• Pawtucket canal with boat tour full of visitors with trolley in the background.


    National Historical Park Massachusetts

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    Beginning September 9, due to the federal government's fiscal year close out, only cash or check payments can be accepted for fees at the Boott Mills, canal boat tours, and for Interagency Passes. Credit cards will be accepted again on October 1, 2014. More »

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    The Superintendents Compendium has been updated in regard to the use of unmanned aircraft in national park areas. More »

Pawtucket and Middlesex Canals


Between 1790 and 1860 America underwent a transportation revolution. Canals, turnpikes, and railroads crisscrossed the nation, dramatically improving inland transportation.

Eastern Massachusetts was an early participant in this revolution. The first effort to improve navigation on the Merrimack River came in 1792 when a group of investors from Newburyport-some of the same families that later invested in Lowell-chartered the Proprietors of Locks and Canals on Merrimack River.

They intended to construct a canal around Pawtucket Falls at East Chelmsford and thereby connect New Hampshire directly to Newburyport at the river's mouth. By 1796 the 1 1/2-mile Pawtucket Canal permitted log rafts and limestone-bearing barges to skirt the falls at the future site of Lowell.

Even while the Pawtucket Canal was under construction, Boston entrepreneurs undertook another ambitious canal venture. Completed in 1803, the Middlesex Canal used 20 locks and 7 aqueducts, over a length of 27 miles, to join the Merrimack River a mile above Pawtucket Falls to the port of Boston. Together these two canals provided excellent transportation. The Middlesex, however, soon became the more prosperous canal, at least until the industrialists from Waltham discovered the Pawtucket Canal's waterpower potential.

Source: Lowell National Historical Park Handbook 140


Did You Know?

Factory Bell, Lowell, MA

The factory bells dominated daily life in Lowell. They woke the workers at 4:30 a.m., called them into the mill at 4:50, rang them out for breakfast and back in, out and in for dinner, out again at 7 p.m. at the day's close. The whole city, it seemed, moved together and did the mills' bidding.