Speed Limits For Boaters On The Erie Canal

Mariners are advised of the speed limits on the NYS Canal System described at http://www.canals.ny.gov/boating/speedlimits.html and mapped out at http://www.canals.ny.gov/maps/index.html?layer=speedlimits.

There are three speed zones on the canal system:

  • 5 MPH
  • 10 MPH
  • 30 MPH and above

Because vessel configurations vary, the speed thresholds at which different wake characteristics occur vary from vessel to vessel.  The speeds listed are more of a general guidance.  The wake characteristics for each zone must not exceed the following:

  • 5 MPH (red zone) – flat water, not even a ripple trails the vessel.
  • 10 MPH (yellow zone) – ripple, but no wake (a ripple is defined here as a small non-whitecap wave that is not large enough to rock a floating dock – less than about 12” in amplitude).
  • 30 MPH and above (green zone) – for vessels capable of getting up on plane, in riverine and lake sections this is allowed.  Wakes are produced when up on plane, and this is acceptable in New York State if not near a dock or other vessels.

On any New York State waterway when within 100 feet of shore no vessel may exceed 5 MPH.

Waking a floating dock can cause property damage, environmental damage, and personal injury.

NYS Canal Regulations §151.15 establish that the New York State Canal Corporation can fine mariners $100 and refuse lockage and bridge lifts for a period of six (6) hours

Watch this Video to learn more about no wake zones



  1. Lynn Knopp

    How can we advise boaters to observe the 5 mph limit near docks, moored boats etc. ???
    I live in Weedsport on the canal near buoy 477. Large boats continually speed past my dock and moored pontoon – rocking it badly. Once last summer it ended up with a piece of deck hung up on the dock.
    Sheriff in Cayuga County doesn’t seem to be interested in enforcing or even patrolling my section of the canal.
    Any advice? Allow or require the lock attendants at CS1, Lock 24 and 25 to distribute a copy of the rules to boaters? Maybe a sign at the locks posting the rule?

    1. Bill Drage

      I feel your pain, and I don’t quite know what to tell you. I keep my boat on the Seneca River just west of C/S 1 in Seneca Falls. In NYS a boater is responsible for any damage caused by their wake. If you experience damage and see the boater call the next lock and let them know, you can call the Sheriff’s office and request the lockmaster keep the boater their until the sheriff arrives. I have seen this done. I know the area that you are located and have passed it many times. Boaters know the rules, and they should obey them. Get out and yell at them, call them on VHF Chanel 13 and ask them to slow down. Don’t hesitate to reach out.
      [email protected]

  2. Dawn Speed

    Why are there no rules posted anywhere on the canal? We traveled from holly to downtown Rochester, we didn’t see anything posted at the lift bridge to even begin to understand what to do when approaching??

    1. Bill Drage

      Great question, and while I don’t know the answer, I can tell you that all the locks and lift bridges work the same way. You contact the Canal Corp employees either by VHF Radio channel 13 or on the NYS Canal Corp web site they list the phone number for the lock or lift bridge. If you’re approaching a lift bridge you just call them requesting passage. They will respond and let you know how long it will be. When contacting a lock operator its the same procedure only you need to let them know the direction your headed.

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