Lockport's Deep Cut

The Final Obstacle

Erie DVD

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Cutting through seven miles of solid rock was a lot harder to do in 1825 than it would be today.

A channel dug by hand in solid rock for SEVEN MILES!  Why didn't they just go over the rock?  Because water can't flow uphill.  They would have needed a reliable source of water ABOVE the rock, and there was none. The water you see here came from Lake Erie.

Of the many difficulties posed by Lockport's Deep Cut, removing the chunks of excavated rock from the channel to these piles was one of the hardest to solve. The remedy was finally found when a series of cranes like this were built along both sides.

One of the biggest problems of all was how to get the excavated pieces of rock out of the trench!  Finally someone had the idea of using a series of cranes like these, and the work was able to go on.  One source tells us that the smoke rising from the trench in the distance is from fires built to heat the rock face. Cool water poured from barrels onto the hot rock from above would create cracks, aiding in its removal.

Reverse view of above photo

A towpath had to be chiseled into the north (west) wall of the cut through this stretch. The arrows point to the same structure in both pictures.

This view of the deep cut from the towpath was taken just before work began on the modern NYS Barge Canal enlargement (1905-1918).

This photo of the deep cut looking south was taken from the towpath not long before work began on the modern NYS Barge Canal enlargement (1905-1918). Because the canal had to remain open for business while construction was underway, all excavations in this stretch were made on the side opposite the towpath.

The Erie's Deep Cut today looking northeast.

The deep cut through the countryside south and west of Lockport would be difficult to excavate even with today's methods. In 1825 with soft steels and no dynamite, it was a miraculous accomplishment. This view is looking northeast; and the ledge you see here is NOT the towpath. The picture with the red arrow above is of the opposite side that does include the towpath.