The nineteenth century saw an explosion of canal building, and with good cause: railroads were a monopoly, and trucks and automobiles had yet to be invented.
But today, many of these canals are disappearing fast – but not overnight. So they present a wonderful opportunity to watch how and where they slowly slip from reality into archaeology. I’ve provided some examples here and here.
Below you’ll see a new landmark site in the middle of downtown Strasbourg, the Rivetoile “complex.” It’s a shopping center / underground parking garage / apartments / movie theater all rolled into one. The old historic cranes are a reminder of the industrial past, and the water looks wonderful, filled with seagulls, swans, and an exploding community of muskrats:
(By the way, a few years ago it was rare to see a single muskrat, but now there are so many – including some really big, fat ones – and they are not shy about approaching visitors and begging for food. This is probably why the population has exploded.)
But this is about all the visitors and tourists will see. If you don’t mind the smell of urine and the occasional homeless person, you can explore further down the canal and you’ll find the original railroad tracks that were used to pull the boats down the canal:
Back in the day, even this would have been quite modern. The earliest canals relied on horses to pull the barges along.