Visit the Roanoke Canal Museum & Trail
Historic Travel Sites
On the National Register of Historic Places...
Step back in time with us toward the end of the 18th century. Imagine, if you will, our forefathers. Their fight for independence behind them, they now turned toward the task of developing this country, not only socially and politically, but also economically.
At that time, the Roanoke was the most important River in the state. With “proper encouragement,” this river could be used to transport goods to market.
However, there is a granite shelf in the river here in Halifax County. This creates a fall line which also creates the “great falls,” a major obstacle in transporting goods.
The realization that man would have to intervene to move goods around these falls to market led to one of the greatest engineering feats of the 18th century…The Roanoke Canal.
Follow the river now and experience the creation of the canal, the development of its industries, the beauty of its wildlife and the determination of its people…
On the Roanoke Canal Trail you will find:
- Observe Wildlife
- Rich with History
- Museum Exhibits
- Family Picnics
A little history...
Guests learn when they arrive at the museum and trailhead kiosks that the Roanoke Canal is nearly 200 years old. After the American War of Independence, the young nation’s founding fathers sought to open trade and transportation into their western frontier.
In 1882, new investors purchased the canal and developed it into a source of water power to generate electricity. By 1900, two powerhouses were in full operation but they were not destined to last long. Competition with a newer adjoining power canal, high maintenance costs, and the need for larger hydroelectric facilities put the navigation canal out of business for a second time in 1912.
The property was again sold, this time to the predecessors of Dominion Power Company, and facilities like the powerhouses served as maintenance and civic service buildings for several decades. In an effort to save the remains of the original navigation canal and its associated architectural features, the Roanoke Canal Commission was established to acquired the property or right of way and begin preservation and restoration efforts. In 1976, the remnants of the canal were placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the trail follows the canal’s original tow path for 7.2 miles between Roanoke Lake and Weldon. The Roanoke Canal Museum is the newest addition and located where the trail crosses Roanoke Avenue in Roanoke Rapids. The museum holds many exhibits about the history of the Roanoke River Valley, the engineering feats of the canal, and its later use as a source of hydroelectric power. The western trailhead is located at Roanoke Lake Day Use Park and the eastern trailhead is at River Falls Park in Weldon.