The 60-mile Delaware Canal is the only remaining continuously intact canal of the great towpath canal building era of the early and mid-19th century. Today, the canal retains almost all of its features as they existed during its century of commercial operation.
In the early 1800s, America was growing rapidly. Canals provided a better way of transporting natural resources to urban areas. When completed in 1832, the Delaware Canal connected with the Lehigh Navigation System at Easton and helped to develop the anthracite coal industry in the Upper Lehigh Valley. These canals provided a convenient and economical means of transporting coal to Philadelphia, New York, and the eastern seaboard.
As railroads became a more efficient means of transporting goods, it became increasingly difficult to profitably operate canals. The last paying canal boat completed its journey through the Delaware Canal on October 17, 1931.
On the same day, 40 miles of the canal were deeded to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Commonwealth acquired the remaining 20 miles in 1940.