• Boott Cotton Mills Museum with Trolley

    Lowell

    National Historical Park Massachusetts

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  • Folk Festival Parking and Schedule Changes

    While the park helps the city prepare for and celebrate the Lowell Folk Festival, the Visitor Center parking lot at 304 Dutton St. will be closed Wed July 23-Mon July 28. Also check our Operating Hours page for changes to tour and exhibit schedules. More »

Lowell's Canal System

Next: Water Power
 

The Lowell Canal system evolved steadily from 1821, when the Boston Associates purchased the old Pawtucket transportation canal in East Chelmsford (which later became Lowell). They initially used the Pawtucket as a feeder canal to channel water into new power canals. Just above Swamp Locks, the Merrimack, Western, and Hamilton canals branched off, taking water to the Merrimack, Lowell, Tremont, Suffolk, Lawrence, Hamilton, and Appleton mills. Only the Merrimack Company used the full 30-foot drop of water; for other mills the drop was 13 or 17 feet.

In 1847 the construction of the Northern Canal increased waterpower generation by the canal system by 50 percent. By mid-century the canal system we see in Lowell today was in place. Including almost 6 miles of canals and operating on two levels, this system powered 10 major mill complexes employing more than 10,000 workers.

Source: Lowell National Historical Park Handbook 140

 
Next: Water Power

Did You Know?

Weave Room, Lowell National Historical Park

By 1850 the mills in Lowell were annually producing enough cloth to circle the earth twice!