I remember the day I moved into my condo in downtown Lowell, Massachusetts. It was a hot September day and I had my windows open to let in some of the refreshing wind that was blowing in from the canal. As I was unpacking, I heard something that sounded like a Jet Ski coming closer and closer. I stuck my head out my kitchen window and I saw a Lowell National Historical Park tour boat going by right outside. I thought that was the coolest thing and right then I knew I had to take a tour!
First some history…Lowell National Historical Park, the first urban national park of its kind, was created in 1978 to acknowledge the part Lowell played in the birth of the industrial revolution in America. Lowell was started as a planned city, in the first half of the 19th century, when textile mills were built to take advantage of the water power created at Pawtucket Falls where the Merrimack River drops 30 feet and merges with the Concord River. The falls created a continuous surge of kinetic energy from which the mills harnessed over 10,000 horsepower. The Pawtucket Canal, 1.5 miles long with four sets of locks, was first built so that timber for shipbuilding could skirt the falls and pass from New Hampshire directly to Newburyport, the mouth of the Merrimack River.
My fellow myuntangledlife.com bloggers and I recently had the pleasure of taking one of the National Park tours. We had a few different tours to choose from and decided on Engineering Innovation Boat Tour.
“The city of Lowell, its mills and canal system have been the site of exciting technological innovations throughout its long history. Discover why Lowell was once called a “living laboratory” on this two-hour canal tour.”
We started outside of the Lowell National Historical Park Visitor’s Center where our awesome tour guide, Karen Thomas, gave us a brief history and overview of the canal ways of Lowell. From there, we hopped on a trolley for a short ride over to Swamp Locks where we would be boarding the boat for our tour.
The two hour tour (which flies by) first takes you along the Pawtucket Canal to the Guard Locks at Francis Gatehouse. The “gate keepers” were on hand to open the gates, allowing the water level in the canal to change by about 6 feet so the boat could raise and lower as we traveled along.
We spilled out in the Merrimack River near the Pawtucket Falls where we were able to climb out of the boat for a bit, walk through the Pawtucket Gatehouse and capture some amazing shots of the falls.
We had a great afternoon and we had a perfect day for the tour. I was pleased to learn a little more about the history and inner-workings of, well, my own back yard. If you are from the area or are looking to visit, I suggest carving out some time to do this. It will be worth it!
Lowell National Historical Park
304 Dutton Street, Lowell, MA 01852
Guided tours and programs