Urban designer and author Jeff Speck singled out the Lower Locks in the Lowell Downtown Evolution Plan. The Lower Locks, he writes, “has the potential to fundamentally transform Lowell into a city of the first rank.”
The massive complex of gates, locks, and spillways is dramatic. Prodigious granite walls rise up from the base of the locks within sight of the confluence of the Concord River. An elegant gatehouse perches atop the locks, masking the serene mill pond above the sheets of water pouring down to the canal bed.
The Pawtucket Canal was originally built as a transportation canal in 1796 to route goods around the Pawtucket Falls on the Merrimack River. But with the construction of the Lower Locks in 1823, the canal was incorporated into a water control system to power mills.
Today, the spectacular setting is framed by the downtown campus of Middlesex Community College and the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center. The presence of two institutions of higher education offers a wealth of opportunities for active use as well as options for regular and