Pirates invade Whitewater Canal!

by Joanne Williams, Program Director and Cultural Administrator at Whitewater Canal State Historic Site

Pirates have invaded the Whitewater Canal State Historic Site and they are taking prisoners! A Spartan general was taken prisoner by the pirate captain, Captain Panther, on Saturday night, Oct. 16. Saturday was a strange and wonderful evening for the site; the Belgian draft horses that normally pull the canal boat the Ben Franklin III were replaced by unicorns and the staff was replaced by witches, pirates, Spartans, mad doctors and men with green faces!

These strange occurrences will happen again on Saturday, Oct. 23, when the Whitewater Canal State Historic Site hosts its annual Spooky Halloween Cruises at 7:30, 8 and 8:30 p.m. A professional storyteller will be on board telling Halloween tales and children will receive a candy treat at the end of the ride, provided by the Brookville IGA and Rosenbergers Market. Admission to the cruise is $4 per person. In addition, the merchants of Metamora are sponsoring a “Haunted Village” at $5 per person for a hayride around Metamora’s “haunted” sights from 7 to 10 p.m. The Whitewater Canal Byway Association is sponsoring a “Haunted Depot” at the Gateway Park on U.S. 52 for $12 per person from 7 to 11 p.m.  Metamora will soon need to change its name to Halloween Town!

Canal Boat Season Opens!

Take yourself back to a time when pleasures were simple … just step aboard a canal boat and take a trip back to the 19th century! On May 1, the Whitewater Canal State Historic Site will once again offer canal boat tours on the Ben Franklin III, through later this fall. 

This is the 20th year of canal boat rides on the Whitewater Canal aboard the Ben Franklin III. The Whitewater Canal originally began in Lawrenceburg and terminated in Cambridge City, on the Old National Road (U.S. 40). When the era of canal transportation ended due to the railroads, the Whitewater Canal became a source of water power for many mills.

 Today, the Whitewater Canal staff operates a horse-drawn canal boat, the Ben Franklin III, and the Metamora Mill. Visitors can travel a 25-minute cruise aboard the Ben Franklin III through the Duck Creek Aqueduct, the only covered bridge aqueduct in the nation!

Simple pleasures from a simpler time … don’t you sometimes wish our lives were this uncomplicated?

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Witches, fairies, ninjas, oh my!

Written by Joanne Williams, program developer at Whitewater Canal State Historic Site

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Two "pumpkins" at Whitewater Canal State Historic Site

The Whitewater Canal State Historic Site was magically transformed on Oct. 17 and 24! The Ben Franklin III became a haunted pirate ship and our horses, Mike and Jerry, turned into Jack-O-Lanterns and walking skeletons. We were visited by witches, fairies, ninjas, clowns, princesses and scary monsters! The only way to rid ourselves of these frightening beings was to give them lots of sweet treats.

The Ben Franklin III “pirate ship” also made special evening cruises where the ghoul and goblin passengers were treated to some Halloween tales told by storytellers Jeff Kuehl, also known as ‘Mory Tician,” on Oct. 17 and by Celestine Bloomfield on Oct. 24. The little witches and warlocks loved the stories and also received a sweet treat for their Halloween bags and buckets.

Local business sponsors for this event were the Amalgamated Transit Union Workers, Local 1471, Main Source Bank-Brookville Branch, and the Brookville IGA Store.

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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.