Delta Dam, Near Rome, 1916

Historical Context
The village of Delta, New York, with its approximately 150 homes grew up around the Mohawk River.   When the Barge Canal was under construction in the early 1900s, the area around and including the village of Delta was selected as a site to build a dam and a reservoir to provide a much-needed source of water, especially during the dry summer months.  Besides providing water to the canal, it also helped control flooding in the spring in the city of Rome.  With the completion of the Barge Canal in 1915, the village of Delta was washed away.  

The Delta Dam and its storage reservoir form an artificial lake of about 4½ square miles.  The power house allowed the lock to generate its own power by means of a water turbine.  The tow and change bridge enabled the mules and horses pulling boats on the canal to cross from one towpath to another.  It solved the problem of canal traffic becoming tied up in the eastern part of the state due to a summer drought.
Essential Question
How does technology impact the geography and economy of a society?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and evaluate the impact of the canals on the geography and economy of local communities.
[click to enlarge]
Canal. Delta Dam, New York State Archives, NYSA_A3045-78_A7363
Document Description
Delta Dam, power house, locks of relocated Black River Canal, a tow and change bridge, four miles north of Rome, New York, 1916.  
  1. What are the parts and features of transportation in this photograph?
  2. What are two sources of power in this photograph?
  3. What conclusions can be made about the importance of the Delta Dam to transportation of goods on the Barge Canal?
Historical Challenge
Were other towns also lost because of the creation of the Barge Canal?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Science: How does a water turbine work? How does a dam control water flow?
English Language Arts: Create a piece of propaganda promoting the view to keep the village of Delta and stop work on the dam.
  1. American Canal Society. The Canals of New York State. American Canal and Transportation Center, 1995. ISBN: 0933788827
  2. Harness, Cheryl. Amazing Impossible Erie Canal. Simon & Schuster Children's, May 1999. ISBN: 0689825846
  3. Hurst, Carol Otis. Through the Lock.. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001. ISBN: 0618030360.
  4. Larkin, F. Daniel, Julie C. Daniels, and Jean West, eds. Erie Canal: New York's Gift to the Nation, A Document-Based Teacher Resource. Cobblestone Publishng Company, 2001. ISBN: 081267555X
  5. Stein, R. Conrad. The Erie Canal. New York: Children's Press, 2004. ISBN: 0516242431.