Following 1800, as settlers occupied the Northwest Territory, the need for transportation in Indiana was a high priority. To help meet the need, The Indiana Internal Improvements Act of 1836, initiated several projects, including the construction of the Whitewater Canal.
Beginning in Lawrenceburg, the canal originally ended at Cambridge City . An extension to the canal was financed by Hagerstown merchants, making the canal 76 miles in length. An additional 25-mile spur linking the canal to Cincinnati was built by the state of Ohio. Because of the difference in elevation along the length of the canal, 56 locks were built to accommodate a drop of nearly 500 feet.
The time of canal boats being towed by horses didn’t last long. Although the canals were important to the development of Indiana, poor financial returns and the development of railroads led to their demise. After the canal transportation era ended, the canals were used as a source of water power for many grist mills. To preserve this part of Indiana’s history, the state assumed management of a 14-mile section of the canal in 1946. Today, visitors to Metamora can step back in time by taking a 25-minute cruise along the Whitewater Canal aboard the Ben Franklin III.