Ride Across Indiana, Road Trips

A canal in Cambridge City

Cambridge City

Cambridge City was envisioned as a transportation town when it was platted in 1836. It’s on the National Road, of course, but it’s also on the Whitewater River, the Whitewater Canal, and several rail lines.

I want to focus on the Whitewater Canal for a minute. In the early 1800s, Indiana was figuring out transportation routes in the fledgling state. It may seem obvious today that roads are the way to go, but it wasn’t then. Canals had proved valuable out East, and so Indiana decided to try its hand. One of several Indiana canals to be built was the Whitewater Canal, and it passed through Cambridge City. Read the canal’s history here.

I had never noticed this canal along the north side of the National Road in Cambridge City until I passed slowly by on my Ride Across Indiana. The Whitewater Canal was more or less a north-south canal but this canal runs east-west through town. But whatever other canal could this be? I’m not aware that Cambridge City got more than one canal!

I’ve tried to trace this canal’s route through town, but it disappears. I’m sure some parts of it were filled in.

I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.

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17 thoughts on “A canal in Cambridge City

  1. These old canals are interesting to me. But now you’ve done it – you have made a selection in my brain’s jukebox. “She’s a good old mule and her name is Sal, 16 miles on the Erie Canal” is playing on a loop because it’s the only line I can remember from a song that was drummed into my head from music class early in my grade school years in the mid 1960s. I don’t imagine kids sing songs in early grade school any more, and if they do The Erie Canal is surely not one of them.

  2. Andy Umbo says:

    Interesting entry and sounds like more pictures need to be taken before they decide to fill it in. I admit to reading a book about canal building a while back, and literally had no knowledge that this was the primary transportation option and had been planned for areas all over the fledgling country. All this construction was literally abandoned the second someone laid railroad track, and showed what trains could do. People literally walked off the job mid-pick in the air, and partially completed canals were left all over east of the Mississippi.

    Railroads were way cheaper than digging a canal, but yeah, roads were even cheaper, so it’s funny there wasn’t really parallel development.

  3. Canal towns always fascinate me. We have several here in Ohio, of course, and I always look for remnants of the old Canal routes. I got a kick out of taking a Canal boat ride earlier this year up at Roscoe Village and would recommend that experience if you’re ever in the Coshocton area.

  4. Kurt Ingham says:

    Thanks again, Jim. Your explorations of local history are always fascinating. One very good thing (for me)about the interweb is that I’ve acquired a better picture of the Midwest from you and a few FB friends!

  5. I had always thought the Whitewater Canal ran through Metamora because the river runs north up through Richmond but it looks like it also forks west through Connersville and Cambridge City. I’ve also crossed the river (I think) driving in Ohio on the 275 loop.

    As for this greenhouse, I’ve passed it dozens of times and wondered why they needed a bridge out front but never put it together. What a great find!

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