St. Marys, Ohio Hiking Trails & Canal History

St. Marys Ohio Canal History

Saint Marys Ohio has three waterways that run within a city block of each other. The St. Marys River is the lowest of the three water levels and provide the natural drainage. The Miami and Erie Canal, which was constructed for transportation, and with the aid of two canal locks, lowered that waterway to an medium height. The Saint Marys Ohio hydraulic canal was a water way which split from the Miami and Erie Canal prior Lock 12 and 13 with the Hydraulic remaining at a high level. Industry used to water from the Hydraulic to power water wheels for factories with belt driven equipment prior to the expanded use of steam boilers or the use of electric motors.

The rod iron fence on the northside of Spring St. in downtown St. Marys Ohio avails that the hydraulic still flows under the building foundations.

At the Hydraulic

This portion of the Hydraulic is located just to the north of High Street. This canal once supplied water to turn water wheels such for businesses as the Grist Mill pictured above. The lower roof line on the right side of the grain mill was the location of the water wheel which powered a mill stone to grind various grains for area farmers.

The red floats (shown on the right) are a pollution control device for the industry that is currently using water from the Hydraulic.

Below is a portion of the 1800s plot map, which includes the street car track.

At the Tumble

The Canal Tumble was originally constructed to route excess water that was not used by industry to flow from the Hydraulic waterway down to the Miami and Erie Canal. The 2002 Canal Tumble update continues to maintain the water level of the Hydraulic for the last remaining industry just to the north of it. The railroad trestle at the Canal Tumble was once used to haul coal to that industry.

Shown below is a portion of the original plot map which details the Miami and Erie Canal north of High Street. The map includes the former railway turntable, which was used by steam engines to turn around. Today railroad ties are still visible and a railroad trestle goes above the Miami and Erie Canal towpath trail. The plot map details how the Hydraulic Canal once extended a couple blocks further north and powered a saw mill.

High Street Grist Mill

The grist mill constructed in the 1800’s, still stands as one of the tallest building in downtown St. Mary’s today. The mill is located north of High St. between the Miami and Erie Canal and the Hydraulic. When viewing the Grist Mill from under the High St. Bridge, one can view the hole in the Grist Mill foundation at the northern end of the west side. This was the location where water exited the building after turning the water wheel.

St. Marys Ohio Canal Boat History at Memorial Park

These 14 feet wide canal boats range from for 70 to 80 feet and vary in design.

  • Freight boat for bulk merchandise such as crops, industrial, or mining products.
  • Packet Boat designed only for passengers.
  • Cargo & Passenger Boat
  • State Boat, a fancy passenger boat use by the more affluent clientele.

Canal Boats normally traveled at 5 mph and they were pulled by three mules.

Notice that the building doors are at a height to unload merchandise from the Miami and Erie Canal Boats.

At the St. Marys River Aqueduct

The base of the original St. Mary’s River Aqueduct of the Miami and Erie Canal still stands; however the base now supports a multiple steel pipeline aqueduct to feed water to the canal that still extends to Delphos, Ohio. The latest improvements to the aqueduct were the spillways. constructed in 1988.

In 1943 the wooden St. Mary’s River Aqueduct collapsed 47 and was later replaced by a steel pipe system to supply water northward. State water sales to the St. Marys woolen mill and Weston Paper Mfg. continued into the 1960s. Sales to Goodyear Tire and the Delphos, Ohio, “Bendix Works” lasted into the 1970s.

Today, only one business still purchases water supplied through this aqueduct.