Lebanon County PA > Attractions in Lebanon County > Historical Attractions > Union Canal Tunnel
Tucked away in the woods of North Lebanon Township is the tranquil Union Canal Tunnel and Park, one of the historical attractions in Lebanon County. As the oldest tunnel of its kind in the U.S., it is but a remnant of the original waterway that transported goods and passengers through the mid-nineteenth century.
This park has been preserved and it is maintained by the Friends of the Union Canal of the Lebanon County Historical Society.
Originally an idea of William Penn’s to connect the Schuykill and Susquehanna Rivers. Digging of the canal wasn’t actually started until approximately one hundred years later, with President George Washington ceremoniously turning the first shovel. However, funding issues postponed continued work and the canal didn’t truly open for regular travel until 1828, with enlarging of the canal system in the 1850’s to manage the traffic.
Canal boats, pulled by mules, navigated the 80 miles and over 100 locks until the canal’s closing in 1885, when it could no longer compete with the railroad connecting Reading and Harrisburg. The names connected with the Union Canal, its development and its service, live on in some of the street names found in Lebanon, such as Lehman, the State House Committee member who promoted the completion of the Union Canal Tunnel, and Guilford, the project’s engineer.
Over the years of disuse, parts of the canal became overgrown with some areas unrecognizable as a transportation system. However, thanks to organizations such as the Lebanon Historical Society, parts of the canal, towpath, and of course the stately stone tunnel, have been cleared and restored.
The area surrounding the Union Canal Tunnel is tranquil, with paths taking you through woods, open meadow areas for bird-watching or kite-flying, or the trail by the still water of the restored canal reflecting golds and greens of light and trees.
Take a leisurely stroll among the lush manicured walking trails, or sit quietly and listen to the multitude of bird calls singing through the air.
Get out of your daily routine and head over to the Union Canal Tunnel Park, turn off your cell phone, leave your laptop at home and just enjoy the simple things in life. Put on your walking / running shoes and enjoy the trails or bring a blanket, lay down and watch the skies. Come to the Union Canal Tunnel Park, breath the fresh air, feel the breeze and leave the park refreshed.
Union Canal Park is certainly a place where the beauty of nature and the relaxed pace of the past can be appreciated.
Union Canal Boat Rides & Other Activities
Through the Summer and Fall, there are opportunities to take a boat ride along the canal and through the tunnel. Going into the dimness of the tunnel, seeing the moisture on the hewn stone and the mineral deposits forming miniature stalactites, feeling the coolness as you glide along the water, makes it seem like you are going into a cave that takes you back in time.
Enjoy one of the moonlight boat rides offered during the summer.
- Adults $6.00
- Children 6 to 18 – $3.00
- Children under 6 Free (must be accompanied)
Boat Rides are only given on Sundays from June though October from 12:30 to 4:30 P.M. Special tours for groups are given whenever requested by calling 272-6949.
Other activities may include: A variety of musical entertainment, Colonial craft demonstrations and sales, Delicious food, Chicken Barbeque Dinners and more.
For more information please call 272-6949 or 273-4115. You may also call the Lebanon County Historical Society at 272-1473.
Union Canal Days
Beginning on the third weekend in May, come with your family and friends to enjoy Union Canal Days at the Union Canal Tunnel Park.
Admission for Festival: Free
Parking Fee: $1.00 per vehicle
Facilities at Union Canal Tunnel Park
The Union Canal Tunnel Park offers a pavilion with picnic tables that can be rented for parties, family and group gatherings. It is centered at the park surrounded by a meadow, trees and flower gardens. There is only one pavilion at the park, providing a nice intimate feeling for the group.
For more information please call 272-6949 or 273-4115 or use the form below to send a message.
Directions to Union Canal Tunnel & Park
Union Canal Tunnel Park can be reached from either Union Canal Rd at 25th Street or by using the small parking area along Tunnel Hill Rd and walking down the path to the Tunnel. Union Canal Park North can be accessed from the North side of Tunnel Hill Rd.