Erie Canal – Capital Saratoga Region, New York
The Erie Canal waterway runs about 363 miles from Albany on the Hudson River to Buffalo at Lake Erie. This waterway completes the navigable water route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. The route was proposed in 1808 and under construction from 1817 to 1832. It actually opened on October 25, 1825. This was a major undertaking for a young nation; even today this would be considered a difficult task.
This was the first transportation system between the eastern seaboard and the western interior. Not requiring portage allowed for faster travel and the reduction of transport costs. When portage was required the cost was nearly 95% higher than being able to do the whole trip on the water.
The original canal was replaced by the larger New York State Barge Canal in 1918. Today the Erie Canal is part of the New York State Canal System and has been designated the Erie Canal way National Heritage Corridor in honor of the influential human-built waterway and as one of the most important works of civil engineering and construction in North America.
The waterway is mainly used by recreational crafts now although some commercial traffic still uses it, in fact, more so than in the recent past the canal is being used by commercial entities to reduce transportation costs yet today.
The Erie Canal is a tourist destination for people from all over the world. There is the Erie Canal Cruise company that is located in Herkimer which operates from Mid May until Mid October with daily cruises. The cruise goes through the history of the canal and also takes passengers through Lock 18.
Many of the communities along the Old Erie Canal have developed biking, hiking, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and horseback riding trails for you to enjoy. You can also go canoeing and fishing for more enjoyment of the area. The towpath is a good choice for an easy multi-day bicycle vacation.
Today, the Erie Canal Corridor covers 524 miles (843 km) of navigable water from Lake Champlain to the Capital Region and west to Buffalo. The area has a population of 2.7 million: about 75% of Central and Western New York’s population lives within 25 miles (40 km) of the Erie Canal.
The Erie Canal is open to small craft and some larger vessels from May through November each year. During winter, water is drained from parts of the canal for maintenance. The Champlain Canal, Lake Champlain, and the Chambly Canal and Richelieu River in Canada form the Lakes to Locks Passage, making a tourist attraction of the former waterway linking eastern Canada to the Erie Canal. In 2006, recreational boating fees were eliminated to attract more visitors.