Spring “cleaning” at the Whitewater Canal State Historic Site

whitewater_shaftHow do you prepare a six-mile section of the Whitewater Canal to turn a wheel, maintain water flow and float a canal boat for the thousands of visitors who want to ride on this unique piece of Indiana history? Jay Dishman, site manager of the Whitewater Canal State Historic Site, knows how. He and the rest of the Whitewater Canal maintenance crew have been working hard to get ready for the May 1 launch of the Ben Franklin III canal boat.

In addition, the Metamora Mill has returned to waterpower! The shaft, which is turned by the waterwheel located within Lock #25 and turns the gears in the mill’s lower level, has been repaired and placed back into action by the Vuckson Excavating Company. The mill had been running with the use of an electric motor located in the gear room. The pictures to the left show how this tricky replacement took place.

The Whitewater Canal grounds and maintenance staff also made several needed repairs to the mill wheel and during the winter months that included tightening the rods, building and placing new cleats on the wheel, checking buckets against the shrouds, and cleaning out the pathway between the mill and the wheel.

Repairs and work in other parts of the six-mile stretch included the Laurel Feeder Dam west abutment. Water is flowing through the canal nicely after sediment clean-out areas were created near the Feeder Dam. A major repair of the canal bank took place at an area that had been washed out approximately halfway between Metamora and Brookville. The crew also spent a full day clearing out beaver dams located on the canal between Brookville and Metamora.

Finally, Whitewater Canal personnel will be spending the month of April working on the canal boat. The bow cabin roof and the rub rails will be repaired and the entire boat will be repainted. Everything will be ready for a season full of new experiences, so come join the Whitewater Canal crew beginning May 1 for a voyage like none other.

Joanne Williams is the program developer at the Whitewater Canal State Historic Site.