After much bushwhacking and research, with guidance from other bushwhackers and researchers and support from the Fairmount Water Works, I have photographed the entirety of the 200-year-old Schuylkill Navigation system, or what remains. Until now there has been no such contemporary record.

At the completion of the Navigation in 1825, the Schuylkill River was tamed from Port Carbon to Fairmount, 108 miles. There were 32 dams, 46 miles of slackwater pools, 62 miles of canals, and (at one time) 120 locks. Barges began to bring coal down from the mountains, and canals provided water power to factories. The Navigation literally fueled the Industrial Revolution throughout the watershed and beyond. Unfortunately, it also led directly to the pollution of the river, then and now the drinking water supply of Philadelphia and three other cities. The Philadelphia Watering Committee looked for other sources, but nothing else was viable but to clean the Schuylkill.

The river's recovery began with the Schuylkill Project of 1947-51, the first major government (state and federal) cleanup of an American river. Most of the dams were dismantled. Coal waste that had piled up behind them was dredged, impounded in new basins, and recycled. The river was finally able to clean itself, a huge step toward healing the ecosystem, two decades before the regulations of the Clean Water Act.

Now, as the expanding Schuylkill River Trail leads us to previously inaccessible sections of the riverbank, more of these sites may be cleaned up, commemorated, even partially restored. But many will lie neglected on private property. At the 200th anniversary of its construction, I'm documenting the abandonment of the industrial landscape that has shaped my native Schuylkill River Valley ever since the first dam was built.

All the sites are in Pennsylvania.

Lock 18, Landingville Playground 2016

Lock 18, Landingville Playground 2016

Canal Bed, Auburn 2017

Canal Bed, Auburn 2017

Scotchmans Lock 22, Auburn 2017

Scotchmans Lock 22, Auburn 2017

Lock 28/29 at site of Blue Mountain Dam #16, 2015

Lock 28/29 at site of Blue Mountain Dam #16, 2015

Kernsville Desilting Basin, 2017

Kernsville Desilting Basin, 2017

Lock 33, Shoemakersville, 2017

Lock 33, Shoemakersville, 2017

Capstones of Lock 34/35, Mohrsville, 2016

Capstones of Lock 34/35, Mohrsville, 2016

Lock 49 at Poplar Neck Dam #23, Reading, 2017

Lock 49 at Poplar Neck Dam #23, Reading, 2017

Seidel's Aqueduct, Girard Canal near Birdsboro, 2016

Seidel's Aqueduct, Girard Canal near Birdsboro, 2016

Capstones of Lock 51 and Locktender's House, Birdsboro, 2017

Capstones of Lock 51 and Locktender's House, Birdsboro, 2017

Canal Bed and Deer, near Snyder's Aqueduct, Birdsboro, 2017

Canal Bed and Deer, near Snyder's Aqueduct, Birdsboro, 2017

Capstone of Lock 56, Locktender's House, Parker Ford, 2017

Capstone of Lock 56, Locktender's House, Parker Ford, 2017

Datestone on Guard Lock 58 at site of #25 Vincent (Yankee) Dam, 2017

Datestone on Guard Lock 58 at site of #25 Vincent (Yankee) Dam, 2017

Riffles from Pawlings Dam #27 Remains and Lock 62, Valley Forge, 2017

Riffles from Pawlings Dam #27 Remains and Lock 62, Valley Forge, 2017

Lock 63 at Catfish Dam #28, Port Kennedy, 2015

Lock 63 at Catfish Dam #28, Port Kennedy, 2015

New Development, Lock 63 at Catfish Dam #28, Port Kennedy, 2015

New Development, Lock 63 at Catfish Dam #28, Port Kennedy, 2015

Browers Lock 61 and Locktender's House, Oaks, 2016

Browers Lock 61 and Locktender's House, Oaks, 2016

Lock 68 at Flat Rock Dam #31, Philadelphia, 2015

Lock 68 at Flat Rock Dam #31, Philadelphia, 2015

Lock 68 at Flat Rock Dam #31, Philadelphia, 2014

Lock 68 at Flat Rock Dam #31, Philadelphia, 2014