The Erie Canal

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  

Boating on the Erie Canal


Boating on the Erie Canal

Post courtesy of the 

Whether you’re in a kayak, 50’ cruiser or anything in-between you will find a unique boating experience on the Erie Canal.  With 55 locks, 16 lift bridges, more than 60 communities all on the 524 miles of navigable waterway that make up the Erie Canal System.  A boat trip on the Erie is something you won’t soon forget.  Whether you plan your trip to last a day, week or month the Erie will not disappoint.

The NYS Canal system is best understood when you break it down by regions.  The Erie at 363 miles long stretches from Waterford, just north of Albany to The Tonawanda’s, just east of Buffalo.  The modern version of the Erie which celebrated its centennial in 1915 combines the natural river sections of the Mohawk and Seneca Rivers, crosses Oneida Lake, the largest lake completely within NYS as well as the man-made sections that complete the system.  The scenery that you encounter along the way is as diverse as the waterway itself.  From dairy farms and apple orchids to long stretches of natural scenery that could make you forget you’re in New York State.  You will also pass through bedroom communities of cities like Syracuse and Rochester.  One of the more interesting sections is a 4-mile-long stretch west of Rochester where the Canal is cut through rock, with rock walls on both sides of the canal, take a minute to consider how this section was built virtually by hand in the early 1800’s!  When you arrive in Tonawanda, the current western terminus of the Canal,  rent a car and visit Niagara Falls, or continue on the Niagara River 13 miles to the inner harbor of Buffalo where you have the opportunity to dock directly behind a Naval Destroyer at the only inland Naval Museum in the country.

From the Erie Canal, you also have the opportunity to head north to Lake Ontario via the Oswego Canal, At Three Rivers, mile marker 160 the Oswego Canal heads north for 23 miles. Don’t miss a stay in the village of Phoenix where undoubtable you will get a visit from the Bridge House Brats, a local youth group who spends their summers helping boaters with everything from catching your lines to running for provisions.  Oswego at the mouth of Lake Ontario hosts one of the largest celebrations of the summer with its annual Harbor Fest.

Travel a little further west and at mile marker 200 on the Erie you can head south on the Cayuga / Seneca Canal.  When you exit Lock 1, 4 miles south of the junction with the Erie, Cayuga Lake lies ahead, 36 miles to the south is the City of Ithaca, or head west to the historic town of Seneca Falls, birthplace of the women’s suffrage movement.  Seneca Falls is one of the best stops along the Canal for boaters,  with over 900’ of dockage on both the north and south sides of the Canal, boaters can enjoy free docking, electric, water, wi-fi and a boaters amenity center that offers laundry, showers, a lounge.  An easy walk offers boaters access to restaurants, shops, and museums.  Rent a car and tour the many wineries that surround the Finger lakes.  The Cayuga / Seneca Canal continues west past the village of Waterloo, the birthplace of the memorial day celebration and eventually empties into the north end of Seneca Lake at the city of Geneva.  Head south 34 miles for a visit to Watkins Glen.Seneca Falls

The Champlain Canal which travels north from the Village of Waterford and the Hudson River follows some of the same waterways that were critical in the Revolutionary war, with historical sites located throughout the 60-mile length.  The Champlain offers the scenery of the Adirondack mountains to the west and the Green Mountains of Vermont to the East.  Continue to Lake Champlain and north to Canada and beyond. 

No matter how you choose to boat on the Erie Canal system, you won’t be disappointed.  More than 60 communities offer docking opportunities to transient boaters, most offering amenities such as electric, internet access, showers and restrooms and access to these communities.  Most them are FREE. 

There are three ways to boat the canal, you can use your own boat and of course depending on where your home port is will determine where you enter the canal system from.  If you trailer your boat, you have a lot more options.  With over 150 boat ramps and more than 100 marinas  and public docks on the Canal System there are lots of options for your trip.  If your boat has sleeping accommodations, your options have greatly increased, if not, or if you’re paddling the canal, you can stay at any of the B&B’s or hotels or campgrounds along the Canal. If roughing it is your desire you can dry camp for free at every one of the 57 locks along the Canal system.

