Mule-Drawn Canal Boat Experience

Canal Experience, where education and fun collide! As a mom I am always on the lookout for events and activities that are educational. Meanwhile, the kiddos hunger for fun. The Canal Experience at Providence Metropark in Grand Rapids, Ohio is jammed pack full of educational fun! It is literally a floating history lesson!

UPDATE: You can go aboard the docked boat, The Volunteer for FREE but the actual experience is not available at this time (as of, 6-18-2021)



Canal1We arrived at Providence Metropark and enjoyed the modern amenities (plumbing, flushing toilets, running fresh water, etc.) and then made our way across the bridge where we were taken back to the year 1876. Canal2The flux capacitor could not have done a more superior job! As we strolled up to purchase our ticket for The Volunteer, the mule-drawn canal boat, the attendant was dressed in 1876 period costume with a long prairie dress, apron, bonnet,…the works!Canal3

Canal4Before boarding The Volunteer, we received some background information on the time period from one of the crew members who was also dressed in a period costume circa 1870s. As we boarded the canal boat we were officially submersed in 1876, just as Marty McFly was asked about his “life preserver” I feared I might be questioned about my pants! Lol! The canal crew stayed 100% in character, it was fascinating!!Canalex15


Canal5We learned so much about canal life while aboard the 60 foot replica of a “state-packet” boat. First and foremost the pace of life back then was extremely slow compared to our modern day Wi-Fi speeds and instant gratification addictions. The two-mule team pulled The Volunteer at a whopping 4 MPH. I must admit there was something inviting, comforting, and even enjoyable about slowing down our speed and soaking in a glimpse of what life was like back in the 1870s.Canal8


The children enjoyed learning about canal life particularly the fascinating amenities like the “thunder bucket”, meals of Muskrat, and how one would sleep aboard the boat, but by far their favorite part of our 1 hour tour, the restored lock. Canalex1Lock #44 is one of the last functioning 19th century limestone locks!! It was fascinating watching the crew spring to action to open and close the lock. To be able to literally view and feel The Volunteer, being lifted 4 feet and then lowered was amazing. Canal10And to think, these 19th century canal boats carrying passengers and freight from Toledo to Cincinnati were where it all began, was the modern day means for transporting materials for commerce back then…that is until those “metal monstrosities” (railroads/trains) which eventually replaced the 4MPH canal boats.  Canal11

We were sad to see our canal boat experience end but super excited to pet the mules that towed the boat on the tow path and to tour the Ludwig Mill!Canalex


The Isaac Ludwig Mill is an authentic, functioning, turn-of-the-century grist and flourmill. It has a turbine-powered, functioning sawmill. It is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Canalex11Canalex6The staff/ volunteers manning the mill were also in period costumes and did a remarkable job illustrating how the antique milling equipment operates. Canalex8Canalex5The gentleman expressed the process so fluently that even my kindergartner was fascinated. Canalex2 Canalex4We were able to witness the mechanics involved with the process of milling used in the 1800’s and there was products produced at the mill available for purchase.  Canalex7Kiddos can’t wait to go back and see artisan demonstrate crafts like tinsmithing, candlemaking, blacksmithing, etc.Canalex9


Canalex14Plan your trip today….go back to the future!!


Address: 13801 S River Rd, Grand Rapids, OH 43522

Phone: 419-407-9741

Website: For Boat & Mill Schedule Click on link

Hours: Vary (see website)

Admission: $7 adults, $6 seniors (60 and over) and Metroparks members, $4 children (3 to 12); ages two and under free.

Ohio Presidents Tour: Grant’s Birthplace

Every summer we make a bucket list of places and things we would like to do. And this summer we decided to visit all the Ohio Presidential sites. Mind you, there are 8 Presidential sites in Ohio. Our First stop on our Ohio Presidential Tour is the birthplace of our 18th President, Ulysses S. Grant in Point Pleasant, Ohio.


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Ulysses S. Grant (April 27, 1822 – July 23, 1885)

18th President of the United States (1869–77).

Commanding General of the United States Army (1864–69)

Birthplace: Point Pleasant, OH

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Our drive down to Grant’s birthplace was so scenic. The hills, though they seriously made this momma car sick (thank God for Dramamine), also provided such a magnificent view that we NW Ohio peeps don’t have the pleasure of relishing. As we pulled up to Grant’s birthplace home it reminded me of a little town you would see on a train board, complete with a church on a hill, whitewashed everything, etc. it was so cute and quaint.

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Our tour guide, Jim, greeted us at the door. Now, I will admit, going into this I think we were all kind of anticipating a boring, monotone, anticlimactic kinda tour, and what we received was the complete opposite. In fact Jim’s passion and enthusiasm for our 18th president became contagious, by the end of our tour the kids couldn’t wait to go to the next Presidential site.  

