WATER WHEELS AND
Discover how this 1840s feat of engineering changed Indiana from a pioneer outpost to the “Crossroads of America.”
As settlers moved into the old Northwest Territory after 1800, transportation routes became an important priority. Indiana's brief experience with canal building began with the passage of the Indiana Mammoth Internal Improvement Act of 1836. Whitewater Canal was one of several projects funded by this act.
Early canals were hand-dug waterways meant to bring goods and people inland. They were located near rivers and natural waterways which provided the necessary water. Draft animals pulled long, narrow boats by a rope next to the canal on a towpath. Although canal travel was painfully slow, this method was much better than wagons for large, heavy loads.
The Whitewater Canal started in Lawrenceburg and originally ended at Cambridge City, on the Old National Road. Hagerstown merchants financed an extension to their town, making the canal 76 miles in length. The state of Ohio also built a 25-mile spur linking Cincinnati to the canal. Along the canal, 56 locks accommodate a fall of nearly 500 feet.
After Indiana went bankrupt in the 1840s, private enterprises stepped up to complete the canal. After the canal transportation era ended with arrival of the railroads, the canal was used as a source of water power for many grist mills and other industry. The Metamora Grist Mill is an example, using water power to produce corn meal, available for purchase in the gift shop, for over 100 years.
The State of Indiana assumed management of a 14-mile section of the Whitewater Canal in 1946 and, today, operates a horse-drawn canal boat and the grist mill. Visitors can take a leisurely 25-minute cruise on the Ben Franklin III. During the cruise, they pass the Duck Creek Aqueduct, a covered bridge that carries the canal 16 feet over Duck Creek. It is believed to be the only structure of its kind in the nation.
Metamora: A Canal Town
Metamora is an example of the kind towns that grew along the canal routes in Indiana. Stationed every few miles, these towns provided a source of fresh horses, food and lodging for travelers and a place for farmers and others to buy and sell their goods along the canal route. Commerce was so heavy that the White Water Valley Canal Company, established in 1842, had their own bank and printed their own currency at their headquarters in Connersville!
Today, visitors can still see evidence of that early prosperity in the old brick buildings dating back to the 1830s on the west side of town. One example is the Martindale Hotel (1838) which served as an office and storeroom for Ezekial Tyner, a shipping agent on the canal. The Metamora Grist Mill is just one of the many mills and factories built to utilize the water power of the canal. Built in 1893, the mill is still used to grind corn meal in the 21st century.
The Ben Franklin III
The Ben Franklin III seats 75 people comfortably and is pulled along the canal by two Belgian draft horses. After an extensive study of the old canal boats, the Ben Franklin III was built in 1989 to look like one of the original canal boats to travel along the Whitewater Canal.
The Duck Creek Aqueduct
Originally constructed in 1843, the aqueduct was partially destroyed by a flood in 1846. Shortly afterward, it was rebuilt with a modified Burr arch truss more than 75 feet long.
The Duck Creek Aqueduct is very unique — so much so that it was featured in an edition of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. It is perhaps the only covered wooden aqueduct (that is, a bridge that carries the canal water over Duck Creek) still operating in the United States. Many people consider a canal boat ride through this aqueduct to be the centerpiece of their visit to Whitewater Canal State Historic Site.
The aqueduct was named a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1992 and a National Historic Landmark in 2014.
Whitewater Canal State Historic Site
The Metamora Grist Mill is open:
Wednesday – Sunday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (April through November)
The Ben Franklin III Canal Boat is open:
Wednesday – Sunday, 12 p.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m., 4 p.m. (May through October)
Dependent on Canal conditions.
Admission to the Metamora Grist Mill is free!
Visit the Metamora Grist Mill or the Canal Boat Ticket Office next to the boat dock for tickets to ride the Ben Franklin III.
|Students||$1.50 (15 Group)|
|Children under 3||FREE|
Indiana State Museum members get FREE admission and a 10 percent discount in the gift shop!
*Child: ages 3 through 12
*Senior: age 60 and older
DIRECTIONS AND PARKING
Where to park
Parking is available along the canal downtown, at the Duck Creek Aqueduct parking lot or at the Site Office building which includes accessible restrooms.
Grist Mill Jam
Meet us at the old grist mill porch for great homespun music in the fresh air. Everyone is welcome to come and play or watch. You can sing, clap your hands, shake your tambourine (or anything else).
Sponsored by Metamora Performing Arts Inc.
Towpath 10K Dash and 5K Fun Run and Walk
Experience the rich history and breathtaking beauty of the Whitewater Valley during this sanctioned 10K running/walking race and a shorter 5K fun run or walk. All ages are invited to pre-register or to sign up on the day of the event.
In conjunction with the Whitewater Canal Trail, Inc.
Historic Sites Program Manager
Whitewater Canal State Historic Site
19083 Clayborn St.
EDUCATION EVENTS & STANDARDS
AT WHITEWATER CANAL
Experience the Whitewater Canal up close and personal. Discover how this 1840's feat of engineering changed Indiana from a pioneer outpost to the “Crossroads of America.”
Academic topics covered:
- Early Transportation
- 19th Century Engineering
- Simple Machines
Grades K - 12
Whitewater Canal School Group Tour
May through October
Grades PreK - 1
How the Little Red Hen May Have Taken Her Corn Meal to the Market
May through October
Grades 4 - 8
Building a State: The Story of the Whitewater Canal
April through November