This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A trip to Delphi

Rensselaer does not have any organized Fourth of July festivities this year. In past years there have been fireworks at the fairgrounds, and we would view them from Brookside Park. However, there will be plenty of backyard fireworks, and though I may not see them, I will hear them.

Neighboring towns have fireworks and festivals. A few years ago I ran in a 5K at Fowler that was part of a July 4th event. (I kept trying to beat a 7th or 8th grade girl who kept trying to beat me--she won. Now she is one of the stars on the West Lafayette cross country team and would beat me by minutes rather than seconds. However, a Rensselaer native did win the race that year.) Wolcott has a summer festival with fireworks after dark. I think I went to it many years ago and toured the Wolcott House. And because Delphi has had events centered around their canal restoration, today may be a good day to review a past trip to Delphi and their wonderful system of hiking trails.

Until I went to Delphi and saw it, I was unaware that there had ever been canals in this part of the United States. Unfortunately, the Wabash and Erie Canal was a financial failure. It had been supported by state bonds, but it never got nearly enough traffic to pay the interest on those bonds. I recall the guide on their little tour boat saying that the financial mess led to a provision in the state constitution limiting debt that the state of Indiana could have.

The interpretative center is actually a modern building that tries to look old. There are a lot of informative displays inside, but the last time I was there, I was not blogging, so I did not take any pictures.

Near the interpretative center are a number of historic buildings, much like the pioneer village buildings at the Jasper County Fair Grounds. On days when there are enough tourists, there are carriage rides.

The old canal had silted up and it took a big effort to restore it. The water to fill it comes from a quarry that sits at the end of the restored section. When the people who restored it first filled it, there were cracks in the bottom and the water just ran back into the quarry. They had to buy some special clay to seal the bottom. In this picture you can see the boat that gives guided rides to people, though they may have replaced it by now with one that looks more like an actual canal boat.

Here is a different view of the restored canal.

Walking from the interpretative center downstream, you come to a tunnel under a railroad track. In way it is appropriate that a railroad be close by, because the development of the railroads was a primary reason that the canals declined.

Following the trail, you eventually come to an old bridge, which is, however, not as old as the canal. The Delphi people are preserving two old metal bridges as part of their canal site.

Beyond the bridge you can still follow the canal, but eventually you reach a point where it is no longer restored. Then it looks like a little creek with trees in the water.

Along the path are several interpretative signs, such as the one below that tells the story of the Irish workers imported to construct the canal. They brought over both northern and southern Irish who did not mix well, and they also had serious problems with disease.

The path through the woods is well constructed and maintained and would make a great jogging trail. I suspect it is what the people who want to have some kind of trail system for Rensselaer would like to have.

However, the reason that Delphi can have this their nice trails is that they have a real river running by them, the Wabash, and it has a much bigger floodplain than the Iroquois has.

Near the end of the trail is a suspension bridge over a creek to a parking lot.

I will not be doing much of anything this Fourth. What will you be doing?


Sheila said...

We usually go to the Wolcott Festival where my husband would have a softball tournament, but, for some reason, the team is playing in a Brook tournament this year. So, if it stops raining, that's where I'll be this afternoon. Happy 4th!

Angela said...

I guess I'll be missing my family and fireworks. The rain certainly isn't conducive to celebrating!

Anonymous said...

For more on the current Delphi Canal attractions see:

Dessert Survivor said...

I think you want this link:

30-year-refugee said...

this was very interesting...thanks for your work on putting it together.

good news for me, i'm making my triumphant return to indiana in september for a week long bike ride. that trip will likely include a cameo in rensselaer, where it is sure to be much warmer than it was in january. i wasn't sure i was going to do the bike trip this fall, but things are working out in my favor.