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Saratoga Falls Park
From this point, before the canal, you would view the river rapids known as
Saratoga Falls. The falls rocks are noted on the 1830 survey map to the right.
The Northumberland Dam was originally constructed in 1822 to control the
flow of water in the Hudson River and the Champlain Canal. It was an
important structure because it created a navigable pool of water in the Hudson
where the canal crossed the river. It also provided waterpower to early saw
mills and local industries that developed on both sides of the river.
Engineers took advantage of the landscape, as well as the abundant stone and
timber resources of the region, when they constructed a timber dam at the site
of the Saratoga Falls in 1822. Under wet and dry conditions the wood
decayed rapidly and there were several repairs done before a new dam was
constructed in 1869. One section at a time, the old dam was removed and
replaced with stone and heavy granite blocks.
When the Champlain Barge Canal was constructed in the early part of the 20th
century, a sidecut was made, creating Lock 5 Island. The L-shape of the dam
(shown right in an 1830 canal map) helped maintain an even water level in the
lock chamber, while allowing excess water to spill over the dam and continue
down the natural course of the river. The stone pylons prevent boats from
being caught in the current.
1830 Canal survey map. The red line is the canal towpath.