Union Canal Tunnel Park
The Lebanon County Historical Society owns and maintains the Union Canal Tunnel, the oldest existing transportation tunnel in the United States. The Union Canal once linked the commercial centers of Harrisburg and Reading and, by extension, the port of Philadelphia. The tunnel and canal are located within the confines of Union Canal Tunnel Park, an open recreational area located at 25th and Union Canal Drive, Lebanon, Pennsylvania.
Did you know?
The Union Canal Tunnel Park, dedicated in 1988, is now comprised of more than 100 acres of recreational and historic lands, open to the public and maintained by the volunteers of the Friends of the Union Canal Tunnel Park.
Plan Your Visit
The Park is open year-round from dawn to dusk, with picnic tables and pavilion, benches, and several marked walking trails. There is no admission charge.
Narrated Canal Tours
Each 1st, 2nd, 3rd, & 5th Sunday, June through September 30th: 12:30 – 3:30PM. $10/Adult, $5/Student (ages 6-17). Children 5 and under ride FREE.
TOURS will also run Thursday, July 4th from 5 pm until dusk.
Weather Permitting. Please be sure to check the Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/Union-Canal-Tunnel-Park-324950880935352/ – for updates and changes or call 717-272-1473.
Private Group Tours
Group rides are offered for parties with a minimum of 10. The boat’s maximum capacity is 20 passengers.
Private tour rate: $150 – for up to 20 passengers.
School/Student groups: $100 / $75 for additional rides.
No reserved tours on Sundays. Tours must be scheduled and PAID at least 2 weeks in advance.
The Park and Haak Pavilion are available for rental for class reunions, family gatherings, and weddings.
Grounds or pavilion rental for events is $75.
Grounds rental for Cross Country meets is $200.
Pets are welcomed but must remain leashed at all times.
25th and Union Canal Drive, Lebanon, Pennsylvania
Parking: The primary parking lot is located at the main Park entrance at the intersection of 25th St. and Union Canal Drive.
From the Pennsylvania Turnpike and PA-72: Take exit 266 toward PA-72/Lebanon/Lancaster, and turn left to get on PA-72 N. Continue 7.6 miles and turn left onto Cumberland St. (422W). Turn right at 25th St. and proceed 0.9 miles through the traffic light and stone tunnel under the railroad tracks, and turn left into the parking lot at the intersection of 25th St. and Union Canal Drive.
From I-81: Take exit 90 toward Fisher Ave, and turn left onto Fisher. Turn right toward PA-72 S and right again to take PA-72 S. Turn right at 22nd St. following the directional signs, then turn right onto Union Canal Dr. to the parking lot at the intersection of 25th St. and Union Canal Drive.
From I-78: Take exit 8 for US-22 W toward PA-343/Lebanon. Keep right and follow signs for Fredericksburg, then merge onto US-22 W. Turn left at PA-343, go 6.6 miles and turn right at Maple St., and continue west onto Rt 72 N, then left on 22nd St following the directional signs, then turn right onto Union Canal Dr. to the parking lot at the intersection of 25th St. and Union Canal Drive.
From Points East via US-422: Enter Lebanon and drive through on Cumberland St. Turn right at 25th St. and proceed 0.9 miles through the traffic light and stone tunnel under the railroad tracks, and turn left into the parking lot at the intersection of 25th St. and Union Canal Drive.
From Points West (including Harrisburg and I-83 via 581, and US-322) via US-422: Drive through Annville and Cleona, and then turn left at 25th St. and proceed 0.9 miles through the traffic light and stone tunnel under the railroad tracks, and turn left into the parking lot at the intersection of 25th St. and Union Canal Drive.
Union Canal Days – CANCELLED FOR 2020
Take a narrated tour through the oldest transportation tunnel in the United States during the 31st Annual Union Canal Days.
Check out the exhibitors and vendors, visit the antique dealers, or purchase your spring garden plants at the flower booth. Take a chance on a basket at the raffle table or enjoy a delicious meal at one of the many picnic tables throughout the park.
Dug through the ridge dividing the waters of the Quittapahilla Creek and Clark’s Run, the tunnel was originally 729 feet long. Drilling was done by hand and blasting with gunpowder through argillaceous slate rock with veins of hard flinty limestone 80 feet below the summit of the ridge. Progress of the work was 5 yards lineal per week. Work began May 1825 and was completed in June 1827, at a total cost of $30,404.29. The tunnel’s length was reduced to 600 feet during the canal enlargement in 1858 at a cost of $8,280.00. Simeon Guilford was the engineer in charge, with John B. Ives as contractor. The first boat to pass through the tunnel was The Alpha of Tulpehocken on the morning of June 12, 1827. Boats were poled through the tunnel against the ceiling, while the mules were led over the top of the ridge.
In the early 1930s, the Civil Works Administration (CWA) worked on restoring the Tunnel, and the stone marker was dedicated. The boulder was brought by a sled with horses from the South Mountain near Colebrook. On December 29, 1933, upon request of the Lebanon County Historical Society, the Eastern Real Estate Company, successor in title to the Union Canal Company, granted the Lebanon County Historical Society the right to enter upon the property and take steps to preserve the engineering monument.
In April, 1950, the Historical Society completed the purchase of the Tunnel and adjacent property.
Designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1970, this tunnel is the oldest existing transportation tunnel in the United States. At the time of its construction, it was considered a work almost unknown in this country.
The North Side was purchased in 1992.
The Union Canal Tunnel was designated a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior on April 19, 1994.
Renovation took place from 1998 to 2000, which included dredging of the canal to Clark’s Run and the restoration of the North Portal. The Tunnel was opened for the first trip in September 2000.
The rest of the North Side was developed in 2005 and 2006, which included the building of the bridge and the dam, the dredging of the canal from Clark’s Run to Minnich Lane and planting of the trees. On September 9, 2006, the North section of the Park, located across Tunnel Hill Road, was dedicated and opened to the public.