Traveling on the Eastern Erie Canal



The lock on the Erie Canal starts operating a 7:00 in the morning.  We were up and ready to go, along with a few other boats including the Chanticleer a 108 ft. long -20 ft. wide Yacht.  We didn’t know how many small boats the lock could accommodate with the Chanticleer.  We locked through with three other boats and the Chanticleer.   We came along side her in the first lock and tied to the opposite wall.  Now the lock is 44 ft. wide the Yacht is 20 ft. wide with out fenders, we’re 14 ft. wide without fenders not a lot of room between us.  So for the rest of the locks the lock master put the Chanticleer in first and then the smaller boats (like us) and locking for everybody was easier.

Our journey along the Erie Canal when we left Tuesday morning began in Waterford where the Hudson River meets the Mohawk.  We will scale a series of five locks comprising the famed “Waterford Flight”, where boats are lifted and lowered the greatest heights in the shortest distance of any Canal in the world.  The locks will raise our boat 169 feet in elevation in less than two-miles.  The first five locks are one right after the other, sometimes you can see the next look when the doors open.   You need to plan on about 2 hrs to lock through all five, as once you start there is no place to pull over for the day.  This is a picture of what the Erie Canal looked like today and the other picture is what it looked like in 1825.


This is the view we had when the doors opened at lock 2 the first one on the Erie Canal.  We didn’t know what we would see as we turned each corner today.

The scenery is beyond words.  I know the pictures don’t capture the amazing scenery on the Erie Canal.


The original Erie Canal was only 4 ft. deep and 40 ft. long, designed to carry small canal boats with loads of 30 tons.  This is very different from the Erie Canal we are navigating on today.  The first Canal was designed as a ditch filled with water where mules or horses could walk beside on a towpath and pull the boats through.  For this reason, the original canal followed the river’s course, to take advantage of the daily level terrain but didn’t use the river bed as part of the canal.  In fact, the canal was normally a ditch dug alongside the river.  When it came time to cross a river or creek, it was necessary to build and aqueduct across the river or creek to carry the canal water and the path for the horses and mules.


This is what is left of the three old locks and are now used for overflow water in the canal.   I am so glad the town of Waterford has preserved some of the original locks.

The Erie Canal was Americas largest early public infrastructure project designed, built, financed, and operated by the State of New York.  The Erie Canal was both the primary trade route from Albany to Buffalo and the gate way to the great western Frontier.   The original Erie Canal took seven years to build from 1817 – 1825 and was considered a real engineering marvel in its day.  Constructed without the aid of a single professional engineer.  The original Canal cut through 363 miles of wilderness, featured 18 aqueducts, 83 locks, and included a rise of 568 feet from the Hudson River to Lake Erie.  The Erie Canal was built to create a navigable water route from New York City and the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes.

These are pictures of the locks 2-6 most of them had numbers on them.  The next set of pictures are 7-10.  You can see by the pictures that the last locks had water spills next to them unlike the first five.  We didn’t have much problems getting through the first locks then the wind started to pick up and by the time we got to lock 10 it was very windy and hard to hang onto the lines.  The Erie Canal is open to small craft and some larger vessels from May through November.  During winter, water is drained from parts of the canal for maintenance.


This is a Guard Gate there are two of them between the first five locks.  They are used to protect the entrance of the Waterford Flight of locks from the Mohawk River.  This type of gate helps to isolate sections of the canal in case of emergency such as a break in the canal wall, accident, or extreme high water.   It also serves as the moderator of boats entering the Flight of Locks.  The first one is usually opened and you need to call for the second to open.

The Canal was enlarged three times to accommodate more traffic and larger barges.  In 1862 the canal was deepened to 7 ft. and its course altered as necessary.  In 1903 when the present day Erie Canal was completed it was not located where the original canal had been as now many of the vessels are self-propelled and the canal could follow natural waterways and lakes.   Today the Erie Canal has a minimum depth of 12 feet from Troy to Buffalo.  It traverse 35 locks (34 on Erie and the Federal Lock at Troy) as it rises, then falls and finally rises from sea level at Troy to 565 feet above sea level at the Niagara River.  Over 200 highway and railroad bridges cross the canal with a controlled hight of 20 feet from Troy to the Oswego canal.

There is usually a fee to navigate the Erie Canal, going through the locks, and entitles you to tie up at most locks, town terminals, and docks.  Many of theses places provide free water and electric hook ups.  Because of the Canal’s Bicentennial there is no charge for navigating the Erie Canal this year.  There are numerous marinas along the canal complimentary tie up space can be found at most locks and towns with a minimum fee.

We had a long day starting at 7 until 3 going through 9 locks 2-10.  We found the lock  crew to be very cheerful, however the lock crew unlike the other locks will not assist you with the lines.  The day started out calm and sunny however about 1:00 it started getting very windy.  Glade we are done for today and are staying on the wall/dock at Riverlink Park in Amsterdam, New York.  It’s a beautiful park and offers docking space, electric, water, pump out, free laundry (which I took advantage of), and the WiFi is not to bad for a $1.00 per foot and you don’t have to pay extra for electricity.  Amsterdam was once home to the Mohawk Carpet mills.  Competition destroyed this once vibrant business and fires finished off the mill building.  Amsterdam suffered greatly when the weaving business left, but has a vibrant revitalization program.  One famous past resided to this town is Kirk Douglas the actor.

We had some rain this evening and this is what the sky looked like when it stopped.

Our second day started again at 7:00 with sunny skies and 60 degrees.  What a beautiful morning for navigating on the Erie Canal.  Our first lock of the day Lock 11 is Amsterdam 2 miles from where we docked.  As you can see from the picture there is a lot of construction going on here at Guy Park and the 1766 home of Walter Elwood now a museum adjacent to the lock.  The damage to the home and park was caused by hurricane Irene and the museum lost a large portion of its collection.

