James River and Kanawha Canal

James River And Kanawha Canal


James River and Kanawha Canal

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The James River and Kanawha Canal was a canal in Virginia, which was built to facilitate shipments of passengers and freight by water between the western counties of Virginia and the coast.

Personally surveyed and planned by George Washington himself, the canal was begun in 1785 under the James River Company, and later restarted under the James River and Kanawha Canal Company. It was only half completed by 1851. It was an expensive project which failed several times financially and was frequently damaged by floods. By the time it was halted, it had only reached Buchanan, in Botetourt County, Virginia, even though it was largely financed by the Commonwealth of Virginia through the Virginia Board of Public Works. When work to extend the canal further west stopped permanently, railroads were overtaking the canal as a far more productive mode of transportation.

After the American Civil War, when funds for continued financial support were not available from the war-torn Commonwealth or private sources, the canal project did poorly against railroad competition, and finally succumbed to damage done by massive flooding in 1877. In the end the canal's right-of-way was bought and the canal itself was largely dismantled by the new Richmond and Allegheny Railroad as tracks were laid on the former towpath. The R&A became part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway in the 1890s, and much of the former canal route is now an important line for eastbound West Virginia bituminous coal headed...
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