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Road Trip: Hocking Canal
Listen to the Story
Logan has a long produced clay products. There were once a number of clay companies here — and those clay products – and others that were locally produced, once left town one way: the Hocking Valley canal.
Built in the 1830s the canal ran from Athens to Carroll.
“The canals had been the first major public works project for the state of Ohio, a massive investment to open up the state to commerce,” says Ohio University Professor Emeritus David Mould. He’s studied transportation routes in the Hocking River Valley.
The 56 mile canal cost about a million dollar to build. It had 26 locks, seven culverts, and one aqueduct. A few of these canal remnants still exist along Route 33. Geographer Tom O’Grady has visited most of them. He took me to a piece of the canal that was right on old Route 33 in Logan, at Old Town Creek.
“Ok, so this is Old Town Creek coming through here and the canal came across Old Town Creek and so they built an aqueduct here,” O’Grady says.
There is a parking lot and a walking trail there now. But the aqueduct is unmarked. The cut stones arch up and over the creek. The canal once did that too – it went over the creek. When you walk to the back side of the structure, what you see is amazing…
O’Grady points, saying “Those were trees that were laid down across the creek, then the superstructure of that culvert was built on top of them. ”
What you’ll see is a cut stone keystone arch that crosses the creek, but from this side you also see that it’s been built on a logs that span the creek. Logs that have been there for over 170 years.
“So since theyâ€™ve been underwater the whole time,” O’Grady says, “theyâ€™ve been pretty well preserved. Those are trees that were cut down in Hocking County probably in the 1820s, 1830s. Those are some remnants of the primeval forest of SE Ohio.”
And if you came by yourself, you’d think it was rock that was cut that way.
Another common question: how they cut all those massive stones? One Logan native, the appropriately-named Sam Stone, had heard the story.
“They would drill a hole in the rock, and they would take oak pegs and drive down in and theyâ€™d pour water on top of it. Then, Stone says, “the water would go into the pegs and expand and that would break that off. And then theyâ€™d come back the next day and theyâ€™d all be broke loose.”
Simple tools – wood and water — to set such dramatic results.
Although most of the canal is gone, its presence is still felt along Rt 33. There are canal locks preserved near Haydenville and Nelsonville. And another stone culvert exists near Haydenville.
The ballpark at Nelsonville boast bleachers made by WPA workers out of canal block and Rt. 33 in Nelsonville used to be the canal.
That’s why so many houses have back yards that back onto Rt. 33 or Canal Street.
You can download this audio tour explore it on your own. Itâ€™s Tour number 9. Minerals, Mining, and Reclamation. Just visit seeohiofirst.org.
The New Ohio Guide is produced by the Ohio Humanities Council, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.