Tonawanda News


May 4, 2013

TUCKER: The rest of the story

Tonawanda News — Last week’s column was cut for space, this week’s is a catch-up.

A few weeks ago a social studies teacher inquired about Goose Island. Doug Taylor sent the following which was forwarded to the teacher who said Doug’s reply cleared up questions and brightened her day. With that in mind, perhaps Doug’s reply will brighten your day as well.

Doug wrote: “The original Erie Canal required that the water level in the canal at the Tonawandas be roughly six feet higher than it is today. This is because the water level in the Niagara River at Tonawanda is roughly six feet lower than that at the Buffalo Harbor and the resulting current made it impossible for the old canal boats, especially those pulled by horses, to go upstream. To fix this problem, a spillway dam was located close to the present Main-Webster Street bridge to raise the canal water level. There was a series of locks at Tonawanda to allow you to ‘lock up or down’ to the river. The canal itself ended at these locks and from Tonawanda to Buffalo the boats traveled what was called the Black Rock Channel which went down the middle of the present Niagara Street and continued towards Buffalo along what is presently River Road, although a bit closer to the river’s edge than the present River Road location. The Black Rock Channel and the Tonawanda locks formed a man-made Island informally called Goose Island starting at where the HSBC First Trust Bank is located. The bank’s site was actually on Goose Island along with the present site of Tonawanda City Hall, Tops, and the condos. By the 1920s, the Black Rock Channel was no longer needed, since the boats running cargo on the canal had enough power to make it upstream on the Niagara River to the present day Black Rock Ship Canal, bypassing the high speed currents by the Peace Bridge, and then head to the Buffalo Harbor. The Black Rock Channel was eventually filled in, and Goose Island ceased to exist. Note that despite the rants and whining by the Buffalo politicians, the Erie Canal today terminates at the Twin Cities and has always terminated here since in early times it terminated with the last locks on the Canal at the Tonawandas.

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