First Major Man-Made U.S. Waterway
October 26, 1825
Construction of the Erie Canal is completed, connecting Lake Erie and the Hudson River. Called “The Nation’s First Superhighway”, it was the first navigable waterway connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, and greatly reduced the cost of transporting goods. At 363 miles (584 km) long, the canal was the second-longest in the world (after the Grand Canal in China).
Prior to railroads, water transport was the most cost-effective way to ship bulk goods. A mule can carry about 250 pounds (110 kg), but can draw a barge weighing as much as 60,000 pounds (27,000 kg) along a towpath allowing a canal to cut transport costs by as much as 95 percent. For example, the cost to transport barrel of flour from Rochester to Albany dropped from $3 before the canal to 75¢ on the canal.