• Boott Cotton Mills Museum with Trolley


    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 »

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?

Historic etching, Lowell National Historical park

The population of Lowell grew dramatically during the years of industrial expansion-rising from about 2,500 in 1826 to more than 33,000 in 1850, when Lowell was the second largest city in Massachusetts.