It’s equal parts natural and historical, but it’s also entirely beautiful. Welcome to the Union Canal Tunnel Park.
All photos by Will Trostel.
LebTown headed out at the end of October to spend a day at the Lebanon park before the autumn colors fade altogether. Here’s what we saw.
The park is located north of Route 422, close to the Lebanon Valley Mall. It has two access points, one on Tunnel Hill Road and another at the intersection of 25th Street and Union Canal Drive.
The park’s namesake is the Union Canal, which runs right through the heart of the 110-acre property and linked Reading to Harrisburg. At Tunnel Hill Road, the canal travels through a 600-foot tunnel underneath the traffic. This tunnel is actually believed to be the oldest existing transportation tunnel in the United States and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1994. In its original form, the tunnel was finished in 1827 and the first boat passed through it on June 12 of that year.
The tunnel was purchased by the Lebanon County Historical Society in 1950 and the park itself was dedicated in 1988. Maintenance work and other park activities are handled by the volunteer group Friends of Union Canal Tunnel Park.
Besides the canal, the park contains plenty of walking trails and a recently added segment of the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail, which officially opened in 2019. During a typical warm weather season, the park offers tours of the canal and tunnel in the Lois H. Meily, a boat named for a long-serving Union Canal volunteer. Union Canal Days and Civil War reenactments are also often part of the fun earlier in the year.
One of the newest and most notable additions to the park is the Krall Barn, a reconstructed 18th-century log barn that sits just below the south parking area. The barn was originally built in Schaefferstown in the 1790s by a German immigrant.
In 2007, the barn (known by the name of its last farming family) was sold and seemed fated for demolition. Through the efforts of the Lebanon Valley Conservancy, the Lebanon County Historical Society, and the Pennsylvania Log House Society, the barn was saved piece by piece and eventually rebuilt in the Union Canal Tunnel Park.
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