The third way to enjoy the Canal System by water is to charter a boat.  There are several companies along the Canal System that will rent you a boat for as little as 3 days.  These options vary from a 22’ cruiser perfect for a couple to several companies which rent European Style Canal boats in sizes from 32-42 such as the one below from Mid lakes Navigation’ or how about doing a family reunion on a 60’ house boat which accommodates 14.  No matter which option works for you, a trip on the Canal is a must for any NY Boater.  In 2015 Lyons NY, at mile marker 220 of the Erie hosted 331 boats from 216 communities in 40 states and from Canada, Holland, Australia, England, Germany, Sweden, New Zealand, Ireland, Mexico, and South America.   Start experiencing what boaters from around the country and world are finding out.  In 2017 the Canal System begins the celebration of the bi-centennial of the beginning of the construction of the Canal.  Also in 2017 The World Canals Conference is coming to Syracuse from Sept. 25th to the 29th

The NYS Canal system is the oldest continually operating transportation system in North America, and every year the navigation system begins in Early May and closes during the middle of November. A common message you will hear from boaters enjoying the Canal, is quiet!, don’t spread the word. those who already are in the know really want to keep it a closely guarded secret.

A boat trip on the Erie Canal, may be the best deal in cruising around!  Continue to watch the New York Boater for more information as the NYS Canal system begins their bi-centennial celebration starting in 2017

Towboat US Oneida Lake Under New Ownership

For boaters along a significant portion of the Erie Canal in Central NY, Towboat US continues to maintain a significant presence on the water.   Towboat US Oneida Lake has a new owner. Capt. Jake Van Reenen who also owns Towboat US services in Rochester and Clayton NY is now servicing Oneida Lake as well as covering a significant portion of the Erie Canal. Oneida Lake which at 22 miles long and 5 miles wide is the largest lake wholly within New York State. Boaters transiting on the Erie Canal pass directly across Oneida Lake and Towboat US is the only major towing organization with any presence on the Erie Canal.

All Towboat US boats are easily recognizable with its red hull and white logo. They operate a 23’ Pacific aluminum workboat powered by a 225-hp Yamaha outboard. The can respond to a significant portion of the Erie Canal by trailering their boat to the nearest put in and can tow boats through the locks. With unlimited towing packages starting as low as $72.00 per year, knowing that there is a service out there that can bring you fuel, jump start their engine or tow them off a sand bar or at the very least get them back to port safely without a large towing bill is a very comforting feeling. Towboat US Oneida Lake can be reached by hailing VHF Chanel 16, by tapping the new Boat US app or by calling the company directly at (315) 775-4114 or by phoning the Boat US dispatch center at (800) 391-4869 Towboat US Oneida Lake Captains are on duty 7 days a week and 24 hours a day to assist boaters, they are based at the Brewerton Boat Yard.

Palmyra NY Harbor Hosts

Welcome to Palmyra!  That is the message of the Palmyra Harbor Hosts to visitors who tie up at the Port of Palmyra on the Erie Canal. Now in their fifth year , the Harbor Hosts (HH), volunteers from Palmyra and Macedon, have worked with hundreds of visitors from all over the state, the country and the world, answering questions and, frequently, going above and beyond providing needed transportation.

HH have given visitors rides to Walmart for a variety of needs; gone in search of a specific kind of worm to catch a specific kind of fish; to Rite Aid for an Rx refill or to an animal hospital. They have provided directions to the library, a children’s playground, grocery store,  Chill ‘n’ Grill ice cream shop and the laundromat. HH know which restaurants deliver to the marina; the hours of the museums – Palmyra has six. They know what time the adjacent rest rooms open and close and much more. Palmyra HH know just about all there is to know about our small but beautiful and historic village   (200+ properties on the National Register) and they love to share that information with our visitors. The New York State Canal Corporation named the Palmyra Harbor Hosts New York State Canal Ambassadors in recognition of their service to the Village of Palmyra and New York State. We are proud of that.

Speed Limits For Boaters On The Erie Canal

Mariners are advised of the speed limits on the NYS Canal System described at and mapped out at

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


Blount Small Ship Adventures, Erie Canal Cruise

Blount Small Ship Adventures can take you to places that no other cruise line can go. This year in celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the construction of the Erie Canal they will be sailing 8 times through the Canal. Don’t miss this opportunity to experience something very special.   

