You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2020.

I did not forget in the beginning of April about the 2020 calendar enhancement;  there were just too any things going on! So today I both catch up, and get ahead.  And according to my accounting robot, today I post for the 4,500th time.  Champagne is spilling all over my editor’s floor, but he’s not sharing.

YM World came in last April as Anthem of the Seas was departing.  If one keeps records with the goal of tracking change, few industries have changed as profoundly as the cruise industry has in the past year, and all that in the past two months.

Truly YM World, an ULCV,is huge.  But earlier this week, MSC Anna sailed under the Golden Gate, over 100′ longer, almost 40′ wider, giving her a total teu capacity of over 19k, compared with around 14k here.  That 5000 teu difference equals the total capacity of an average container ship serving the sixth boro 10 years ago.

 

The May calendar page features James D Moran nosing up against a pink magenta wall.

Here she comes in to meet off the starboard side.

Then she matches speed

and comes alongside to drop off the docking pilot.

All photos, WVD.

 

 

All photos here were taken less than an hour after sunrise.  It’s commonly known that the golden hour is the best time for photos.

 

Mary Turecamo also headed out for morning work, not that this is anything but a 24/7 essential schedule.

HMS St Andrews arrives with sunrise on its back. Has the HMS been dropped from the name,

just as port of registry has been changed?

Eastern Dawn slings Port Chester into the dock.

Ellen heads out,

meeting a Vane tug on her way to a job.

Cape Henry comes off the anchorage, westbound on the KVK.

All photos, WVD.

 

I stole away before sunrise the other day.  I needed to see a sunrise outdoors in a place I liked.

The effect of light and shadow on some painted, some corroded and textured surfaces was just stunning, so stunning it raised the assessed value on my Hooverville shelter by the water.

The crews on Conti Lyon and Doris ran the line

Given the rust and scale, I wasn’t surprised to learned Conti Lyon (ex-CMA CGM Baudelaire) was built in 2001.

 

That way the 118′ loa 4610-hp tug could move that box ship exactly where it needed to go.

Kirby worked the stern.

All photos, WVD.

Here‘s the post that prompts this one.  The Ships of the Sea model exhibit in the William Scarborough House by far exceeded my expectations.  Reaction to one of my Virtual Tour of the Erie Canal posts suggests I do this post.  Someone could likely confirm the date of this unattributed photo.  I can tell you the place . . . lock E-12, upbound. *

I believe this is the 1939 Sheila Moran.

If you read Birk’s summary of the Sheila, she became the Catherine in 1947, right after Moran acquired her,  and worked by that name until 1960. Might this have been Sheila‘s first and maybe only trip up?  I’d love to know how many tug/fuel barge units Moran operated on the canal.  Here’s a model I saw in the H. Lee White Maritime Museum a few years ago of her as Catherine.  Given her location in the canal corridor, her USN name might have been more appropriate, Canasetego.

Here’s the label that goes with the model.

Re-reading this, I decided to look up William H. Leighton, the model maker.  Unfortunately, Mr. Leighton died in 2017.

I’m putting this post up to follow on yesterday’s end of the first of two virtual Erie Canal tours.  I’m hoping to hear from more folks who were paying attention to canal traffic long before I was. Maybe someone from the H. Lee White?   The painful irony for me is that I lived near the canal from the mid-1950s until the late 1960s, but somehow my eyes were directed elsewhere until the late 1990s, when I first traveled on it.

*Group sourcing . . . it’s a thing!  Four different readers have already corrected me.  Thx all.   It’s lock E-8 and the unit’s downbound.  Furthermore, credit goes to the Gayer Collection, another great source for vintage NYS photos.

 

The Oswego River is the second largest river flowing into Lake Ontario, but it feels in places like a stream.  I don’t have to tell you what the largest river into Ontario is, I hope.

If you study the east bank, lots of traces of the original 1828 Oswego Canal, a verdant mudbank and even stonework like this for a former lock.

A detail to look for on the west side of the river just north of Minetto is the beer cave, where Brosemer Brewery used to cool their products in the age before refrigeration.

I’ve never been inside, but here’s a photo of the interior.

As evidence of the commercial traffic still plying the system, here’s a New Jersey-based tugboat on its way to Lake Erie.

In Oswego there’s a flight of three locks in just over a mile that will lower us 46′.  The canal runs along the left side of this photo; notice the passenger vessel about to exit the top end of the lock O-7, climbing toward Minetto.  Along the right side of the photo, i.e., the west side of the river, water has to tumble that same distance, a fact that allows hydropower generation and a thriving sport fishing industry, both in the river, out on Lake Ontario, and elsewhere in the locality.

In summer, Oswego enjoys its connection to the big lake.  What’s a recreation area today was an industrial only area back over 150 years ago.

Industry still exists.  Tourism to the right, and cement to the left.

Count the three tugboats in this photo from 2014.  From near to far, Margot is pushing some oversize electrical equipment from Schenectady to Massena; the blue Cheyenne is heading to Lake Erie via the Welland Canal to retrieve new barges from a shipyard, and Wilf Seymour, the tugboat on in the distance pushing the large barge* that has delivered aluminum ingots via the Saint Lawrence River for use at the  Novelis plant just north of Oswego.  Interesting as evidence of the commercial value of the Canal, Margot is based in Troy NY, Cheyenne then in Hillside NJ**, and Wilf Seymour in Burlington ON.

