Lowell Canals

Lowell's canal system provided power for the textile mills.

Lowell encompasses an integrated canal system whose inception in the early 1820s helped Lowell become a center for textile mill production. Used as a power source derived from water flow allowed expansion through Merrimack, Western canals, the Swamp Locks and Hamilton canal waterways adjacent to Lowell.The “jawbone” of the Merrimack River included an early circuit through the Pawtucket and Merrimack canal, which allowed water irrigationn and mill utility in a larger cirumference around Lowell. Originally, the Guard Locks separated Northeast flowing Merrimack River water to the Pawtucket canal and further on to the Merrimack mills. Swamp Locks guarded Northeastern water flow branched off from that canal to the Lower Locks adjacent to the Concord River.

Later redistribution through 1828 of the Lowell areas canals allowed a parallel channel called Hamilton canal to evolve.Mills could be densely plotted to tap water power right where the water traveled northeast through the Merrimack canal or through to the Concord river. Dramatic changes were to come. By 1836, the Merrimack canal had formed an abridgement to the Merrimack River proper. The Western Canal edged from the central old “Swamp Lock” terminus northward to adjoin the Merrimack. A new canal traced from the old “Swamp locks” crossing North from the Western Canal waterway now hosted a group of mills on what was called the Lawrence canal. The Lawrence canal ran briefly parallel to the Merrimack River at its bend before the Merrimack Canal outlet, which also experienced denser mill habitation and expanded waterway growth.

The Merrimack Inlet canal curved West from its channel from the Merriimack, but Eastward new canals were made. Enlarged power mill presence demanded more flexible water source flow. The Merrimack Canal then from South and from North via the Merrimack River served as a inlet for the Eastern Canal. The Merrimack River served later as an inlet to the new Eastern canal which traveled SouthEast from the juncture of the Merrimack Canal where it meets the Merrimack River, thus allowing three canals exposure to Merrimack River outflow and water traffic. The Eastern Canal abutted at the Lower Locks, nigh onto the Middlesex Mills near the Concord River bend before it joined with the Merrimack coming East.Thus the Eastern canal exercised a ninety degree turn south from the Merrimack Canal inlet and surmounted the Canal system at its SouthEastern base.

By 1848, the canal system had undergone many more changes. Supr-inlets now originated at regular intervals along the Merimack River to the mills and interchanging Canal waterways through this Massachusetts water system. The mills had evolved water usage within a sophisticated gate management organization that created lateral Eastern waterway access direclty from the Merrimack River via a new canal. This “Northern” canal originated at the Merrimack River gate (Pawtucket Gate House) and bisected the Western Canal between Swamp Locks and Lawrence Canal. Additional mills along the Western Canal to the Lawrence Canal waterway required more direct water resources and this new channel provided it.

The development of the “upper jawbone” of the Merrimack River, and the subsequent min-waterways to extant mills,  to its “lower jawbone” where the Western, Hamilton, Lawrence, and Merrimack Canals, is evident during this period. The evolving waterways infilled the land and allowed water resources to provide power and mill operational facility. The Middlesex Mills, Merrimack Mills, Lawrence Mills, and other benefited from this substantial canal development.