Walking The Morris Canal

Warren County: Phillipsburg to Waterloo

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The canal's role as a place for pleasure jaunts continues to this day, with a number of partners involved in turning portions of the canal into recreational paths. Warren County has been an active partner by promoting a greenway corridor and preserving the historic remains of the Canal as an important part of the County's transportation history. The vision is to have this greenway extend across Warren County with the canal as a link to recreational, cultural, and historic areas including state parks and trails, plus municipal and county public open space. This greenway will extend between canal sites in Phillipsburg and the historic Waterloo Village ­ a restored canal town. The canal travels through the scenic Musconetcong, Pohatcong and Lopatcong valleys for thirty-three miles from Phillipsburg, on the west, to the county line near Waterloo on the east. This heritage corridor gives reminders of its glory days; inland ports of call with names like Port Colden, Port Murray, Port Warren, Port Washington, Rock- port and descriptive identities, such as Fresh Bread Lock, Guinea Hollow, and Greene's Bridge.

The Morris Canal was the brainchild of Morristown businessman George Macculloch, who envisioned a commerce route that could surmount North Jersey's rugged terrain to ship coal, iron ore, farm produce and other products across the state. To conquer an unprecedented 1,674-foot change in elevation - 760 feet from the Delaware River at Phillipsburg up to Lake Hopatcong, the summit level, and 914 feet back down to tidewater at Newark Bay - the Morris Canal used a series of locks and a new innovation, the inclined plane. Operated from 1831 to 1924, the Morris Canal was considered an engineering marvel of its time, but, by the end of its life, it had been surpassed by railroads as a shipping route.

Although employed on a smaller scale on English canals, the inclined plane was adapted for the Morris Canal and used to conquer changes of elevation anywhere from 35 feet to 100 feet. The canal boats were floated onto a cradle car, which was pulled out of the water, then up or down on iron rails to the next section of canal. Those iron rails were supported by heavy stone sleepers, which on several of the planes can still be seen, often with a groove worn into them by the thick cable that raised and lowered the cradle car. sThe route contained 23 lift locks and 23 inclined planes; 7 of each were in Warren County.

Historic Sites on the Morris Canal in Warren County

  • Easton, PA: National Canal Museum, Canal Boat Rides.Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridors
  • Phillipsburg: New Jersey Transportation Heritage Center (Proposed), Delaware River Park; Morris Canal Site
  • Plane 9 West: One of the sites most often visited along the Morris Canal is Plane #9, home of James Lee Sr., noted Canal historian and author of "The Morris Canal" and "Tales The Boatmen Told". This plane had an elevation change of 100 feet, the longest on the canal.
  • Bread Lock Park: The County Historic Learning Center at the site of Lock 7 West contains the remains of the prism, a former mule barn and lock tender's house sites. Visitors can view working scale models of an inclined plane and lock, along with other models related to local history. The Center is open 1-4 pm on the first Sunday of each month.
  • Washington Township Park: Quarter mile stretch of canal prism and towpath
  • Port Murray: Morris Canal Boat Basin
  • Saxton Falls: Guinea Hollow Guard Lock, Warren Trail Along the Towpath
  • Towpath Trail: Two mile walk along the canal. Also the route of Highlands & Warren Trails
  • Waterloo Village: The restored historic canal town features waterwheels, blacksmithing, historic house tours, period craft shops, Canal Museum and special weekend events. Admission Fee.

To view sections of the canal, the visitor would do well to bring along Macasek's book, which was published by the Morris County Heritage Commission. Detrick also suggests bringing a copy of James Lee's photographic history, as many of the structures in the vintage photos are still apparent today. Meanwhile, Detrick says a 1987 study by Morrell, Historic Preservation Survey of the Morris Canal in Warren County, New Jersey, is another useful resource for people who want to explore remains of the canal from Phillipsburg to Allamuchy on the Sussex County border. The survey is available from the Warren County Planning Department (908-475-6532) at a cost of $30.

