Work started on the canal in 1791 and it opened in 1808.
Its course runs North from Salford to near the village of Little lever where it splits into two branches, the main branch continues to Bury whilst the other heads North-West to Bolton.
The cost of building the canal was £127,800 (approximately £8.6m today).
Originally it was designed to be a narrow canal but this changed in 1794 to a broad canal when a link to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal was envisaged, this link however never materialised but did result in the locks that had already been built at this point having to be changed. The canal was however linked with the Rochdale Canal via a short Tunnel in 1839.
The canal is 15 miles long and had 17 locks, as much of the canal ran along the side of the Irwell valley it was prone to landslips and breaches, the most serious breach occurred in 1936 when a high embankment above the River Irwell collapsed sweeping two barges into the river 100 feet below.
Most of the freight carried was coal from local collieries but as the mines reached the end of their working lives sections of the canal fell into disuse and disrepair before it was abandoned and closed in 1961.