Union Canal Tunnel Park
The Union Canal Tunnel, owned by the Lebanon County Historical Society, is the oldest existing transportation tunnel in the United States. From 1827 to 1885 the Union Canal linked the commercial centers of Harrisburg, Reading, and by extension, the port of Philadelphia. The park serves the tunnel and the only remaining 5/8 mile section of the original canal through Lebanon with an open 110 acre recreational area.
Did you know?
The Union Canal Tunnel Park, dedicated in 1988, is now comprised of more than 100 acres of recreational and historic lands, open to the public and maintained by the volunteers of the Friends of the Union Canal Tunnel Park.
Plan Your Visit
The park is open year-round from dawn to dusk. Picnic tables and benches can be found throughout the park. There is a pavilion available to rent for events or may be used by guests if it isn’t reserved.
It is one of few parks that has over 90% grass or wood chipping trails located throughout the park on either side of the canal. There are two connection points to the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail with bike racks.
There is no admission charge.
Narrated Canal Tours
Tours run June through the second Sunday in October, weather permitting. Please check our Facebook Page or call 717-272-1473 to confirm dates and times. $10/Adult, $5/Student (ages 6-17). Children 5 and under ride FREE.
Thanks to our partnership with Cocoa Kayak Rentals, you can join us for a calm paddle and a history lesson, as a local historian shares the history and knowledge of the canal and surrounding area. The 2024 Kayaking Tour Dates will be posted as soon as they are available.
Private Group Tours
Group rides are offered for parties with a minimum of 10. The boat’s maximum capacity is 20 passengers.
Private tour rate: $150 for up to 20 passengers / $125 for additional tours.
School/Student groups: $100 for up to 20 passengers / $75 for additional tours.
No reserved tours on Sundays. Tours must be scheduled and PAID at least 2 weeks in advance.
The Park and Haak Pavilion are available for rental for class reunions, family gatherings, weddings and special events. Security Deposit $100
- Haak pavilion rental for events is $130.
- Pavilion and Grounds rental for Weddings is $230.
- Grounds without pavilion rental is $100.
Special events are considered on a case-by-case basis. Please contact us for pricing. For group reservations and more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Historical Society office 717-272-1473.
Pets are welcomed but must remain leashed at all times. Pet owners are responsible for clean-up and carry out of pet droppings.
25th Street and Union Canal Drive, Lebanon, Pennsylvania
Parking: The primary parking lot is located at the main Park entrance at the intersection of 25th St. and Union Canal Drive.
From the Pennsylvania Turnpike and PA-72: Take exit 266 toward PA-72/Lebanon/Lancaster, and turn left to get on PA-72 N. Continue 7.6 miles and turn left onto Cumberland St. (422W). Turn right at 25th St. and proceed 0.9 miles through the traffic light and stone tunnel under the railroad tracks, and turn left into the parking lot at the intersection of 25th St. and Union Canal Drive.
From I-81: Take exit 90 toward Fisher Ave, and turn left onto Fisher. Turn right toward PA-72 S and right again to take PA-72 S. Turn right at 22nd St. following the directional signs, then turn right onto Union Canal Dr. to the parking lot at the intersection of 25th St. and Union Canal Drive.
From I-78: Take exit 8 for US-22 W toward PA-343/Lebanon. Keep right and follow signs for Fredericksburg, then merge onto US-22 W. Turn left at PA-343, go 6.6 miles and turn right at Maple St., and continue west onto Rt 72 N, then left on 22nd St following the directional signs, then turn right onto Union Canal Dr. to the parking lot at the intersection of 25th St. and Union Canal Drive.
From Points East via US-422: Enter Lebanon and drive through on Cumberland St. Turn right at 25th St. and proceed 0.9 miles through the traffic light and stone tunnel under the railroad tracks, and turn left into the parking lot at the intersection of 25th St. and Union Canal Drive.
From Points West (including Harrisburg and I-83 via 581, and US-322) via US-422: Drive through Annville and Cleona, and then turn left at 25th St. and proceed 0.9 miles through the traffic light and stone tunnel under the railroad tracks, and turn left into the parking lot at the intersection of 25th St. and Union Canal Drive.
2024 Union Canal Day
May 18th, 9 am to 7 pm
Take a narrated boat tour through the oldest transportation tunnel in the United States during the 34th Annual Union Canal Day. This event will now be held one day only.
Check out the exhibitors, vendors, and listen to some live music. Take a chance on a basket at the raffle table or enjoy a delicious meal at one of the many picnic tables throughout the park.
Dug through the ridge dividing the waters of the Quittapahilla Creek and Clark’s Run, the tunnel was originally 729 feet long. Drilling was done by hand and blasting with gunpowder through argillaceous slate rock with veins of hard flinty limestone 80 feet below the summit of the ridge. Progress of the work was 5 yards lineal per week. Work began May 1825 and was completed in June 1827, at a total cost of $30,404.29. The tunnel’s length was reduced to 600 feet during the canal enlargement in 1858 at a cost of $8,280.00. Simeon Guilford was the engineer in charge, with John B. Ives as contractor. The first boat to pass through the tunnel was The Alpha of Tulpehocken on the morning of June 12, 1827. Boats were poled through the tunnel against the ceiling, while the mules were led over the top of the ridge.
In the early 1930s, the Civil Works Administration (CWA) worked on restoring the Tunnel, and the stone marker was dedicated. The boulder was brought by a sled with horses from the South Mountain near Colebrook. On December 29, 1933, upon request of the Lebanon County Historical Society, the Eastern Real Estate Company, successor in title to the Union Canal Company, granted the Lebanon County Historical Society the right to enter upon the property and take steps to preserve the engineering monument.
In April, 1950, the Historical Society completed the purchase of the Tunnel and adjacent property.
Designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1970, this tunnel is the oldest existing transportation tunnel in the United States. At the time of its construction, it was considered a work almost unknown in this country.
The North Side was purchased in 1992.
The Union Canal Tunnel was designated a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior on April 19, 1994.
Renovation took place from 1998 to 2000, which included dredging of the canal to Clark’s Run and the restoration of the North Portal. The Tunnel was opened for the first trip in September 2000.
The rest of the North Side was developed in 2005 and 2006, which included the building of the bridge and the dam, the dredging of the canal from Clark’s Run to Minnich Lane and planting of the trees. On September 9, 2006, the North section of the Park, located across Tunnel Hill Road, was dedicated and opened to the public.