Union Canal Tunnel Park
The Lebanon County Historical Society owns and maintains the Union Canal Tunnel, the oldest existing transportation tunnel in the United States. The Union Canal once linked the commercial centers of Harrisburg and Reading and, by extension, the port of Philadelphia. The tunnel and canal are located within the confines of Union Canal Tunnel Park, an open recreational area located at 25th and Union Canal Drive, Lebanon, Pennsylvania.
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.
Union Canal Days
Take a narrated tour through the oldest transportation tunnel in the United States during the 30th Annual Union Canal Days.
Check out the exhibitors and vendors, visit the antique dealers, or purchase your spring garden plants at the flower booth. 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.
Plan Your Visit
The Park is open year-round from dawn to dusk, with picnic tables and pavilion, benches, and several marked walking trails. There is no admission charge.
Narrated Canal Tours
Each Sunday, June through October 1st – 12:30 – 3:30PM. $9/Adult, $5/Student (ages 6-18). Children under age of 6 ride FREE. Weather Permitting.
Private Group Tours
Group rides are offered for parties with a minimum of 10. Tours should be scheduled at least 2 weeks in advance. Please contact the Historical Society at office@LCHSociety.org or call 717-272-1473 to make your reservation.
The Park and Haak Pavilion are available for rental for class reunions, family gatherings, and weddings. For group reservations or 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.
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.