York County rail trail extension to follow canal towpath

Many York countians are eagerly looking forward to the opening of the rail trail from York to John Rudy Park.
The land along the Codorus Creek that the trail will follow, at least in part, was graded in the early 1830s to accommodate a tow path for mules to pull canal boats between York and the Susquehanna. A series of dams in the Codorus created slackwater pools making the Codorus navigable… .

It was possible for people to board a canal boat in York, move along Codorus Navigation, as it was called, to York Haven and then board an ark to float to Baltimore on the Susquehanna River. (After a canal was built along the Susquehanna from Wrightsville to Havre de Grace on the Chesapeake Bay, travelers could avoid a long leg of river travel.)
Anyway, travelers could board a ship to Europe in Baltimore. This means that they could conceivably travel by water from York to Marseille and never touch land. Of course, the railroad reached York from Baltimore in 1838, so most travelers used rail for the first leg of their trip, and the railroad eventually put the Codorus canal system out of business.
So much for the lament that York County has been in the middle of nowhere all since its founding in 1749. The following from “Never to be Forgotten” tells more about Codorus Navigation:

About 160 men load into the canal boat “Codorus” in 1832 for a three-mile ride on Codorus Creek, made navigable by a series of dams and locks. The Codorus and sister boat “Pioneer” make three trips that July 4 to the picnic site. Two days later, two boatloads of women travel to the end of the Codorus Navigation. The next year, workers make the creek navigable to the Susquehanna River. “Yesterday the first ark arrived here out of the Susquehanna, loaded with forty thousand feet of boards & upwards of one hundred persons, who had gone out to witness the opening scene of our navigation,” a newspaper reported. The newspaper claimed that one horse could carry a load on the waterway that would demand 100 horses over land. A navigable Codorus Creek provides the county with another means for transporting goods. “Arks may now load with whiskey or other produce,” the newspaper said, “and start from Mainstreet (West Market Street) Bridge in York, and proceed either to the Philadelphia or Baltimore Market.” Steam locomotives provide more horsepower, however. Rail service to Harrisburg, Baltimore and Wrightsville rendered Codorus Navigation obsolete by about 1850.

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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