Conestoga Navigation Company

General History | Reigart’s Landing | Graeff’s Landing | First Lock | Second Lock | Third Lock | Fourth Lock | Fifth Lock | Sixth Lock | Seventh Lock | Eighth Lock | Ninth Lock | Slackwater Navigation Adventure

General History

From 1829 through approximately 1857, the Conestoga Navigation Company operated a slackwater canal between Lancaster and Safe Harbor. Passengers and freight could board a barge at Reigart’s Landing on South Prince Street and travel down the Conestoga to the Susquehanna.

Map of Lancaster County 1851

From there, the traffic crossed the Susquehanna and entered the Susquehanna and Tidewater canal system on the west side of the river. The boats would then travel down the S&T canal to Havre de Grace and from there they could continue on down the bay to Baltimore or they could navigate through the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal (which opened in 1829) then up the Delaware to Philadelphia.

There were nine locks between Lancaster and Safe Harbor. Each lock was 100 feet long and 22 feet wide and was accompanied by a dam that piled up the water into ponds to facilitate navigation. The river bottom was dredged to ensure a minimum of four feet of draft. A tow path was cleared on the river bank so that non-powered canal boats could use the system.

The Conestoga canal started at what was called “Reigart’s Landing” named after Adam Reigart who was the first president of the Conestoga Navigation Company. Reigart remained president of the Conestoga Navigation Company until it was sold to Edward Coleman in 1833. Reigart operated a hotel at the head of navigation called “Reigart’s Landing” Adam Reigart, Jr. died on May 2, 1844, at the age of 78.

Adam Reigart

This was located at then end of E. Strawberry Street near to where the entrance to Lancaster County Park is today. The entire length of navigation from here to Safe Harbor was just short of 18 miles with a drop of 64 feet.

The Conestoga Navigation Company enabled goods like coal, lumber, grain, and whiskey to be shipped to Baltimore and Philadelphia faster and cheaper than it took to transport them overland to Columbia.  A hogshead of whiskey could be shipped to Baltimore for $1.50 or to Philadelphia for $1.75.  In addition to the mule-powered canal boats, the steamer “Conestoga” provided passenger service between Lancaster and Philadelphia. The steamer Conestoga was seventy-five feet long with separate cabins for gentlemen and ladies. The steamer ceased operations in 1856 when the railroads became the dominant form of transportation.

After about 30 years of operation, the company ran into financial troubles, and finally ceased operations in 1857.

What follows is an outline of the nine locks with their approximate locations and some images of their remain.

Next Page: Reigart’s Landing

Resources

%d bloggers like this: