July 29 – Opening the Cape Cod Canal

Posted on July 29, 2017

Most of human history, water has been used whenever possible for travel and for shipping goods. Using the wind and the currents - and of course human power with oars, when necessary - was generally faster and easier than relying on camels and horses and oxen and such, if there was a handy bit of water to use.

Even later, when steam- or gasoline-powered engines were in use, a lot of shipping occurs on major rivers and across the seas. 

Waterways are so important, humans sometimes create more waterways. In the case of Massachusetts, there was a really narrow isthmus (a narrow neck of land between two bodies of water), and cutting a canal across this isthmus meant that people who wanted to travel by ship from Cape Cod to Buzzards Bay could save 135 miles (217 km)!

There were already tidal rivers crossing the isthmus, so engineers were able to widen and deepen the rivers so that ships could travel them - and of course connect them up so that there was one navigable route from Cape to shining Bay.

The canal was first opened as a privately run toll canal on this date in 1914. It was completed in 1916, but it was taken over by the Army and expanded during World War I.

About 14,000 people use the canal every year. There are currently no toll fees, so recreational boats as well as commercial boats and ships use the canal! Even dolphins and whales sometimes use the canal!

(When a critically endangered North Atlantic right whale uses the canal, the US Army Corps of Engineers, who maintain the canal, generally close the canal to ships and boats.)

Also, the service roads on both sides of the canal are used a ton - people fish from the roads as well as walk, bicycle, and skate the roads. Boat-watching and camping are also popular activities. 

Also on this date:

(another post here)

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