The Cape Cod Canal

The Sagamore Bridge arches over the Cape Cod Canal. BRGPhoto

The idea of constructing a canal to connect Buzzards Bay and Cape Cod Bay was considered as early as 1632 by Miles Standish of Plymouth Colony. Although the canal was not to be built for centuries, the idea of the Cape Cod Canal was born.

George Washington gave credence to this idea during the Revolutionary War when he saw a need for a canal to offer greater security to America. A report was ordered and Thomas Machin, an Engineer with the Continental Army, investigated the possibility of building the Canal in 1776. This is the first documented Cape Cod Canal survey.

In 1904, August Perry Belmont purchased the Boston, Cape Cod and New York Canal Company which owned the charter for the construction of the Canal. He reorganized the company and, after enlisting a renowned Civil Engineer, William Barclay Parson, broke ground on June 22, 1909. The Buzzards Bay Railroad Bridge was completed in 1910, followed by the Bourne Bridge in 1911 and the Sagamore Bridge in 1912. On July 29, 1914, the Cape Cod Canal opened as a privately owned waterway.

In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson ordered that the canal be sold to Federal Railroad Administration as a measure of defense. In March of 1928, the Canal was sold for $11,500,000. The Canal underwent great improvements and today is a toll free waterway, measuring 480 feet wide, 32 feet deep and 17.4 miles long.

The Recreation Hotline is (508) 759-5991 for fishing information, weather reports and special programs. For additional information on the programs offered at the Cape Cod Canal Region, please call (508) 759-4431.

About the Author

Walter and Pat Brooks of East Harwich, MA, along with Steve Sullivan of Brewster, MA founded Best Read Guide Cape Cod and Best Read Guides, Inc. in July 1988 after 30 years in newspapering and sold the business to industry leader CTM Media Group in 2016. The mission in founding the magazine was to provide a high-quality free publication for visitors to Cape Cod which would show them where to go and what to do in an easy-to-use format. Published and distributed by CTM Media Group, find the printed guide at hundreds of locations both on and off the Cape or find fun fast online at and