Safe Harbor Mini-Adventure: Lock

Home | Agnes | Lock | Rolling Mill | St. Mary’s | Ice Jam | Mystery Stone | Cedar Street | Haunted Gold | Petroglyphs | Limited Bandwidth

Location: Just north of the River Road bridge that crosses the Conestoga River in Conestoga River Park. 39°56’23.0″N 76°23’12.8″W.

History Brief: During the 1800s, the Conestoga Navigation Company attempted the bold venture of turning Lancaster into a port city via the Conestoga and Susquehanna Rivers. This plan involved building a slackwater canal that ran a winding 18-mile course through a series of locks and several dams between Lancaster and Safe Harbor. Lock 8 is still visible today.

Clue: Standing at the northern end of the lock ruins, count the number of stones stacked in the first column on the left while looking downstream. Record the number. (one-digit number)

Rest of the Story: Hidden in Conestoga River Park along River Road in Safe Harbor is Lock 8 of the Conestoga Navigation Company.

Of the nine original Conestoga Navigation locks between Lancaster and the Susquehanna River, Lock 6 is the only survivor.
The remains of the lock 8.

The Conestoga Navigation Company was a slackwater canal that ran a winding 18-mile course through six major locks and several dams with a 63-foot elevation change between Lancaster and Safe Harbor. 

Lock 8 had a six-foot lift and was 220 feet long. It was completed in October 1827 at $4,550 (or $117,846 in today’s money). Today, the stone structure makes it hard to imagine it functioning as a lock being so far from the water.

The “Now and Then” photos below demonstrate how much wider and deeper the Conestoga once was due to the series of dams constructed by the Conestoga Navigation Company.

Lock 8 today and in the early 1800s.

The project began on March 3, 1825, when the Conestoga Navigation Company was incorporated. The first dam and lock were finished the following year on July 31, 1826. By August 5, 1826, a new boat, the “Edward Coleman,” was the first to pass to Lock # l. Finally, in late 1828, all locks and dams were completed costing a total of $59,813.00.

Boat approaching the Conestoga Navigation Company dock at Safe Harbor.
Boat approaching the Conestoga Navigation Company dock at Safe Harbor.

In May of 1829, 14 arks and rafts arrived at Reigart’s Landing in Lancaster City. At this moment, Lancaster City was directly linked to the Susquehanna River and indirectly to the Chesapeake Bay. The dream to turn Lancaster into a port city was (briefly) realized.

It was said that while the canal was in operation, a person could board a ship in Lancaster, PA, and depart in Paris, France. However, there’s no evidence that anyone ever did that.

Reigart’s Landing was located on the Conestoga River near the intersection of South Duke and Chesapeake Streets.

Reigart's Landing - headwaters of old canal system. Note ruins of old stagecoach bridge linking Hickory Town (Lancaster) with Rockford and Henry Leman's rifle works. Image courtesy of LancasterHistory.org.
Reigart’s Landing – headwaters of old canal system. Note ruins of old stagecoach bridge linking Hickory Town (Lancaster) with Rockford and Henry Leman’s rifle works. Image courtesy of LancasterHistory.org.

The company soon experienced financial difficulty, and its assets were sold to William and Edward Coleman, ironmasters. In April 1837, the Colemans received a new charter for the business under the name “The Lancaster and Susquehanna Slack Water Navigation Company.”

Eventually, the owners of the Safe Harbor Iron Works purchased the rights to this company around 1846. Navigation on the Conestoga River was used chiefly for the Iron Works. The destructive flood of 1865 effectively ended the use of the system. 

Home | Agnes | Lock | Rolling Mill | St. Mary’s | Ice Jam | Mystery Stone | Cedar Street | Haunted Gold | Petroglyphs | Limited Bandwidth

%d bloggers like this: