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Title: River towns trying to attract tourism
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DELPHI - Crew of Irish immigrants toiled with shovels during the 1830s and 1840s to dig the Wabash and Erie Canal, a 464-mile-long system of locks and aqueducts fed mostly by the Wabash River.

Along America's longest canal system, which linked Toledo, Ohio, with Evansville, people and freight drifted slowly to their destinations on canal boats pulled by horses treading tow paths.

By the 1870s, a faster, more reliablt mode of travel -railroads- had effected the canal's demise.

Now, some 120 years later, Delphi residents are hoping to capitalize on a restored section of the canal, to lure visitors and tourists to the north-central Indiana city for a taste of history.

They've spent years sprucing up the 2.5-mile-long waterway, which is the longest section of the canal still containing water.

"Delphi turned its back on the canal, like the rest of Indiana, after the railroads came in. But now it's like history coming back," says Dan McCain, president of Carroll County Wabash and Erie Canal Inc.

His volunteers have installed trail paths along both sides of the freshly dredged canal. Those paths were linked this summer with the installation of a restored, 125-year-old iron bridge, offering a centerpiece for the city's annual July "Canal Days" festival.

Similar projects are under way in cities and towns along the Wabash River eager to cash in on the river's history and scenic views.

In Lafayette, it's the Wabash Landing, a cluster of riverfront shops. In downtown Logansport, it's the Little Turtle Waterway Plaza, a system of river trails named for the famed Miami chief.

In Geneva, former home of naturalist author Gene Stratton-Porter, it's the annual "Limberlost Days" festival, named for the beloved swamp she once wandered in wading boots.

Running through it all is the Wabash River, Indiana's most uner-appreciated natural resourc, says Norman "Lucky" Neiburger, president of the Wabash River Heritage Corridor Commission.

The commission, flush with a $5 million appropriation from the legislature, will soon being doling out money to jprojects with the best chances of attracting people to Wabash River communities.

Public access is a problem. There are no marinas along the river and few boat ramps. In fact, below Vincennes, there's about a 30-mile stretch without ramps.

Even Bluffton's Oubache State Park, which pays homage in its name to the work French explorers first used for the river, lacks a boat ramp.

The bigger challenge, however, to getting people to the river is making it clean enough to appeal to visitors, said Peter T. Harstad, executive director of the Indiana Historical Society.

The technology already exists to stop sewer overflows and other problems that foul the Wabash and other Indiana rivers, he said. The question is whether Hoosiers have the resolve to do it.

Date: 12/23/1999
Origin: Journal And Courier
Author: Rick Callahan
Record ID: 00002396
Type: Periodical
Source Archive: Warren County Historical Society
Date Entered: 8/10/2001
Collection: Court House
Entered By: Leslie J. Rice

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