Delaware & Raritan Canal Fact Sheet
The Delaware and Raritan Canal went from Bordentown on the Delaware River,
across the narrow waist of New Jersey to New Brunswick on the Raritan River, a
distance of 44 miles. Its source of water was from the Delaware River at Raven
Rock, 22 miles north of Trenton. From here, a navigable feeder brought water to
the summit level in Trenton, 58 feet above sea level. The water then flowed south
to Bordentown and northeast to New Brunswick. The canal was a fairly level one
with only 14 locks on the main canal to overcome the elevation changes of 115
feet. It was a critical factor in the 19th century industrial and commercial
development of the region through which it passed.
Although simple in construction and engineering compared to the Morris canal, it
overshadowed its northern neighbor in many ways. It was a large canal with a
depth of 8 feet and locks that were 24 wide by 220 feet long. The banks were “riprapped”
with stone so that vessels could move at a reasonable speed without
washing the banks into the canal. All of its bridges were “swing bridges” that
pivoted horizontally so that vessels of any mast height could go through the canal.
The locks were operated by steam powered winches and valves after 1868. A large
volume of traffic moved through the canal. Boats from the Schuylkill Canal and
from the Delaware Division Canal, both in Pennsylvania used the canal. The
tonnage in 1866 was 2,857,233 tons – 83% of which was coal. Troops and war
supplies moved through the canal in three wars and the canal was a link in the
Inland Waterway that is missing today.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Delaware & Raritan Canal was the large
variety of boats that passed through it. These included mule-towed canal boats and
sail boats, steam tugs towing barges, freight boats, millionaires’ yachts and naval
vessels. Canal boats from most canals on the East Coast traversed the canal at one
time or another.
The canal was charted in 1830. In 1831 the Delaware & Raritan Canal and the
Camden & Amboy Railroad, the precursor of the Pennsylvania Railroad, were
combined as “Joint Companies”. The canal opened for through navigation in 1834.
The last season was 1932 and the State of New Jersey assumed control in 1934. In
1974, Governor Byrne signed a bill creating the Delaware & Raritan Canal State
Park. Today, the main canal from New Brunswick to Trenton and the feeder canal
form a linear park used extensively for recreation. Under the direction of the New
Jersey Water Authority the canal serves as a water supply for approximately
1,000,00 people.


Main Canal: Bordentown to New Brunswick – 44 miles long – 14 locks
Dimensions: 75 feet wide x 8 feet deep (after 1851)
Locks: 24 feet wide x 220 feet long (after 1853)
Feeder Canal: Raven Rock to Trenton -22 miles – 2 guard locks, 1 feeder lock
Dimensions: 60 feet wide x 6 feet deep
Summit Level: Trenton - 58 feet above sea level
Related Personnel: Robert P Stockton – First President till his death in 1866
Canvass White – First Chief Engineer till his death in 1834
Col. James Neilson – First Treasurer
Ashbel Welch, Jr. – Chief Engineer of Joint Companies in 1835

Significant Dates:
1830 Charted granted for Delaware & Raritan Canal Company and Camden & Amboy Railroad
1831 D&R Canal and C&A Railroad become joint companies
1834 Canal opens for through traffic
1847 Connection established at Lambertville to Pennsylvania’s Delaware Division Canal by means of a
   cable ferry
1850 Construction started on Belvidere & Delaware Railroad along the original feeder towpath.
   Towpath moved to other side
1851 Canal depth dredged to 8 feet
1853 Locks on main canal lengthened to 220 feet and banks “rip-rapped” with stone
1866 Peak year for freight -2,857,233 tons – 83% coal
1868 Installation of steam powered winches and steam activated valves
1902 Pennsylvania Railroad viaduct in New Brunswick constructed, thus limiting mast height on canal to    
    50 feet
1929 Peak year for pleasure boats – 941 non-commercial vessels
1932 Last season for boating
1944 State takes over properties
1973 Canal enters National Register of Historic Places
1974 Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park established

Source of information:
The Delaware & Raritan Canal – A Pictorial History by William J. McKelvey, Jr.