Lockport's Deep Cut
The Final Obstacle
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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.
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.
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 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 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.