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Here are my Top Highlights from the Tour (I don’t want to give them all away….you need to have something to look forward to when you visit, wink wink).

Tour Highlights:

What’s in a name?– Ulysses S. Grant was actually born Hiram Ulysses Grant. He despised the name Hiram and never went by it; he always went by his middle name, Ulysses, or Lysse. So where did the S in Ulysses S. Grant come from? When congressman Thomas L. Hamer nominated him for Military Academy at West Point he assumed his name was Ulysses Simpson Grant due to the fact that he had always gone by Ulysses and back then the mothers maiden name was often used as the middle name. Grant tried to explain that it wasn’t his name but all the forms had it written already and since he hated the name Hiram it was the perfect opportunity to be rid of that name, which was probably a good thing since his initials had to be sewn onto everything at the Academy and having the initials H.U.G. would have probably resulted in a lot of harassment from the other guys. Note the chest at the foot of the bed, which is Grant’s actual chest that he took with him to the Academy (it did not photograph well thanks to the Plexiglas).

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Family Heirloom– The hutch below was a wedding present to Grant’s parents, talk about a piece of history, I am a sucker for all antiques! I was totally excited when Jim said we could touch the piece (they usually don’t let you touch anything…and yes, I am worse than the kids, lol!), though it looks smooth it was really rough, when you look at it upclose the craftsmanship was apparent….I am a history of furniture junky, so I found this piece to be quite fascinating.

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Did momma get that out with A-L-L (stain lifter!?)-There were a lot of period pieces in the one room house and a handful of actual pieces/items that belonged to the Grant family, including the nightgown hanging on the wall, which was Grant’s mother’s nightgown. We are talking about an almost 2 hundred year old nightgown. Anyone else dying to know how she laundered it? I have shirts in my drawer that don’t look that white!

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Next round is on Lincoln!-When McClellan got wind of Lincoln wishing to make Grant a three Star Lieutenant General, (only George Washington had risen to that rank in the U.S. Army before him), he protested by stating that Grant shouldn’t receive this ranking because he drank an excess of alcohol. To which Lincoln replied, “Find out what Grant drinks and send a barrel of it to each of my other generals!” Here is a copy of the letter from President Lincoln addressing Grant as Lieutenant General …..

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Isn’t it Romantic & Who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb? – Grant died from throat cancer on July 23, 1885—four days after completing his memoirs (memoirs that he only wrote because he wanted to leave his wife with money…he had lost it all when he fell victim to a Ponzi scheme) On August 8, 1885, more than a million people attended his funeral procession, which was seven miles long and lasted five hours. Money was a concern with regard to his funeral arrangements; he could have been buried in Arlington Cemetery and it wouldn’t have cost anything but he refused because he wanted to be buried with his wife….I totally let out a vocal, and loud, AWWWW, when I heard this, how romantic! Speaking of romantic, she carried a lock of his hair for always in her locket.

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A public foundation was formed to fund a memorial & within two years, approximately 90,000 people from around the country and the world donated more than $600,000 to construct Grant’s tomb. (At the time, it was the largest public fundraising effort ever). Designed by architect John Duncan, Grant’s Tomb was completed in 12 years and remains the largest mausoleum in North America.

And there was so much more that we learned about Grant’s family, childhood, etc. in fact, I learned so many intriguing things about Grant that I now wish to read his Memoirs and I can honestly say that prior to visiting his birthplace I had little, to no interest, in doing so.


Kiddos got their first stamp in their Ohio Historic Passports…..

Passport to Your Ohio History

Explore Ohio, a state rich with stories of Native American and African American culture, 19th-century life, ancient earthworks, presidential heritage, space travel and more. Enjoy your visits. Have fun while you learn. And don’t miss the chance to capture a memorable adventure that is uniquely yours!

Within your passport you’ll find helpful information about each Ohio History Connection site. As you visit, you can collect site stamps representing each location and answer challenging trivia questions.

Passports will be available at the Ohio History Center and many of our sites throughout Ohio.

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More Pics…..


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If you are looking for a place to eat nearby we recommend…(you can sit outside by the Ohio River)



Phone: (513) 553-4911

Address: 1551 State Route 232, Point Pleasant, OH 45153


Admission: Adult: $3.00, Senior: $2.00, Children 6-12: $1.50, OHC Member: Free, Children (Under 6): Free, School groups: $35/bus

Hours: Open April–October Wed – Sat: 9:30 a.m.–noon & 1 p.m.–5 p.m. Sun: 1 p.m.–5 p.m. (Will open by appointment during the off season).