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Project History
Morris Canal History

An Industrial Highway

In the early 1820s, when inland transportation routes were sparse and commercial transportation was at a premium, Morristown businessman George P. Macculloch generated interest among New Jersey citizens and Governor Isaac Williamson for a canal spanning the entire width of New Jersey, from the Delaware River to the Passaic River. The legislature responded by creating the Morris Canal and Banking Company, which was tasked to construct a water highway of inclined planes and traditional lift locks from Phillipsburg to Newark. This 90-mile stretch was completed in 1831, followed by an 11.75-mile extension from Newark to Jersey City in 1836. The Morris Canal became a boon to the local economy and drastically changed transportation in the state. The Morris Canal passes through Passaic County in the municipalities of Clifton, Little Falls, Paterson, Wayne, and Woodland Park.

An important source for water to the Morris Canal was Greenwood Lake, known in the 1800s as Long Pond, which fed water through the Wanaque River to the “Pompton Feeder,” a feeder canal with two dams including the dam that powered the Long Pond Iron Works. By the 1860s the Pompton Feeder was transporting full size Morris Canal boats directly to the Pompton Iron Works. The Pompton Feeder provided water to the Morris Canal’s eastern division, Coal to the furnaces of the iron industry, and Iron to much of New Jersey until its demise under increased competition from railroads in the early 1900s. The Pompton Feeder passes from Pompton Lakes through Wayne to the Morris Canal in Little Falls.

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The Morris Canal Historic District was listed in the New Jersey Register of Historic Places on November 26, 1973 and in the National Register of Historic Places on October 1, 1974. The Historic District passes through six (6) Passaic County municipalities, including the Boroughs of Pompton Lakes and Woodland Park, Cities of Clifton and Paterson, and Townships of Little Falls and Wayne. The City of Clifton, the Township of Little Falls, and the Borough of Woodland Park have each acknowledged the significance of the Morris Canal by designing public green spaces along its path within their municipalities. 
 
Preserving the Morris Canal

Morris County completed the Morris Canal Greenway Strategic Preservation Plan in 2005, and Warren County is completing a 25-Year Action Plan for the Morris Canal Greenway. Areas of the canal have been preserved throughout the state including Saxton Falls in Warren County, Waterloo Village in Sussex County, Grace Lord Park and Tourne County Park in Morris County, and Liberty State Park in Hudson County.
 
In 2008, Passaic County joined other counties across the state in efforts to preserve the legacy of the historic Morris Canal by creating a greenway along the former canal route. Doing so fulfilled the original vision of both the Olmsted Brothers Firm and the Passaic County Parks Commission, which recommended in 1929 that “the abandoned Morris Canal would provide an excellent unbroken route for walking, hiking, and horseback riding; and at the same time furnish a definite link between Garret Mountain Reservation, Preakness Valley Park, and the Pompton Aquatic Park.” 

The county applied to various funding sources and in 2010 received a Smart Growth Planning Grant from the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions and the Passaic County Open Space Trust Fund to study the feasibility of creating the Morris Canal Greenway.