More about the Morris Canal Greenway...

Nearby accommodations and attractions

  • Brook Hollow Winery
  • Hand-crafted wines fermented, aged, and bottled at our family farm in the heart of the scenic Delaware Water Gap. In addition to wine tasting and sales, we offer indoor and outdoor rentals as well a full catering services for up to 250 guests.

    594 State Highway 94, Columbia 07832, 908/496-8200

  • Blairstown Museum
  • View original artifacts, postcards, and correspondence that illustrate the history of the township and its inhabitants, including former resident and namesake John Insley Blair. Museum collections are on display on a rotating basis throughout the year, and lovely gift shop items are supplied and crafted by local companies and artists.

    26 Main Street, Blairstown 07825, 908/362-1371

  • The Farm In Harmony
  • 7-acre military themed Corn Maze, with mini maze for little ones, open Wed.-Sun. through November 10. Fresh produce at farmstand or schedule pick-on-demand. Homemade soaps available online. Always a discount for Veterans with proper ID.

    231 Brainards Road, Harmony 08865, 908/283-0721

  • Bread Lock Park
  • A canal boat captain and her daughters navigate the Bread Lock in June, 1863.

    , ,

  • Forest Flowers of Musconetcong Gorge
  • , Bloomsbury


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mindy paulus (ditmars)
10 Oct 2011, 11:47
Also there are still a few families (very few) living in the bungalow community. When I go through once a year I stop and visit. Sad surroundings though. Nothing taken care of and all over grown.
Jim Alden
16 Oct 2009, 08:51
Bruce,\r\n\r\nThe mule bridge in Waterloo is in such a sad state of disrepair for the same reason as the rest of the village: a general lack of maintenance and repair.\r\nI remember in the 70's when the bridge had been completely rebuilt from scratch, with brand new wood timbers. Such a shame. \r\nIf you want to view an inclined plane up close, there are several good ones: Plane 11 West, on Jim Lee's old property, now a museum. Also Plane 2 East in Ledgewood is an excellent place to walk the entire plane, view the intact tailrace and even get a good look at the working underground.\r\nIn Waterloo, the "waterway" you refer to is indeed the lock, though only HALF a lock. This structure was unique to the canal, and was a combination lock/aqueduct, as it carried the lock over the tail race of the mill upstream. The western half of the lock, that part which ran from the stream to connect with the watered section behind the general store is now gone; thus the wooden sluice run to keep water running into the watered section. It needs a bit of imagination to see it as it was. \r\nThe boats were all 10 and a half feet wide, and the locks were 11 feet wide. That allowed for maximum use of the space, least amount of water required, but also left little room for error. You certainly did not want to get a hand or foot between lock wall and canal boat. Ouch!
Bruce Kamin
04 Apr 2009, 21:12
I was viewing the MC features in Waterloo Village. The wooden bridge across the river (mule bridge or its successor?) was in much disrepair. Dissapointing because I was looking forward to seeing the plane close up. I'm wondering if the bridge has been in poor condition for a long time or perhaps a weather event took it out? \r\n\r\nI'm assuming that the waterway where the wooden running water "sluice box", directly in line with the Smith house is where the lock once was. I was surprised how slim the lock width appeared to be. Perhaps it's width is the same as the maximum boat beam.\r\n\r\nAppreciate any informational comments.
Darla Jones
15 Feb 2008, 06:48
My husband , Dave Jones and our family and I have lived in Stewartsville for almost 30 years. The home we bought is actually built on a lock of the Morris Canal and out property consists mostly of the old canal property. There have been working farm fields on both sides of us all these years. The property next to us has now been sold and a trucking company is trying to get a variance to build there with access to route 57. This is going to be built with a good portion on conseervation land with Merrill Creek on one side and as I stated, our land ,The Old Morris Canal on the other. I was wondering if you could give me any insight in finding out variance info on building close to the canal property or steps we could take to help prevent this building? Thank you for any help or direction you can give us. Darla JOnes
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