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Canal boat rides at Providence Metropark offer a chance to experience another era

The living museum, featuring a mill and history center in addition to the canal and lock, was designed to teach the history of the canal during this time period.

PROVIDENCE, Ohio — If you're looking for a taste of what life was like before gas-powered transportation changed the world, you don't even have to leave the 419 to take a trip back in time.

The ghost town of Providence, near Grand Rapids, Ohio, may not live up to its name any longer, but it is a living museum. It's part of Metroparks Toledo now, with an educational experience frozen in 1876, featuring life on the Miami and Erie Canal.

Providence Metropark offers canal boat rides and a chance to check out one of the most complete examples of the canal era in the country.

At the historic canal experience, patrons will be transported on The Volunteer canal boat back in time to 1876.

This demonstrative emersion was designed to teach the history of the canal during this time period. During the ride, demonstrators and conductors board the replica of a mule-drawn canal boat dressed in traditional 1876 attire and explain the terrain that has, for the most part, been kept intact and preserved.

One of the canal's centerpieces is Lock #44, one of the last functioning 19th-century limestone locks. 

"It’s a great way to step back in the time. Everyone is welcome to come out and experience the history of 1876, which is a little different than 2022," Canal Experience Coordinator Jodie McFarland said. "Quite frankly, it’s an experience, to me, like you won’t find anywhere else, especially here in northwest Ohio."

The canal rides are a blast from the past while also being a way to set aside the technology of 2022 and let eco-friendly transportation provide a rare moment of serenity.

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