The Canal Experience

Toledo Time Travels  |  By Tedd Long  |  06/28/2019 9:00 am

It is hard to imagine how an hour-long boat ride can take you back over 140 years but that’s the magic of the Metroparks Toledo Canal Experience.  Located in Grand Rapids, Ohio, the Canal Experience is one of the greatest concentrations of canal era features in the USA. Hop aboard The Volunteer, a mule-drawn reproduction canal boat and it’s suddenly 1876 and you are a passenger on the Miami-Erie Canal on your way to points south. Historical interpreters in period attire share stories of a time when the smoothest way to travel was aboard long narrow boats pulled by mules along man-made waterways. The interpreters stay in character on the first half of the cruise as they manhandle your packet boat through Lock #44, one of the last functioning 19th century limestone locks on the Miami and Erie Canal. After your canal trip, a stop by the nearby Heritage Center and Isaac Ludwig Mill will round out your local history experience. The mill is a functioning water-powered saw and gristmill where, during listed hours, visitors can also interact with a costumed volunteer and learn how waterpower was used to saw wood, grind flour and generate electricity.

Plan to make a day of it and pack a picnic to enjoy in the surrounding park and bring your fishing poles to reel in some small mouth bass at scenic Providence Dam, constructed across the Maumee River to maintain water levels in the canal. And don’t forget to cross over the Maumee and visit Grand Rapids, a charming canal town where you'll find antiques, gifts and collectibles inside beautifully restored canal-era buildings, many of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

More information for planning your visit are available at www.

Plan Your Visit

What: The Canal Experience

Where: Providence Metropark, 13827 S. River Road, Grand Rapids, Ohio; 419-407-9700

Hours: Hours vary through October for Canal Experience and Isaac Ludwig Mill; check online for details. The Heritage Center is open during park hours, 7 a.m. to dark.

For the Kids: Kids love the adventure of a canal boat trip! Who knows, maybe one of the interpreters will put them to work on the boat and pay them with a wooden nickel! The best part is the whole experience is literally a floating history lesson.

Cost: $7 adults, $6 seniors (60 and over) and Metroparks members, $4 children (3 to 12); ages two and under free. The Ludwig Mill and Heritage Center are free.

Parking: Parking is free and located relatively close to the entrance.

For more local history, check out my history blog at