The west basin was created in 1833 when carpenter John Justice built the public dock. It served as the northern terminus of the Erie Extension Canal, a 136-mile manmade water route that connected Lake Erie to the Ohio River just north of Pittsburgh. The digging of the canal was mostly done by teams of Irish immigrants using shovels, wheelbarrows, picks, and teams of horses. A total of 137 locks were used to overcome changes in elevation. The canal opened for use in December 1844. It played a major role in the development of towns like Erie as it was used to transport people, coal, iron ore, and merchandise to and from Erie and Pittsburgh. A one-way trip to Pittsburgh could be accomplished in only 36 hours! Competition from railroads and the collapse of an aqueduct over Elk Creek in Erie County in 1871 led to the canal's abandonment.