the Hudson, considered also by the commission, was by him reported impracticable, owing to the longer distance and the difficulty of providing for its defense in the event of war. He concluded that the present and prospective conditions of lake, intermediate channels and harbor limitations would not justify a depth of ship canal greater than twenty feet draft, and that the cost of carrying out an undertaking of this kind would reach approximately $200,000,000. It is estimated that the cost of operation and maintenance of the same would amount to $2,000,000 per year. The possible amount of tonnage tributary to a ship canal is put at 24,000,000 tons annually, 18,000,000 tons of which would be transported eastward and 6,000,000 westward.
It is estimated that improvements on the Erie canal of sufficient magnitude to permit the use of 1,500 ton barges can be made for $50,000,000. For the highest economy in water transportation it is found that different types of vessels are required for ocean, lake and canal commerce, respectively. It is stated that ocean vessels could not, as a rule, engage profitably in business requiring passage through a ship canal of the kind under consideration, and that lake vessels are not fitted for use upon the ocean. If, therefore, either of these two classes of vessels were to engage in foreign commerce to and from the lakes, their unsuitability to the conditions pointed out would require the transfer of their cargoes at the seaboard. In consideration of these findings it is concluded that the construction of a ship canal is not advisable.
Project to Connect Georgian Bay and Lake Ontario.--For several years, beginning as early as 1854, citizens of Canada indulged in the hope of acquiring a sufficient appropriation from the British Government for the construction of a canal, between Georgian Bay and Lake Ontario, the terminus to be at or near Toronto.
The proposed canal would be about eighty miles long, penetrating from Nottawasauga bay, through the valley of the same, thence to the Humber river at Toronto. The proposed canal, however, aroused strong opposition, both on account of its great cost and on account of large railroad interests, which might have suffered from this new competition. At various times, since 1854, the same enterprise has been urged upon the Canadian and British Governments.
In fall of 1897 ex-Mayor McLeod Stewart, of Ottawa, visited London, England, to enlist British capital in a project to unite by a waterway the headwaters of the Ottawa river and Georgian Bay near Parry Sound, in which connection it may be stated a company was recently organized in England, with a capital of seventeen million dollars, to construct the proposed Ottawa and Georgian Bay canal, under certain provisos.
In 1894 the city of Pittsburgh was deeply interested in a project to connect by a ship canal the waters of Lake Erie and the Ohio river. At that time an important steel plant had just decided to remove from the Pittsburgh district to the shores of Lake Erie, and the reason assigned for the change of location was that the Lake Erie ports constituted the district where iron and steel could be most cheaply produced. These economic conclusions were widely heralded, and occasioned some apprehension that Pittsburgh might lose her prestige as the chief iron center of America. Moreover, about that time, Alabama pig iron was selling freely at Pittsburgh at the expense of the home product. The outlook for the Smoky city was not unclouded, and a number of her public spirited business men advocated the construction of a ship canal which might bring lake ore to Pittsburgh at a low cost, and enable the city to maintain its ascendancy. Time passed, and no immediate and serious loss of trade followed. Pittsburgh regained her equanimity. Large furnaces were built, the largest in the world; the heaviest steel producer built a new railroad from Conneaut to Pittsburgh and reduced the transportation cost of ore. Various other economies were put into effect, and the city still holds an indisputed supremacy in iron production. This ship canal project is not wholly dead, but interest has waned.
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Some of the transcription work was also done by Brendon Baillod, who maintains an excellent guide to Great Lakes Shipwreck Research.