From Ohio History Central
East portal of the Whitewater Canal Tunnel
In 1836, the state of Indiana began construction on the Whitewater Canal in the southeastern part of the state. Cincinnati, Ohio, businessmen, concerned that the Whitewater Canal might reduce their business once it was completed, decided that it was necessary to build a canal that would connect the city to the Whitewater Canal. Since the canal would cross state boundaries, most of its funding came from private sources. The Ohio legislature only provided about one-third of the construction money, as required by the "Plunder Law."
The Cincinnati and Whitewater Canal was built between 1839 and 1843. When completed, the canal extended approximately ninety miles. Like most canals, things never went as smoothly as the builders had intended. To construct the canal, workers had to build a tunnel near North Bend, Ohio. When completed, the tunnel was 1,782 feet long. Workers used stone to line the tunnel's entrances and soft bricks to cover the walls and ceiling. The canal was four feet deep, and the tunnel rose eighteen feet above the canal's water line. A towpath existed along the tunnel's western wall, but most canalboats relied on men to pull the boats through the tunnel's tight spaces, while the tow animals walked over the hill above the tunnel. The Cincinnati and Whitewater Canal tunnel was the only canal tunnel in Ohio and one of only five such structures to exist in the United States.