The First Muscle Shoals Canal

Dublin Core


The First Muscle Shoals Canal


Muscle Shoals; Colbert County, Alabama;


The first canal built in the Muscle Shoals was built by the state of Alabama, assisted by the United States government, between 1831-1836. To fund the canal the US Congress gave the state 400,000 acres of public land to sell. The proceeds were used to fund the building of the canal. At the time, there was a need for four canals along the Tenneessee River in North Alabama, at Big Muscle Shoals, Elk River Shoals, Nancy Reef, and Little Muscle Shoals. Only at Big Muscle Shoals was a dam built. The need for the canals was due to the turbulent waters and widely varying depth of the river along the Shoals.
Even with the addition of the canal to the river it barely made an impact on naviagtion. The canal was 14.5 miles long. Large barrages could not fit through the narrow canal and it took nearly eleven hours to travel fully making it impossible for much traffic to travel along the canal. The canal contained 17 locks, each 120 feet long by 32 feet, with a lift of five feet each. The way the canal was made also limited traffic to only come from up the river, not both ways. Today, the lower locks, 3-9, are submerged underwater due to the construction of the Wilson Dam.


Carrie Keener, University of North Alabama


'Muscle Shoals: Souvenir Of Inspection Trip By Officials And Citizens Of The Tri Cities'. 1919. Florence. Willism Lindsey McDonald Collection. UNA Special Archives.
Peyton, John Howe. 1916. 'America's Gibraltar Muscle Shoals'. Paper. Florence. William Lindsey McDonald Collection. UNA Special Archives.
'FDR, TVA, And CCC Federal Influence In The Shoals: The Journal Of Muscle Shoals History Volume XIX'. 2015. Florence. William Lindsey McDonald Collection. UNA Special Archives.


Alabama Cultural Resource Survey


December 1, 2015


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