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Pennsylvania Canal (West Branch Division)

The West Branch Division of the Pennsylvania Canal ran 73 miles (117 km) from the canal basin at Northumberland, Pennsylvania, at the confluence of the West Branch Susquehanna River with the main stem of the Susquehanna River, north through Muncy, then west through Williamsport, Jersey Shore, and Lock Haven to its terminus in Farrandsville.[4] At its southern terminus in the Northumberland basin, the West Branch Canal met the North Branch Canal and the Susquehanna Division Canal. Through these connections to other divisions of the Pennsylvania Canal, it formed part of a multi-state water transportation system including the Main Line of Public Works.[5]

West Branch Pennsylvania Canal
Bald Eagle Crosscut Canal 2.jpg
Bald Eagle Crosscut Canal in Flemington in 2010
Pennsylvania canals.png
Map of historic Pennsylvania canals
CountryUnited States
Physical characteristics
SourceWest Branch Susquehanna River
 - locationFarrandsville, Clinton County
 - coordinates41°10′12″N 77°30′57″W / 41.17000°N 77.51583°W / 41.17000; -77.51583[n 1]
 - elevation558 ft (170 m)[1]
MouthSusquehanna River
 - location
Northumberland, Northumberland County
 - coordinates
40°52′55″N 76°47′51″W / 40.88194°N 76.79750°W / 40.88194; -76.79750Coordinates: 40°52′55″N 76°47′51″W / 40.88194°N 76.79750°W / 40.88194; -76.79750[3][n 2]
 - elevation
420 ft (130 m)[2]
Length73 mi (117 km)
Basin features
River systemPennsylvania Canal
Original ownerCommonwealth of Pennsylvania

Between Northumberland and Muncy, the canal lay east of the river. Beyond Muncy, where the river makes a right-angle turn, the canal lay to the north. Started in 1828 and completed in 1835, it had 19 lift locks overcoming a total vertical rise of about 140 feet (43 m).[4] The locks, beginning with No. 13, slightly upstream of the Northumberland Canal Basin, and ending with No. 34 at Lockport, across the river from Lock Haven, included two guard locks and an outlet lock in addition to the 19 lift locks.[6]

The state intended to extend the West Branch Canal from Farrandsville further upstream along the West Branch Susquehanna River to the mouth of Sinnemahoning Creek. Plans called for 33 miles (53 km) of canal, but the project was abandoned along with the idea that the West Branch Canal would eventually connect to the Allegheny River in western Pennsylvania.[7]



Additions to the West Branch Canal included the Bald Eagle Crosscut Canal, which ran 4 miles (6.4 km) through Lock Haven and Flemington along Bald Eagle Creek.[4] It linked the West Branch Canal to a privately financed addition, the Bald Eagle and Spring Creek Navigation, that extended the canal system another 22 miles (35 km) to Bellefonte along Bald Eagle and Spring creeks.[4] Beginning in 1837, large quantities of pig iron and bituminous coal traveled to distant markets via these canals.[8]

The Lock Haven Dam (also known as the Dunnstown Dam), was built in the 19th century primarily to provide water to the West Branch Canal.[8] Canal boats crossed the pool behind the dam by means of a cable ferry between Lock No. 35 on the Lock Haven (Bald Eagle Crosscut Canal) side of the river and Lock No. 34 on the Lockport (West Branch Canal) side, about 2,000 feet (610 m) downriver from the Jay Street Bridge.[8]

In 1833, the state added a 0.75-mile (1.21 km) canal, the Lewisburg Cut, to connect the town of Lewisburg, 11 miles (18 km) north of Northumberland, to the system. The privately financed Muncy Cut, also only 0.75 miles (1.21 km) long, added a branch canal into Muncy, 20 miles (32 km) north of Northumberland.[4]


