The Erie Canal
The Erie Canal, often referred to the NYS Barge Canal includes 524 miles of navigable waterways throughout NYS. The Canals that make up the Erie Canal System include the Cayuga / Seneca, The Champlain, The Oswego and the Erie itself. These 4 Canals allow for travel from inland NY to anywhere in the world.
The 4 individual canals today total 524 miles of navigable waterways. There are currently 55 locks and 18 lift bridges amongst the Canals. Total lift is 568’ and the largest lift is lock at Little Falls with 49’of lift. It is also the only lock on the system that uses a drop door instead of the standard swing doors used elsewhere. The flight of 5 which consists of locks 2-7 just west of Waterford is the greatest elevation change on any navigable waterway in the Western Hemisphere. The Erie Canal is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is also a National Park Historical Site.
The Erie first envisioned in the early 1800’s by NY’s then governor Dewitt Clinton was first dismissed as crazy and was referred to early on as Clinton’s Follies. Hope was that the Federal Government would help fund the project, but that never happened and New York State went it alone. Construction began in 1817 and was completed in 1825 at a cost of $8 million dollars, the Canal ended up paying for itself in less than 8 years. New York City soon became the largest port in the United States as a direct result of the construction of the Erie Canal. The opening of the canal in 1825 allowed for goods and people to be shipped in half the time and at one tenth the cost of the conventional methods of the time.
The Canal has evolved throughout the years from what was originally referred to as Clinton’s Ditch where mules walked the tow path towing barges and boats up and down the canal. The advent of mechanically powered vessels allowed for the use of the lakes and river sections which continued to speed travel along the Canal. The final version of the Canal was opened in 1915 and is what we travel on today. The infrastructure visible along the Canal today is the same technology that was designed and built back in 1915 and still amazes visitors to the Canal each day.
New York State understood the value of the Canal when it guaranteed its continued existence by amending its constitution in 1938 during a constitutional convention.
The Canal Today:
Continues to be used for commercial shipping albeit in a limited fashion. It is used as a source of water for agricultural purposes, it is used to generate electric through it’s more than 2 dozen hydro-electric power plants scattered throughout the Canal System. The Canal is also used as a very important means of flood control. Today the greatest use of the Canal System relates to tourism. The Erie Canal passes through 5 of NYS’s travel regions. Whether Boating, Bicycling, Hiking or Road Tripping through the Erie Canal System, the opportunities are virtually limitless. The Canalway trail is now more than 75% complete, NY has committed to completing 100% of the trail by 2020. Boaters have access to the 524 miles of waterways, with marinas throughout the system available for transient and seasonal docking or the many communities that open their doors to boaters many with free docking, free electrical, wi-fi, bathrooms and shower facilities. The Cayuga/Seneca connects the Erie Canal to the two largest Finger lakes. From Fishing to Wine tasting those lakes offer boaters and visitors alike world class opportunities for enjoyment.
The Oswego Canal connects the Erie Canal to Lake Ontario and beyond. The Lake Ontario region offers visitors World Class Fishing, and the ability to travel by water to Canada and beyond.
The Champlain Canal region is steeped in history dating back to the formation of the United States. Allowing travelers to transit from the Hudson River to Lake Champlain and onto the Chambly Canal.
The Discover the Erie Canal site has been designed to be the most comprehensive online resource on the Erie Canal. It not only provides travelers who wish to experience the Erie Canal with all the information they need to maximize their trip, but also provides visitors with information on the history, news and events and information on the more than 200 communities that surround the Erie Canal