If you’ve been searching for a way to enjoy this beautiful weather and learning about Lowell’s rich history, you absolutely need to go on a canal boat tour! The tours are provided by the Lowell National Historical Park and are a great way to see how the waterways have supported Lowell’s historical development and growth throughout the years. I just so happened to go on the Working the Water Tour on one of the hottest days of the year (so far,) and it was nice to be on the water for a bit with a nice breeze!
The tour starts on the platform outside the visitor’s center at 246 Market Street. The park ranger who is leading your tour will give an introduction about what you will be experiencing and some background information before heading to the trolley which brings you to the boat.
Allison was the Park Ranger who led the tour I was on, and she was answering questions right from the start. Throughout the tour, Allison passed around pictures of how the canals appeared in their early years, maps of the canal system, and of the men who dug the canals or had important roles in canal history.
Not only was the tour filled with historical facts, but we also got to see a reenactment of how the Swamp Lock gate was manually opened and closed for those passing through. A sign with the toll prices was another piece that was really cool to see; for some reason it never occurred to me that boats paid tolls too!
One of the interesting visuals that Allison pointed out as we were going through the canal was that one side was made with stones fitted together and the other side was made with cement blocks. The cement, a more recent improvement, was breaking apart while the stones were solid and looked like they could be just a few years old.
The tour did not end when we stepped off the boat. Allison continued to give information about canal history and the influence and impact that it has had on Lowell. The tour ended with a trolley ride back to the visitor’s center on Market Street, which is just a short walk away from many unique cafes and restaurants, a perfect way to wrap up your day in the Canalway Cultural District. Check out the dining guide here.