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Commuters travel through Maumee and Toledo via the Anthony Wayne Trail daily by the thousands. But chances are few realize that where they now drive was once the Miami & Erie Canal.
Built between 1825 and 1845, the 301-mile canal stretched from Toledo to Cincinnati and strengthened the economic power of Ohio by allowing the easy transportation of agricultural and manufactured goods. The canal gradually lost its lead role in transportation to railroads and largely was abandoned after a major flood in 1913 caused severe damage.
The unused and neglected waterway became a nuisance in urban areas.
With diminished flow, water stagnated and became a dump and a mosquito breeding ground. It finally was filled in the 1930s as part of the Works Project Administration in the New Deal and became a roadway known as Canal Boulevard. The name later was changed to the Anthony Wayne Trail.
Though long gone, remnants of the canal easily can be found if you know where to look. A building downtown that once flanked the canal, reveals the tops of windows rising up from below a surrounding parking lot.
A depression in the lawn on the north side of the Lucas County Courthouse was once deeper, and carried boats toward Lake Erie, up what is now Spielbusch Avenue, and east roughly along the present-day Greenbelt Parkway. Further east, hidden in the brush near Suder Avenue, a whole section of earthen canal towpath and bed remains intact.
Just west of downtown, a railroad swing bridge still carries the Nickel Plate Railroad over Swan Creek with the massive gear rusty but seemingly ready to spin open the bridge for the next masted ship to dock at Toledo Brewery. Nearby, the stone portion of the Swan Creek Aqueduct is part of what are perhaps the oldest structural remains in the city.
The largest remaining canal structure — the former Toledo Aqueduct — is hidden in plain sight, its massive stone abutments supporting the Anthony Wayne Trail over the Norfolk Southern railroad. Where once a steel flume carried water and boats over the tracks, today the bridge built in its place is used by car and truck traffic.
The east-bound lanes of the Anthony Wayne Trail sit atop the former canal bed. What is now little more than a bump in the road, a low rise along the Anthony Wayne Trail just west of South Avenue, was where the canal crossed under the Toledo Terminal Railroad tracks.
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At the Glendale intersection, the Trail follows the S-curve of the former canal, and crosses the Delaware Creek stone culvert, built as part of the canal. A slight rise in the road at Our Lady of Perpetual Help church signals drivers they are passing over Lock No. 46, buried beneath the pavement. And further west, just past Detroit Avenue, limestone blocks from the original Lock No. 45 can be seen on the south side of the Anthony Wayne Trail in Maumee.
Although the canal no longer flows through Toledo, its locks and infrastructure were transformed and adapted to accommodate more modern forms of transportation. The limestone aqueduct abutments, railroad bridges that spanned the canal, and massive retaining walls are still under our feet and all around us, keeping the spirit of our canal history alive and waiting to be rediscovered.
Contact Lisa Dutton at: email@example.com or 419-724-6197.