Keeping the Erie Canal Clear of Elephants (handmade collage)


The New York State Barge Canal opened in 1918, drawing much of the commercial traffic away from the Erie Canal. With fewer barges upon its water, the Erie was soon overrun with African gray elephants, an invasive species thought to have been brought to the eastcoast waterways on transAtlantic trade ships. The watering animals proved to be something of nuisance, holding up the barges that still traveled the Erie. It was thought that if the elephants could be coaxed from the waterways they might serve as ideal draft animals working along the banks of the canal. In a joint effort of the New York State Waterway Authority and State Parks Commission, engineers and rangers set about luring the pachyderms with just-out-of-reach peanuts. The plan proved to be a marvel of cooperation and engineering. In a few years, the waterways were cleared of elephants and brisk trade returned to the Erie.