The Morris Canal in Roxbury Township, Morris County, New Jersey

by Mottel Balston, Website Editor

This selection of vintage photos will trace the route of the Morris Canal in Roxbury Township, loosely from East to West. The Canal goes through Rockaway and Wharton and then into Roxbury in the Kenvil section, then proceeding through Ledgewood, Shippenport, Landing & Port Morris. The Morris Canal was the "super-highway" of the early 1800's. It moved commodities across the hills of Northern New Jersey, particularly Coal from Pennsylvania and Timber from western New Jersey to industries and markets in the cities to the east. Beginning in the 1840's large amounts of New Jersey iron ore were shipped West on the Morris Canal to the anthracite iron furnaces of the Lehigh Valley and upper Bucks County. Up until then they moved at a snails pace in horse drawn wagons over poor roads. The canal allowed 30 tons of coal to make the journey from Philipsburg New Jersey, near the coalfields, to Newark, Jersey City or New York in just 5 days, an unheard of feat. Later, the Canal was widened and larger boats could carry 70 tons. The Morris Canal was completed in 1830, and little hamlets sprung up along it's route to service the crews and teams of mules that pulled the boats laden with goods, particularly where there was an inclined plane which pulled the boats up the hills. Those little hamlets became towns, and Roxbury had several including Ledgewood, Shippenport, Landing and Port Morris.

Canal Lock No. 1 East. Large gates could be opened to allow boats to pass and control water flow.
Boats and outboard motors come in a variety of sizes so some may be too large to enter a canal. Boating enthusiasts
should know if they plan to travel canal systems when choosing the outboard boats for sale in their area.

From Inclined Plane No. 2 East, looking eastward downhill. Note "Street" crossing.

The water raceway and water turbine housing at Plane No. 2 East, Ledgewood, circa 1906.
By this time commercial Boat Traffic was sparse and animals like the one above could graze in peace.

Morris Canal basin in Ledgewood NJ
This circa 1908 photo pictures Main Street, Ledgewood along with the Trolley which ran on Main Street for some length,
passing by the original Ledgewood Baptist Church building. The Lake is a body of water that was formed by a small
dam on a stream. In previous years this website had identified this as the Canal "holding basin", but that water body was about
50 yards uphill on the Canal Plane. Thanks 'Beth' for the correction. In later years the dam burst, and only a small pond remains.

Morris Canal in Ledgewood, New Jersey
The Morris Canal in Ledgewood, New Jersey, circa 1907, looking west. The house at left is still
standing at it's original location, now called Canal St, Ledgewood. The photographer in on a bridge.

Compare with photo above, photographer is on the same Ledgewood bridge, now looking East toward Kenvil

Looking west toward Plane 2E. The photo below was taken from the top of the hill.

This photo was taken on the other side of the same exact structure as the photo above.
This photo and several more on this page were produced in 1903 by the State of New Jersey
"Commission to Investigate and Report upon the Abandonment of Navigation of the Morris Canal"

The bottom of Inclined Plane No. 1 East. A dirt Shippenport Road is seen at left with a horse-drawn cart slowly going uphill. The tow-path for mules & horses is at right. Today the water is gone and this flat area at the bottom of Shippenport Road is the location of a Commercial building. Notice the Mule Driver crew at right with the mule grabbing lunch on the run. The boat is in the Canal Inclined Plane "Cradle" and has just reached the bottom. On this circa 1906 Postcard, the sender writes in part:  "It's real slow up here I would rather be in the city". Perhaps he was a seasonal worker at the nearby Explosives Factory or Ice Plant.

This 1903 photo shows the canal just past the top of Inclined Plane No. 1 East. Shippenport Road crossed over the
Canal using the bridge the Cameraman was on when this photo was taken, the bridge is shown in the
1887 Robertson Map. This area is just south of the current location of the Roxbury No. 2 Fire & Rescue Squad Building.

This 1903 photo shows the canal just west of the Landing bridge. The original Landing - Lake Hopatcong.
Railway Station is seen at lower left along with the DL&W tracks. Two Hundred Yards further a boat could
veer right onto the "feeder" to go to Lake Hopatcong, or stay on the main canal to continue to Port Morris.
The water area is a paved parking lot today.    ( . . . they paved paradise, put up a parking lot)

A busy scene, circa 1905. Boats wait to pick up passengers who would disembark from the Trains at the Landing station. The boats would then take them up a Canal a bit, then into the feeder canal and on to Lake Hopatcong. A train is coming eastbound from the Hackettstown area, and the siding at top left holds some sidelined Freight Cars

An early vintage 1891 photo shows an early Railway Station. The Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad would enlarge the station in subsequent years until it was replaced in 1910 by the new station made of stone (still standing) on the opposite side of the tracks and 50 yards east. The village of Landing is seen at right.

This bridge carried Lakeside Boulevard over the Canal feeder. Yep, just one lane! Compare that to the four lane bridge in the
same spot today! The Canal Lock is seen under the bridge, with Lake Hopatcong on the other side. 
Hopatcong & Sussex County are on the left of the river, Landing & Morris County on the right. The dog's name is Hypo.

In 1885, a popular magazine presented this engraving of a 'Canal Family', who lived on their boat 3 seasons a year.
They are being passed by a well-dressed group on a day pleasure outing. Small children of boat families would often
have ropes tied around their waists and fastened to the boat's center, to prevent their going overboard,
or providing a convenient rescue line if one did. 

While this site is an independent effort by an individual resident of Roxbury, we greatly appreciate the work of the dedicated volunteers of this Historical organization:

The Canal Society of New Jersey is a committed group of volunteers who document the history of New Jersey's canals, seek to preserve the remnants thereof, and provide related educational materials.

The Canal Society of New Jersey, P.O. Box 737, Morristown, NJ 07963
phone: 908-722-9556  - Answering Machine and Fax:  908-722-7428 website: 

We urge you to support your Community canal heritage by membership in this group

To contact the Proprietor of this site, send your postal to:   Editor @

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