On Feb. 4, 1825, a comprehensive Ohio canal system was approved by the state legislature. The Miami and Erie Canal and the Ohio and Erie Canal connected Lake Erie to the Ohio River and to a large network of canals throughout Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The goal was to create a system of water travel within the state that also allowed boats to travel all the way to New York City via Lake Erie and the Erie Canal. The Miami and Erie Canal ran from Toledo on Lake Erie to Cincinnati, while the Ohio and Erie Canal started near Cleveland and eventually came out at Portsmouth in the south of the state. Boats made their way through a series of locks and, at times, were pulled along by horses or donkeys walking on paths next to the canal.
Primarily, the canals were used for shipping in the late 1800s. Competition from railroads meant the waterways then became a source of water for cities and local industries until a flood in 1913 destroyed many of the locks and parts of the canals. Today, most of the remaining parts of the Ohio and Erie Canal are managed by the National Park Service or the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. People now visit the waterways for recreation or to learn about the national historic landmark that is the Ohio and Erie Canal Historic District.