Cargo included coal, lumber, grain, and iron, much of it bound for Baltimore or Philadelphia.
The canal had 29 locks overcoming 231 feet (70 m) of elevation.
At Wrightsville and the Columbia–Wrightsville canal basin, it connected with the Pennsylvania Canal's Eastern Division, part of the Main Line of Public Works.
A copy of a detailed survey blueprint of the entire canal system including structures and property ownership details was donated (date unknown) by the Safe Harbor Water Power Corporation to Millersville University (assessed on 10/06/2016 in the MU Archives at Sp. Residents of the rival port city of Philadelphia, fearing loss of trade to Baltimore, argued against the proposal.
In 1829, completion of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal across an isthmus south of Philadelphia, resolved the impasse by shortening the water link between Havre de Grace and Philadelphia to 74 miles (119 km).
Of its total length, 30 miles (48 km) were in Pennsylvania and 13 miles (21 km) in Maryland.
The Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal between Wrightsville, Pennsylvania, and Havre de Grace, Maryland, at the head of Chesapeake Bay, provided an interstate shipping alternative to 19th-century arks, rafts, and boats plying the difficult waters of the lower Susquehanna River.
Built between 18, it ran 43 miles (69 km) along the west bank of the river and rendered obsolete an older, shorter canal along the east bank.
Competition from railroads was a large factor in the canal's decline after 1855. and is undated but the assumption is the original was created while the canal was in use.
Canal remnants, including a lock keeper's house, have been preserved in Maryland, and locks 12 and 15 have been preserved in Pennsylvania. In the 1820s, seeking raw materials from and trade with Pennsylvania's interior counties, residents of the large port city of Baltimore favored building a canal along the lower Susquehanna linking Chesapeake Bay to Pennsylvania's Main Line of Public Works at Columbia, Pennsylvania, across the river from Wrightsville.
Construction costs had totaled .5 million; with only .25 million in start-up capital, the company had borrowed heavily, and it struggled to pay its debts.
After 1855, toll revenue fell; flood damage, railroad competition, and the disruptions of the Civil War hastened the decline.