Stone three level retaining walls with arched bridge at other end
Lifting Locks of the Landsford Canal

Landsford Canal State Park Field Report

The third and final stop of the day was at Landsford Canal State Park a short distance down river from the Catawba Reservation in Chester County.

The state park is on the site of a canal built in the 1820’s by the Board of Public Works as part of the internal improvement movement. Part of the same improvement project that saw the construction of the State Road and the Poinsett Bridge.

As far as state parks go, this is a small one. There’s no camping and really only a single trail. There’s one picnic shelter, but lots of picnic tables with most right next to the river.

Log house with metal roof and stone chimneys on each side.
Landsford Canal State Park Office

There’s a stone building that turns out to be the bathroom and log home next to it with the park office. Unfortunately the park office was closed when I visited.

Now I went looking for the trails. Since there was no one to ask, I had a look at the information kiosk I passed when leaving the parking lot. As I skimmed the information, I completely missed the map at the top. My only excuse is that this was my last stop of the day, and I was probably in a rush. I didn’t notice it until looking at the photos later. It not only shows were the trail start but where the Lock Keeper’s House is as well.

Since there’s a river in front of me, I only have two ways to go.I wander around aimlessly down river, and finally reach the start of the trails. The park lists 2 main trails: a Nature Trail and the Canal Trail. From the trailhead, it’s not clearly marked which trail is which. But if you want to take that Canal Trail, follow the path to the right. The Nature Trail crosses the footbridge and continues on next to the river.

After turning, you’ll be walking beside the old canal. Interpretive signage explains the surviving ruins along the path like the Guard Lock and the Stone Bridge foundation.

Several clumps of plants with white blooms growing along rocky shoals in a river
Spider Lilies growing in the Catawba River.

After this brief diversion, the canal trail reconnects to the Nature Trail. The two trails continue together to the Spider Lily Overlook. Again the overlook isn’t well labeled. A sign points to the right where the canal trail splits off, but instead I crossed the bridge just to see what was there. Just a few yards further, I was at the overlook.

The Spider Lilies were almost bloomed out. A week earlier and the river for as far as the eye could see would have been full of white blooms. The overlook is also the end of the Nature Trail and the half way point of the canal trail.

Trail running in between two tall stone walls with vegetation growing around the base.
Passage through retaining walls of the canal.

The canal trail continues past the remains of culverts designed to allow streams to flow under the canal and the stone foundation of an old mill. The path leads between a pair of retaining walls built near the mill in which the canal flowed through.

At the end of the trail are the lifting locks where boats were raised or lowered 32 feet to enter the canal or the river. These ruins are the best preserved and the most accessible along the trail. A short walk from the alternate entrance to the park. If you just want to see this part of the old canal system, just park at the alternate parking lot. But be warned, there aren’t any picnic tables or restrooms at this end of the trail.

stone bridge seen from side with arch visible at bottom and tops of retaining walls.
Stone bridge over main Lifting Locks

On the way back, I followed the nature trail the whole way. It runs next to the river, but there’s a row of trees between the path and the river, so no good views. The only point of interest is a the Bald Eagle Nest, but the baby eagles have usually left the nest by mid may. The Nature Trail is wider and less rootie than the Canal Trail, so it’s a little easier on the legs.

Read more at the Landsford Canal Main Page.