As settlers moved into the Northwest Territory after 1800, transportation routes became a priority for the government. In 1836, Indiana legislators passed the Internal Improvements Act, which began Indiana’s brief experience with canal building. Whitewater Canal was one of several projects started as a result of this act.
The canal began in Lawrenceburg and originally ended at Cambridge City. When the state went bankrupt in the 1840s, the canal was completed by private enterprise. Extensions and spurs o the canal were added by the merchants of Hagerstown, Ind. and by the state of Ohio to link Cincinnati to the canal. All of these factors combined to make the canal 101 miles long. Along the route, 56 locks were built to accommodate a fall of nearly 500 feet.
Two of these locks are preserved and can be viewed at the Whitewater Canal State Historic Site. Once contains the massive doors similar to the ones that were used to regulate the flow of water that would raise or lower boats to the proper elevation.
The state of Indiana assumed management of a 14-mile section of the canal in 1946 and today operates a horse-drawn canal boat and the Whitewater Canal State Historic Site. Visitors can step back in time while taking a leisurely 25-minute cruise on the Ben Franklin III. During the voyage, the vessel passes through the Duck Creek Aqueduct, a covered bridge that carries the canal 16 feet over Duck Creek. It is believed to be the only structure of its kind still in existence.