With ports of call including Oswego, Buffalo, Sylvan Beach, Amsterdam and Troy, the opportunity to travel with less than 100 guest on board could best be described as “Cruising on your friends Yacht”  Taking a cruise with Blount Small Ship Adventures will amaze all your senses, from the fine dining, to the casual atmosphere, that one will experience any one of the itineraries’ available on Blount will not disappoint!

The Great American Waterways Cruise and the Lock’s Legends & Canals of the Northeast are the two cruises that Blount is offering in 2017 that include ports within the Erie Canal Corridor. 

For all the information on experiencing a Blount Small Ship Adventure Cruise visit their web site

Blount Small Ship Adventures is a supporter of the NYS Canal System and an ongoing member of Canal NY. The only private sector organization dedicated to the promotion of the Canal System and the businesses within the Canal Corridor.

2017 Navigation Schedule on the Erie Canal

The NYS Canal Corporation has just released the schedule for the 2017 Navigation Season.


Mariners are advised that, conditions permitting, all portions of the New York State Canal System are scheduled to open Friday, May 19, 2017, at 10:00 a.m. for the 2017 navigation season.

Additionally, in commemoration of the bicentennial of the start of Erie Canal construction in 1817, there will be no tolls or fees for recreational use of the Canal System in 2017.

The hours of operation for the 2017 season are as follows:

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Wineries Accessible By Water on the Erie Canal

Erie Canal Wineries Accessible By Water


The Erie Canal system isn’t just a narrow winding waterway that connects Albany to Buffalo. It also connects several finger-lakes to the world as well. The Finger Lakes region is home to some of the world’s best wine and a number of those wineries are accessible by water.   The map below shows those venues that you can boat to.wineries

These wineries are accessible by water on the Cayuga / Seneca Canal

Lake St. Station                                                                        Bellhurst Castle

41 Lake St. Geneva NY                                                            4069 West Lake Rd. Geneva NY

(315) 325-4089                                                                         (315) 781-0201


Miles Wine Cellars                                                                  Seneca Harbor Wine Center

168 Randall Crossing Rd. Himrod NY                                2 N. Franklin St. Watkins Glen NY

(315) 243-7742                                                                         (607) 535-4867


Varick Winery                                                                          Lake Shore Winery

5102 State Route 89 Romulus NY                                       5132 State Route 89 Romulus NY

(315) 549-8797                                                                        (315) 549-7095


Knapp Winery                                                                         Goose Watch

2770 County Rd. 128 Romulus NY                                     5480 State Route 89 Romulus NY

(800) 869-9271                                                                      (315) 549-2599


Buttonwood Grove Winery                                                 Cayuga Ridge Winery

5986 State Route 89 Romulus                                           6800 State Route 89 Ovid NY

(607) 869-9760                                                                     (800) 598-wine


Thirsty Owl                                                                            Sheldrake Point

6861 State Route 89 Ovid NY                                            7448 County Road 153 Ovid NY

(866) 869-5805                                                                    (607) 532-9401


Bet The Farm Winery & Market                                         Long Point Winery

381 Main St. Aurora NY                                                       1485 Lake Rd. Aurora

(315) 294-5643                                                                       (315) 364-6990




Don’t own a boat? Not a problem hire Water To Wine Tours, operating on Cayuga Lake they offer a number of opportunities to get out on the water and be able to visit wineries located on the shores of Cayuga Lake.

Bareboat Charter on the Erie Canal

Where are you planning on vacationing this summer? How about a Bareboat Charter on the Erie Canal?

Wikipedia describes a bareboat charter as an arrangement for the chartering or hiring of a ship or boat, whereby no crew or provisions are included as part of the agreement, instead, the people who rent the vessel from the owner are responsible for taking care of such things.

Want to both stay close to home but also experience memories that will last a lifetime? At over 500 miles in length the Erie Canal System, or what is sometimes referred to as the New York State Barge Canal offers the New York Boater un-matched opportunities.

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Boating on the Erie Canal

Whether you’re in a kayak, 50’ cruiser or anything in-between you will find a unique boating experience on the Erie Canal. With 55 locks, 16 lift bridges, more than 60 communities all on the 524 miles of navigable waterway that make up the Erie Canal System. A boat trip on the Erie is something you won’t soon forget. Whether you plan your trip to last a day, week or month the Erie will not disappoint.

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