Canal Lives

Welcome Aboard

From the Revolution to Reconstruction, the James River & Kanawha Canal (JR&KC) ran through the heart of Virginian history. The canal system, Virginia's largest and the United States' oldest, linked people and places across the Commonwealth for over a century.

Explore intersections of social and spatial history with Canal Lives on the JR&KC. Meet eight Virginians whose lives intersected with the canal, and see how the JR&KC fit in to the economic landscape of nineteenth-century Virginia. Scroll down for an orientation.


The People

Digging Ditches

Virginians built the JR&KC with their hands and their heads. Some worked on the canal, others profited from it, still others dreamt of an idyllic life along its banks. Dive into the lived experience of the JR&KC through the stories of people who lived and worked on the canal.

Blue circles on the map are Canal Lives.


The System

A Ditch In Time

Explore the geography of the JR&KC system. Follow the mainline canal along the James River from Richmond over the mountains. Locate its numerous tributaries, the canalized streams and turnpikes that fed traffic into the system. Learn about the towns and villages that linked the economic infrastructure of canal-era Virginia.

Red circles and lines on the map are components of the JR&KC system.


How To Use The Map

Hover over the map to idenitfy its features. Click each feature to learn more.