Little Buc's Adventures: Discover The Cape Cod Canal

Little Buc

Ahoy, Followers –

On Sunday, the TS Kennedy will transit the Cape Cod Canal before arriving at Taylors Point

I am eager to tell you all about this artificial 7-mile waterway.   

mass maritime academy
cape cod canal map

Planning The Cape Cod Canal:
The original idea to build a canal through the isthmus of Cape Cod can be traced way back to Plimoth Colony in the 1620s. As you may know, an isthmus is narrow strip of land with sea on either side.  In 1627, the Pilgrims established the Aptucxet Trading Post along the banks of the Mamomet River.  Miles Standish believed that the post would be more successful if traders could get to it faster and easier.   

During the Revolutionary WarGeneral George Washington thought that a canal would provide greater security to American ships.  In 1776, Washington ordered engineer Thomas Machin to investigate building a canal. Machin’s report, recommended that a canal be built, but nothing happened. 

Over the next one-hundred years, individuals and groups conducted surveys and studies.   A few even began construction.  Sadly, they either ran out of money or found that the project was more than they could handle.  The urgency for the canal was higher than ever as the number of shipwrecks along the banks of Cape Cod rose to one every two weeks. 

In 1904, the right man for the job finally arrived.  Wealthy businessman August Belmont purchased the Boston, Cape Cod and New York Canal Company, which had held a charter for the construction of a canal for the last five years.  Things were finally starting to happen! With the approval of noted Civil Engineer, William Barclay Parsons, Belmont decided to begin construction of the Cape Cod Canal. That was almost three-hundred years after the Pilgrims first proposed the idea for a canal.  Now that’s what I call perseverance!  But the Cape Cod Canal still had to be built!

august belmont

Building The Cape Cod Canal:
Businessman August Belmont II dug the first ceremonial shovel of soil himself on June 22, 1909.  Then, the work began!  His plan was to connect and widen the Manomet River and Scusset River. Twenty-six dredgers were used to deepen the rivers.  Dynamite was used to move massive boulders that had been in place since the Ice Age.  Harsh New England weather brought delays, but Belmont persevered.  Finally, the barrier between the two rivers was removed.  Mr. Belmont took a glass of water from Buzzards Bay and a glass of water from Cape Cod Bay and mixed them together.  As he did, he said these words, “May the meeting of these waters bring happiness and prosperity to our country and save some of the misery which the waters of the Cape have caused in the past!"  The Cape Cod Canal was open!

building the cape cod canal


building the cape cod canal
building the cape cod canal
building the cape cod canal
building the cape cod canal

On July 28, 1914, the passenger ship, the Rose Standish earned the distinction of being the first passenger ship to cruise the entire length of the canal – from Sandwich to Buzzards Bay.  She was traveling from Boston to New Bedford.  The next day, July 28, 1914, the Cape Cod Canal officially opened. August Belmont II had succeeded! 

rose standish going through the canal

Only six men had lost their lives in the building of the Cape Cod Canal.  The final cost of the canal was approximately $12,000,000.

The Bridges:

Two of the bridges that cross over the Cape Cod Canal are open to vehicle traffic.  Here’ how the Sagamore Bridge and the Bourne Bridge compare. 

Oldest:  It’s a tie for first place!  Both the Bourne Bridge and the Sagamore Bridge were completed on June 22, 1935 making them almost eighty-eight years old

Bourne Bridge

Longest:  The winner is the Bourne Bridge at 2,384 feet.  The Sagamore Bridge falls into the second place slot at 1,408 feet

Widest:  Congratulations to the Bourne Bridge!  Its width of 45 feet earns it the first-place trophy.  The Sagamore Bridge finishes a close second with a width of 40 feet

Sagamore Bridge

HeightIt’s a photo finish for first place.  The Sagamore Bridge grabs first place over the Bourne Bridge by just one foot.  The Sagamore Bridge has a height of 275 feet, while the Bourne Bridge measures 274 feet high

Bourne Bridge

Clearance:  It’s a tie for second place.  Both the Bourne Bridge and the Sagamore Bridge have a clearance of just 135 feet

sagamore bridge

The Other Bridge That Crosses Cape Cod Canal:
The Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge is a vertical lift bridge that carries only train traffic.  I love watching it raise and lower from several different locations on the Massachusetts Maritime Academy campus.  When the TS Kennedy is docked at Taylors Point, it is the perfect spot to watch trains pass over the Cape Cod Canal.

rairoad bridge up
railroad bridge down

Want to learn more?  Check out this short documentary about the Cape Cod Canal.

Next Tuesday, I will share photos of the TS Kennedy passing through the Cape Cod Canal.  It will be a beautiful sight!

Your favorite pirate,

Little Buc