North Branch


Nearly twenty years in the building, 1836 to 1855, the North Branch Canal was one of the greatest factors in the early development of the Endless Mountains. The canal ran parallel to the Susquehanna River from Wilkes-Barre to Elmira, NY. Financial troubles and lack of cheap labor slowed construction and in the 1840's, hundreds of Irish and Hungarian immigrants were brought in to work on the canal. Removing tons of earth and building heavy stone walls along the entire route of the waterway required long and continuous labor by men, horses and mules. In many places, clay brought from New York State lined the canal to prevent leakage. In 1837, William Foster, Chief Engineer of Public Works, Canals and Railroads, lived in Towanda with his brother, famed composer Stephen Foster, while supervising construction of the canal. Construction was slow and difficult because the rugged terrain and steep elevations required a series of dams, locks, bridges and aqueducts.

Boats, rafts and arks transporting coal and agricultural products were pulled by mules and horses walking on a towpath and operated from April to December depending on weather conditions.

The canal was severely damaged in a great flood in the spring of 1864. In 1867 it was purchased from the Commonwealth by the Lehigh Valley Railroad and its tracks were laid on the towpath.

Text Provided by the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau

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