CANAL BARGE RIDE
New Hope, PA, USA

Experience a Bit of History

by Flo Deems
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Introduction: The Delaware Canal originally provided a safe waterway for barges that pulled coal and other types of goods from Easton, Pennsylvania, for 60 miles south to Bristol where it emptied its water and barges into the mighty Delaware River again, safely past the rapids which make the river unnavigable north of Trenton, New Jersey, and Morrisville, Pennsylvania. The settlement of New Hope, situated between the canal and the Delaware River miles north of Morrisville, had a lock keeper's house, which still stands and is now the canal museum.

After the coming of the railroads, though, the barges could no longer compete as a method of transportation and shipping of goods. So the canal and the lock keepers' houses fell into disuse and disrepair. Over time, parts of the canal were filled in and built upon.

You can read about New Hope's history by clicking on the link above. Also, if you're interested in learning about the canal's history, you can click on this link, The Delaware Canal. This webpage is devoted to the little bit of history that is now represented by a small part of the original Delaware Canal. At New Hope, you can buy tickets for a barge ride of a couple of miles up the canal from New Hope, then back again. Each barge is pulled by two mules and led by a person who is the mule tender. The barge itself is steered by a boatman who also tells tourists something about the canal's history and the workings of the barges.

Due to severe flooding in 2004, 2005 and 2006, parts of the restored sections of the Delaware Canal have been damaged badly. Repairs in these days of government funding set-backs have only just begun. And it's the hope of all that there will be no more flooding of the massive degree visited upon this region for the past 3 years. Below are some photos of one of the barges, the tourists boarding it, and the mules and the girl who is this season's (2007) mule tender.

1. "Olivia Morgan" is the barge, not the woman.

2. On the deck rows of chairs line both sides.

3. Passengers begin the boarding process. The elderly man is the boatman.

4. I set the camera on a tripod, prefocused and waited. As soon as the girl and mules got under the bridge, I started shooting.

1. As the mules passed me, the loaded barge came into view.

2. The tow rope that is hitched to the mules provides the pull. It drags across the water and the tow path.

3. I was set up under the Ferry St. bridge. This is the sign on the bridge's understructure.

4. A crop of duckweed chokes the canal's surface in summer. The shadows are from the bridge's roadbed, which is not paved.

A sad note, however: Starting with the 2008 season, there will be no barge rides. Due to several unsurmountable circumstances, including new ownership of the barges, and the flooding damage to the canal, and to no group's willingness to come forward to assume expenses and the burden of running the barge rides, they have been suspended. The canal bed has at least one elusive leak, which has been impossible so far to find and repair. But there is hope for the rides to resume some time. Some people and groups are coming together to discuss and formulate plans.

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