Buffalo & Western New York
A Beautiful region of America

Tranquility along the Erie Canal.

Buffalo's own "Historic Canal System".

A map of Buffalo's Historic Canal System.

Soon after the completion of the Erie canal in 1825, business on the canal increased greatly. The expanding fleet of barges, frequently congested the waterways terminating at Buffalo. This congestion caused intolerable delays and financial loss to the canalers and merchants.

To alleviate this problem a system of short street canals or slips, were built within the city, in what is now the First Ward area and the harbor, connecting the Erie Canal with Buffalo Creek (now Buffalo River) and Lake Erie. These canals were; the Main and Hamburg and the Clark and Skinner canals, the Evans ship canal, the Ohio slip and basin, the Commercial, Prime and Colt slips, the Erie basin, the City ship canal and several smaller branches of the main channels. (The Commercial slip is now in the process of being restored to its original state and is sure to become a major tourist attraction for the city.)

The largest canal was the Main and Hamburg, being about a mile long. It went from Hamburg street in a westerly direction to Main street, where it joined the Erie canal. In the other direction it extended to the Hydraulic canal. It was about one hundred feet wide and seven feet deep.

The Clark and Skinner canal, about a third of a mile long, connected the Main and Hamburg with Buffalo Creek. Further down, the Ohio slip joined the Main and Hamburg with the spacious Ohio basin. The Ohio slip was about one half mile and the basin about one fifth of a mile long. It was connected with Buffalo Creek by a short outlet. The slip was completed in 1850, and the basin in 1851.

For years this system of canals within the city served the area well but over time some of them became a source of unsolvable problems to residents in their neighborhoods. The Main and Hamburg, the most important of the street canals, became the most troublesome because it lacked a current that would move the waste away. Costly attempts were made to create a current, and thousands of dollars were spent by the city, but none were successful.

As a final solution, sewers were built within the Main and Hamburg and the Clark and Skinner canal beds with an outlet at the Buffalo River and they were covered over. Other abandoned canals no longer of any use for navigation were also filled in. On the other side of the river, the City Ship Canal is still in operation today.

At the present time the old system of canals, slips and basins in the First Ward area have all been filled in and bridges that crossed them dismantled. The only exception is the outlet that connected the Ohio Basin with the Buffalo River. This original Ohio Basin canal outlet can still be seen, across from Father Conway Park (Ohio Basin) on Ohio Street. Neglected, ignored and filled with debris, it is the only remaining evidence of the extreme western terminus of New York State's Erie Canal Sytem.

I think at the very least, this venerable site needs to be cleaned of debris and deserves a plaque commemorating it as the last remaining feature of Buffalo's own historic canal system that had a major commercial presence in the city during the ninteenth century.

© 2007 Donald L. Hamilton donham@novan.info

Great 1849 Map of the Historic Buffalo Canal System showing that the Ohio Basin & Ship Canal are still in the proposal phase.

Map 1855-90 shows the Ohio Basin Canal (next to Louisiana St.) and Ship Canal (across the River) completed.

(Map URLs courtesy of - BuffaloResearch.com)

This is a photo of the present condition of the Ohio basin outlet into the Buffalo River. This outlet was the furthest westward extention of the Erie Canal System and was part of Buffalo's own "Historic Canal System". It now lies neglected and forgotten along the Buffalo River.

A History of the Erie Canal.

More interesting history of the Erie Canal.

History and Demise of Buffalo's Canal System"

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