Harwich Has Its Very Own Canal

You’ve likely already heard of the much larger Cape Cod Canal, but long before it came to fruition, there was another canal built, and it has a unique story. This one is mostly thanks to a forward-thinking, Harwich sea captain.

The Cahoon Canal is still in operation today, but its history stretches back to the mid-1800s. That’s when Captain Alvin Cahoon reportedly found some wild cranberries growing near Pleasant Lake and came up with the idea to start farming them on his own land near Punkhorn Road.

Unfortunately, Cahoon ran into some issues in the beginning, mainly in terms of coming up with the right soil conditions and ensuring an adequate fresh water supply. To solve some of the problems, Cahoon hatched a plan to dig a 500-foot-long canal, stretching from Seymour’s Pond to Hinckley’s Pond.

While not everyone thought the plan would work in the beginning, it soon proved successful. Within weeks the new canal had accomplished its goal.

Many now credit the man-made Cahoon Canal for the success of several cranberry farms in the region. Today, there’s even an old stone culvert, originally built by the Cahoon family, that runs under Punkhorn Road. Now more than 160-years old, it was built to last, and is still allows fish and wildlife to safely travel under the road and on to the next pond. 

In more recent years, a Harwich resident named Donald Bates, Jr gifted nearly one-and-a-half acres of land fronting the Cahoon Canal to the Harwich Conservation Trust. The trust has a program that helps protect local pond water and habitats.

Crews come in periodically to cut back trees and vegetation, as well as remove any sediment that has the potential of blocking the canal. There’s also an annual spring cleanup to ensure local wildlife can safely utilize the Cahoon Canal.

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