Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

The Indianapolis Canal District

The canal includes a memorial to the USS Indianapolis and the truly massive loss of life resulting more from narcissism and incompetence within the naval administration than the Japanese sub that sunk her.

The canal includes a memorial to the USS Indianapolis and the truly massive loss of life resulting more from narcissism and incompetence within the naval administration than from the Japanese sub that sunk her.

An unusual city in many respects, Indianapolis Indiana has found a way to turn a early-1800s boondoggle into an inviting and pleasant civic space. I’m talking about the Indiana Central Canal, a tiny segment of which I walked while I had the chance weeks ago.

Near one end is a fountain in the center.

Near one end is a fountain in the center.

The ability to transfer goods and materials across states and territories was recognized as A Good Thing from the outset, especially since the United States relied on its agricultural output to generate income from other nations. When the Erie Canal was completed in 1825, it connected New York City (and the Atlantic Ocean) by 363 miles of navigable waterway to the Great Lakes. It became fabulously successful as a commercial venture, cutting bulk transport costs by 95% over horse and wagon, and fostering westward expansion. A network of canals accompanied it, mainly to tie in access to rivers such as the Ohio. Indiana legislated, organized and funded its part of this promising craze, but the devastating effects of the financial Panic of 1837 slowed and then effectively stopped the project, leaving the state in debt. Of the 296 miles planned, only a few miles were completed, those being in Indianapolis. Related parts of the larger system that were in operation merely showed that the canals were not economically viable. The barges and boats could not be operated slowly enough to prevent erosion of the walls, and its 6′ depth had to be dredged regularly. Muskrats took to digging through the walls, creating holes which tore out large sections, draining parts of the canals dry. Railroad interests, who had previously lost the battle, won the war.

Looking the other way.

Looking the other way.

What to do? Most of it was simply abandoned. Much was filled in. Indianapolis itself began draining, rebuilding and lowering the water level in 1985.  The end result is what you see today. Like the defunct Monon railway line turned into a connective recreational path, a small piece of the Indianapolis section of the Indiana Central Canal is a promenade with few equals today.

There are enough bridges and walkway crossings to make it interesting and convenient.

There are enough bridges and walkway crossings to make it interesting and convenient.

A shot taken from one of those crossings. The whole area is bustling with people at the end of the day.

A shot taken from one of those crossings. The whole area is bustling with people at the end of the day.

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5 thoughts on “The Indianapolis Canal District

  1. Pretty neat, so that’s how Technomadia will be able to do their big loop sail of the eastern continent. And how those people can live aboard their narrow boats in England.

    • Well, Technomadia won’t be plying the waters of any canal I’ve mentioned! Those waters are long gone, and the ones in Indy are so short as to be useless. I’m not sure how useful parts of the rerouted Erie Canal would be to actually get anywhere. Since the Great Lakes can now be navigated without portaging, I’d think Chicago might present the only canal on the entire trip. The canal boats in England are a different story!

  2. Lol, I am clearly unclear in the specifics of their project! I saw a YouTube video on a man who lives on a narrow boat. He seems to be able to find (relatively) wild places where he can stop for a while. Does the North American canal system have such spots, do you think?

    • Well, here’s a link to a listing of all transportation canals still in operation in the U.S. As to your question, I have no wild idea. Perhaps Technomadia’s future watery adventures may reveal some of the realities of recreational canal usage here and there.

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