Experience the Heritage and History of the Main Line Canal Greenway

One of the most intriguing things about the Main Line Canal Greenway is how few people even knew the Canal existed.  Adding to the intrigue is how few actual canal remnants can be found, since the Pennsylvania Railroad eventually purchased the canal, filled and covered it and placed tracks over the former canal trace.

Some of the Greenway’s land and water trails reveal canal remnants, and several towns and historic sites interpret the canal and related heritage.  Here is a short collection of the best ways to experience the Main Line Canal heritage.

The Roaring Run Trail features a perfectly preserved canal lock prism near where the Rock Furnace Trail meets Roaring Run Trail, as well as a canal towpath bridge remnant at Flat Run.

Saltsburg’s Canal Park traces the actual canal path through the center of town, paralleled by the West Penn Trail.  The northern end of the Park includes an interpretation of Lock #8.  The West Penn Trail also travels by the Tunnelview Historic Site, just below the Conemaugh Dam, which showcases the canal prism with interpretive signage.

Packsaddle Gap on the Kiski-Conemaugh Water Trail features several remnants including Lock #5 and 2 miles of revetment wall that can only be experienced by paddling the river.  Most of the remnants are difficult to find, but the Conemaugh Valley Conservancy  generally organizes 2-3 paddles through the Gap each year.  Volunteers clear knotweed and guide paddlers to the best locations.

The Johnstown Area Heritage Association is a leader in interpreting the fascinating history of Johnstown and surrounding communities.  JAHA hosts the Johnstown Flood Museum, the Johnstown Heritage Discovery Center, the Wagner-Ritter House and Garden, the Johnstown Children’s Museum, and so much more.

The Huntingdon County Historical Society’s mission is to promote the discovery, collection, preservation, and interpretation of material pertaining to the history of Huntingdon County.  The Huntingdon County Historical Society was formed in 1936 to plan the observance of the county’s 150th anniversary. At the successful conclusion of that effort, those involved elected to charter the Society as an ongoing organization.

Perhaps the most vivid explanation of the canal, its tremendous engineering accomplishments, and its impact on economic and community development is at the Allegheny Portage National Historic Site near Cresson.  The site contains the Summit Level Visitor Center, the historic Lemon House, Engine House #6 Exhibit Shelter, the Skew Arch Bridge, a picnic area and the 6 to 10 Trail.

At Hollidaysburg’s Canal Basin Park visitors can view a replica of canal lock mechanisms and learn about life along the canal from historic displays. Nearby Hollidaysburg Historic District showcases some of the architecture and community design of the era.

Lewistown Narrows Canal Park and Museum includes a Lock Keeper’s House, restored canal lock, picnic area and walking trail with historical information about this section of the Pennsylvania Canal.  The park offers access to the Lower Section of the Juniata River Water Trail.  Also in the Lower Section of the Juniata Water Trail near Lewistown is the WaterSide Campground, which features an excursion boat on approximately 1.5  miles of authentic canal.

As part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network, 27 access points on the Lower and Upper Sections of the Juniata River Water Trail feature interpretive signage that illustrate the natural, cultural, and industrial heritage of this corridor.