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Wabash & Erie Canal in Gibson County IN


indianahiker
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On Monday Dec. 1 I went to the Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge in search of remnants of the Wabash and Erie Canal (W&E Canal) that traversed over 460 miles through the entire state of Indiana and part of Ohio, it was and still is to this day the longest canal built in the United States and possibly the Western Hemisphere (if you are talking only canals that canal boats utilized). History lesson: The W&E Canal was built to connect Lake Erie to the Ohio River, the canal began in Toledo, OH and ended in Evansville, IN; most of its 460 miles were in Indiana. Construction began in 1836 and the first boat to float the entire trip happened circa 1853, by the 1860s the canal was being abandoned and drained.

I started my trip on about 200 yards in Pike county IN where the canal would have crossed what was then the Patoka River (South Fork toady) via an aqueduct and traveled in a southwesterly direction to and through the old town of Dongola (abandoned) in Gibson Co. Not a very long walk in this area but the old canal is still visible some 170+ years later. It was not hard to locate the canal and follow it once you know what to look for.

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From here I got back into my vehicle and traveled west-southwest and again found where the canal once was and saw where the last wooden box covert south of Terre Haute IN still exists and functions. The covert allows Buck creek to pass under the canal (now road & canal) some 15 feet and flow north to the Patoka River. I unfortunately don't have pictures of this spot and there isn't a lot to see because it is a submerged covert (designed that way); if air hits it, the covert will begin to rot and would collapse.

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