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Rocket Science

I admit it.  I’m a technology junkie.  When I’m not hiking, I’m probably watching either Science Channel or Discovery Channel.  So the best times are naturally those where I get to combine hiking, exploring, and technology.  I got to do that today.

Just south of Toledo, Ohio, in Maumee, is Side Cut Metropark.  It was named for the Side Cut Canal, which was built to go from the Maumee River to the top of the bluff in Maumee, connecting to a larger canal there.  Unfortunately, it only operated a few years before they gave it up.  The water in the Maumee River is just too low for most of the summer.

So where does the rocket science come in?  Back in the early-mid 1800’s, when this, and most other North American canals were built, these canals were the top technology driving the economy.  It was the era of The Erie Canal, after all, pre-railroad.  After the Erie Canal opened up massive trade into the Great Lakes region to New York City, everyone wanted a canal of their own, and many tried to build them.  Unfortunately, not many were successful, either due to poor planning or the growth of the railroads.

The remains of this canal are actually very, very easy to explore.  Part at either parking lot on the east end of Side Cut Metropark (a free park!) and follow the signs.  Three of the original six locks are still in place, built of massive stone blocks.  A pair of wooden lock gates have been built in place, as well.  Downstream from the surviving locks, the original tow path has been cleared and is now a part of the trail network in the Metroparks.  To the north of the towpath, you can still see the remaining canal, now mostly dry, but still mostly visible.  Heading downriver, just before you reach the Conant Street Bridge, you can see the remains of the bridges predicessor and, if you look to the left, across the canal, you see rocks that look suspiciously like those used in the three remaining locks now used for landscaping in someone’s back yard.  I found no sign at all of the other two locks, although lock number 1 is almost certainly paved over now by the hospital at the top of the hill.

It was a great day to go exploring in a park that anyone from southeast Michigan or northwest Ohio has undoubtedly driven over countless times and not even noticed it.  It’s the park you cross on US-23, just north of I-75.  It’s amazing what you can find if you only take a little time to look.

 

March 26, 2011 - Posted by | Trail reports | , , ,

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