Monday, December 7, 2015

Drive-thru history

A uniquely complex bridge crosses the Delaware River from the hamlet of Minisink Ford in Sullivan County. One look at the Roebling Delaware Aqueduct’s wooden superstructure, ironwork, ice dams, and toll house and you know there’s considerable history behind this landmark.

An aqueduct is a structure used to convey water over a long distance, either by a tunnel or by bridge. In this case, where coal-filled canal boats once crossed the Delaware in this water-tight passage, today cars use the same space to drive into Pennsylvania. Construction of the structure was prompted by conflict between the area’s two prominent industries at the time: the canals and timber rafting. Coal-filled canal boats crossed the Delaware River here, but faced oncoming timber that was rafted down the river. In came John A. Roebling, designer of the Brooklyn Bridge, who created four suspension aqueducts for the Delaware and Hudson Canal system.

By the end of the canal era, all but this one aqueduct were abandoned. The Minisink Ford structure was spared because of its location and conversion to use as a land bridge. Not only a National Historic Landmark, the bridge was designated as a National Civil Engineering Landmark as well.

Visitors can drive through the aqueduct or cross it on foot and enter the toll house, a small museum with displays of canal-era history including a sleeping bunk setup. Though the park is small, it's packed with history about the canal and river and their historical role in industry.

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