Lock No. 34 and lock keeper's house at Lockport
Bald Eagle Crosscut Canal in Lock Haven, 1898 or earlier. View is to the north from Main Street.
Lock No. 32 in Jersey Shore in 2012. The lock remnants are in a public space bounded by Cemetery, Locust, and South Broad streets and Cherry Alley.
No.[6][n 3]   Lift[6]   Canal mile[6]
0.0 miles
0.0 km
Northumberland Canal Basin
13 7.75 feet (2.36 m) 0.6 miles (1.0 km)
14 5.94 feet (1.81 m) 6.5 miles (10.5 km)
8.0 miles (12.9 km) Lewisburg Cut outlet
8.2 miles (13.2 km) Guard lock near Lewisburg Dam
17 6.12 feet (1.87 m) 10.2 miles (16.4 km) Milton including Limestone Run Aqueduct
18 5.2 feet (1.6 m) 14.6 miles (23.5 km) Watsontown
19 7.2 feet (2.2 m) 22 miles (35 km) Montgomery
20 5.4 feet (1.6 m) 22.9 miles (36.9 km) Muncy Dam Lock
21 5.5 feet (1.7 m) 24.0 miles (38.6 km)
22 5.5 feet (1.7 m) 26.2 miles (42.2 km) Muncy[n 4]
23 6.5 feet (2.0 m) 28.8 miles (46.3 km) Wash Taylor's Locks
24 5.07 feet (1.55 m) 29 miles (47 km) Near Hall's Station
25 6.12 feet (1.87 m) 33.2 miles (53.4 km) Joe Phillips Lock
26 4.83 feet (1.47 m) 35.4 miles (57.0 km) Head of White Water
27 6.3 feet (1.9 m) 36.2 miles (58.3 km) Montoursville
41.2 miles (66.3 km) East of Lycoming Creek aqueduct
50.2 miles (80.8 km) Near Thomas Smith tract
51.7 miles (83.2 km) Wild Man's Lock
53.9 miles (86.7 km) Larry's Creek
56.4 miles (90.8 km) Jersey Shore
66.4 miles (106.9 km) Guard lock below Lock Haven Dam
68.4 miles (110.1 km) Lockport[n 5]
73.4 miles (118.1 km) Terminus at Farrandsville


Remnants of the canal exist along the West Branch Susquehanna River between Northumberland and Lock Haven. Canal walls made of stone still stand near Muncy, while other canal and lock remnants are preserved near Lock Haven.[10] Archaeological work and restoration began in 2005 at the Muncy Canal Heritage Park and Nature Trail, 11 acres (4.5 ha) including remains of a towpath, a lock, a canal wall, and a lock tender's house.[11] Part of the Bald Eagle Crosscut Canal still flows along Bald Eagle Creek through Flemington. Lock No. 32 has been preserved in Jersey Shore.

Points of interestEdit

See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ These are the coordinates for the mouth of Lick Run below Farrandsville, near the north end of the former canal.[1]
  2. ^ These are the coordinates for the mouth of the West Branch Susquehanna River at Northumberland, where the West Branch, North Branch, and Susquehanna Division canals connected.[2]
  3. ^ The numbering system for the Susquehanna and West Branch divisions of the Pennsylvania Canal started at Duncan Island, where the Eastern, Juniata, and Susquehanna divisions connected. The Susquehanna Division ran north–south through 12 locks along the Susquehanna River between Duncan Island and Northumberland. The first lock on the West Branch Canal was No. 13.[9]
  4. ^ The Muncy Cut branched off the main canal 27.5 miles (44.3 km) upstream of the Northumberland Basin.[6]
  5. ^ The West Branch Canal connected with the Bald Eagle Crosscut Canal via the dam pool between Lockport and Lock Haven.[6]
  1. ^ a b "Lick Run". Geographic Names Information System (GNIS). United States Geological Survey. August 2, 1979. Retrieved March 27, 2010.
  2. ^ a b "West Branch Susquehanna River". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. August 2, 1979. Retrieved March 27, 2010.
  3. ^ a b "Northumberland". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. August 2, 1979. Retrieved March 19, 2009.
  4. ^ a b c d e Shank, pp. 52–53
  5. ^ Shank, pp. 49–56
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Shank, p.116
  7. ^ McCullough and Leuba, pp. 77–78
  8. ^ a b c Historic American Engineering Record (HAER). "West Branch Pennsylvania Canal". National Park Service. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
  9. ^ Shank, pp. 49–51
  10. ^ "Lower West Branch Susquehanna Conservation Plan" (pdf). Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Retrieved November 25, 2007.
  11. ^ "Muncy Heritage Park and Nature Trail". Muncy Historical Society and Museum of History. Retrieved November 25, 2007.
  12. ^ "Farrandsville". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. August 2, 1979. Retrieved March 19, 2009.
  13. ^ "City of Williamsport". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. August 30, 1990. Retrieved March 19, 2009.

Works citedEdit

  • McCullough, Robert, and Leuba, Walter (1973) [1962]. The Pennsylvania Main Line Canal. York, Pennsylvania: The American Canal and Transportation Center. OCLC 731554
  • Shank, William H. (1986) [1981]. The Amazing Pennsylvania Canals (150th Anniversary Edition). York, Pennsylvania: The American Canal and Transportation Center. ISBN 0-933788-37-1.

External linksEdit