The first picture is what the spill way at Lock 11 looks like opposite the lock.  If you look at the lock wall with the water raised, our boat is well above the wall unlike the locks on the Mississippi River.  I have to keep adjusting the front fender as we lift above the wall but the view is amazing when your raised all the way waiting for the doors to open.

Lock 12 called Tribes Hill also suffered substantial damage from hurricane Irene and repaires were completed in 2015.  Before we arrived at Lock 13 Randall we passed Fonda Free Dock, not were I would like to stay.  The Henry Fonda clan is from Fonda N.Y.  More pictures of this area.

Lock 14 Canajoharie (an Indian word meaning “boiling pot”).  The name refers to a gorge located south of the village where the water seethes continuously.   At Lock 14 pleasure craft are no longer permitted to tie up on the wall above the lock due to the adjacent ungraded railroad crossing docking is restricted to commercial vessels.  Lock 15 Fort Plan where the remains of Fort Plain can be see, however you can’t see them from the canal.  This is my wonderful Captain doesn’t he look like a Salty Sea Captain.

Look at this beautiful view of the Erie Canal on the Mohawk River.  So much of this area on the canal reminds us of the upper Mississippi and Tennessee River.  Navigating this canal so far is amazing.  We have been told ” you never know what is around the corner” that is so true of this beautiful canal.


When we left Lock 16 St. Johnsville on our starboard side (right) we could see remains of the old Erie Canal.

After Guard Gate three, Indian Coastal the Erie Canal leaves the Mohawk River and becomes a true canal, you are back in the ditch.  It is very wooded and scenic running alongside the narrow winding river as the canal approaches the highest points.


Lock 17 Little Falls, is impressive not only is it the highest lift lock (40 ft.) on the Erie Canal it is believed to be one of only two ( other is Ottawa River Canada) locks in North America where the entrance gate is lifted above the boaters, permitting entrances with a clearing of 20 ft.   The rest of the locks on the Erie canal have doors that swing open.  This lock was a challenge a 40 ft lift, no bollards, and only lines to hang on to.  They only want boats on the port (left) side of the lock.   I can understand why incase you have problems holding your boat on the wall and end up on the other side of the lock you will not damage another boat.   It was the tallest lock in the world when it opened in 1915.  On the right side you can also see the stone remains of one of the five locks that operated here in the 1800.  When we entered the lock Tranquility III was in front of us.

When we left Little Falls lock the canal became very narrow with a lot of curves.  The view was amazing as we navigated to little Falls Canal Harbor were we will tie up for the night.  The rapids near the town of Little falls impeded navigation to the interior of New York Sate and beyond.  In 1793 the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company began construction of the Little Falls Canal.  Only a mile long five locks compensate for a 40- foot change in elevation.  When Gov De Witt Clinton visited the town on fact-finding tour in 1810 the canal company was experiencing serious maintenance problems.  A few year later most products was being moved via the local roads.  The state bought the canal in 1821 part of it was filled in while the easter half became a feeder for the new Eric Canal.   Most of the remains of the Little Falls canal as well as Clinton’s Ditch and the 1840 enlargement were obliterated by the building of Barge canal in 1918.

We had the pleasure of meeting and traveling with Captain Connie Bowmen (Simpatico) an amazing lady.  She started the loop with her husband in 2014 with high hopes and then her husband unfortunately passed away before they could finish the loop.   In 2016 Connie started the loop again with help from family, friends, and her grandsons as not having to navigate alone.

This is our third day navigating on the Erie Canal.   We’re not measuring our distance by miles but how many locks we will go through and where is a good place to dock for the night.  When we woke up Thursday morning we could hear something walking across the top of our boat.  There were black birds eating fish flies off our boat and leaving their wast behind. Yes they have fish flies on the Erie Canal.  When we dock I know the boat will get a well needed bath.


We only had to navigate three miles when we left Little Falls to Lock 18 and then we  have another Guard gate 5 Herkimer.

Herkmier has a free dock, a Waterfront grill with no water or power.  The area is famous for  “Herkimer Diamonds”, which are actually quartz crystals.

This is the Ilion Marina and home to Remington Arms an American manufacturer of firearms and ammunition in the United States.  Eliphalet Remington believed he could build a better gun than he could buy.  He began designing and building a flintlock rifle for himself.  At age 23 in 1816 he entered a shooting match; though he only finished second, his well made gun impressed other shooters.  When Remington left the field that day he had received so many orders from other competitors that he was now officially in the gunsmithing business.  In 1828 Remington moved his operations to Ilion, New York as E. Remington and sons and is the largest U.S. producer of shot guns and rifles.  The original Erie Canal passed right through downtown Ilion and Frankfort.


This is Lock E19 Frankfort with a beautiful old train bridge built-in 1929 before the lock.  While we were waiting for the lock to open a train went by.  Now there is not a lot of wiggle room while waiting for the locks to open.

We had a short day ending at Utica a city in the Mohawk Valley located at the foot of the Adirondack Mountains.  Formerly a river settlement inhabited by the Mohawk tribe of the Iroquois Confederacy.  Utica was established on the site of Old Fort Schuyler built by English colonist for defense in 1758 during the french and Indian War.

We are on a floating dock near the Aqua Vino Restaurant were we had dinner last night.  Our hostess was Bev the owners mother and we had a nice visit with her.  We decided to stay another day as rain/ storms were predicted for Friday.

Friday morning I did some boat cleaning and then we decided to walk to town with Johnny and Liz.  As we were about to leave the dock Bev offered us a ride as she was also going to the store.   It was so nice of her to give us a ride.  We are finding that people along our journey are so nice and willing to help us out.



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