Books about the History of the D&R Canal and Towpath

The canal and towpath played an important role in the economic development of NJ. Most communities along the towpath were strongly influenced by the traffic that the canal and towpath brought into their borders in the 19th century. There are numerous historical information signs along the towpath route that make interesting reading.

Short History of the D&R Canal and the Towpath

According the history page of the D&R Canal State Park, the canal itself was dug by hand! There is a sign commemorating the work of the Irish imigrants who did most of this digging at the Rocky Hill entrance on the south side of 518. Construction started in 1830, and it opened only 4 years later in 1834. The canal was profitable until 1892, and remained open (mostly for recreation) until 1932. The state took it over in 1932 and turned the Canal into a water supply for Central NJ -- a function it still has. In 1972, the canal, the towpath and the associated structures were entered into the National Register of Historic Places. In 1974, over 60 miles of the canal, the towpath and a narrow strip of adjacent land became a state park. In the 1980's a section north of Bull's Island was added to the Feeder Canal. The towpath and the trail system became a National Recreation Trail in 1992.

Books about the D&R Canal and the Towpath

A local author, Linda J. Barth, has written two interesting books about the D&R Canal, the towpath and the history and economy of NJ. Ms. Barth was raised in South Bound Brook and boated in the canal as a girl. She is the former curator of the museum that was in the old barracks at Griggstown -- closed in 1999 after the floods from Hurricane Floyd. Her two books are definitely worth reading:
  1. The Delaware and Raritan Canal
  2. The Delaware and Raritan Canal at Work
Ms. Barth is also the author of a fiction book for children about the life of a boy from Griggstown on the D&R Canal. This book, Bridgetender's Boy is available through her website.

Amazon sells these books and other towpath related items.