***That barge transports the equivalent of 920 20-ton trucks, and Cheyenne is now based in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.

A different day brings different commercial boats here;  I’m not sure where the speedboat is based, but the two boats on the wall are from New Jersey and Rhode Island, and

Seaway Maid, from Clayton, on the St. Lawrence.

From right to left here, the white building is the H. Lee White Maritime Museum and the tug in the front of it it LT-5, a veteran of the Normandy invasion. Here‘s more on that tug, aka Nash.   Moving to the left, it’s 85′ schooner Ontario, and Niña and Pinta of the Columbus Foundation.  I wrote here about touring the Niña and Pinta on the Hudson back in 2012.  Ask me about schooner Ontario and I’ll tell you a sad tale.

This Canadian sailboat enters the system here, bound for the Caribbean.

Proximity to Canada made Oswego, the US first port on the Great Lakes, an important station in the Underground Railroad.

If you’re interested in some hard-to-explain details of Oswego harbor, you’ll love browsing through all the historical photos here.  Oswego became an official US port of entry in 1799, and

an active shipbuilding center. Vandalia, 91′ x 20′ and built here in 1841, was the first propeller steamship on the Great Lakes.

The brig Oneida was built here as well, less than a decade before the War of 1812.

Working backward here, this place was wrangled over for a long time, and a plaque in front of the star-shaped fort on a bluff east of the mouth of the river is …

my all-time favorite historical marker:  “Built, captured & destroyed, rebuilt, destroyed . . .”  Needing more historical recognition is Dr. Mary E. Walker, the only woman as yet to receive a Medal of Honor, and do read that link.

Notable in the recent era, Fort Ontario served as a refugee settlement shelter called “safe haven” in 1944-45.  In summer 2019 refugees returned to Oswego to commemorate the 75th anniversary of their sojourn there.

So here were are;  we’ve virtually transited one possible course on the Erie Canal, traveled about 225 miles.  We were raised 405′ and then lowered back down about 175′,  doing some rounding of numbers. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride, learned something about this waterway, and gotten some good photos.  As to food and drink on board, sorry . . . that’s not my department.

Let’s head due west about 20 miles,  into Lake Ontario.  Here I’m looking south toward Sodus Point, where I learned to swim in the early 1960s.  It’s so calm I could  “stand-up canoe-paddle” all the way to the lighthouse.  Six months later this SE corner of Ontario had 20′ to 30′ waves, according to NOAA.    This area of the lake, called the Rochester Basin, is 802′ deep at its greatest depth.  NOAA held meetings in summer 2019 for public comment on a proposed designation of the area as a National Marine Sanctuary.

If we continue on this course about 140 miles, we’ll be at Port Weller, ON, the entrance to another Canal, the Welland.  But unless you sign me on for that  trip, I’ll be leaving you here.

Until tomorrow with something different.  Meanwhile, the virtual boat crew needs to refuel with virtual fuel, do virtual maintenance on virtual hardware, etc . . . and we’ll begin another transit through different portions of the canal on May first. Let’s NOT make that may day, which has a whole set of negative connotations I’d rather avoid. Seats are still available for good prices, all, of course, virtual.

Meanwhile, if you plan to do a real transit of the canal –read this note about the 2020 season opening!!–and need crew with local knowledge, get in touch.  I can tie knots, throw lines, and spin yarns.  And if you want to make real evaluative comments of our virtual trip–e.g., errors, omissions, additions…–I’d love to read them.  Comment here or to my email.

 

Last post ended with an aerial photo.  Here’s a higher one of the same area, taken in 1981, for a state agency.  The Oneida River flows from the bottom of the photo.  Notice the tanks below, or east of,  the bridge.  As we pass, notice vestiges of docks and pipes to those tanks, although the tanks are gone.  This has been a crossroads for ages;  Haudenosaunee used it,  and French coureurs de bois and Dutch boslopers passed through here.  The French defended it until General Jeffrey Amherst came through here with 10,000 troops.  After 1763, the British used it, and in fact, Barry St Leger traveled through here twice, before and after his retreat from his siege at Ft. Stanwix.  The British held possession of Fort Ontario in Oswego until the Jay Treaty in 1796, but that’s getting ahead a bit.   James Fenimore Cooper, assigned to Fort Ontario, explored the area, using it later as source material for one of his novels.   Basically, you are looking down at a crossroads from time immemorial.

At the south side of Three Rivers, there’s a park on the point.  Between 1934 and 1973, the Three Rivers Inn nightclub stood, to the right  where the darker trees are, and big-name acts came to play:  Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Pat Boone, and others passed through this crossroads.  Click the link in the previous sentence to read the full list. Remember, this was a time when celebrity still traveled from gig to gig in rail cars.  Entertains would play here for more intimate sets, and some folks from Syracuse, about 15 miles away, would come by boat and tie up.

We’ve now traveled 160 miles since Waterford, not quite half the way to Buffalo.  If we were headed there, we’d turn slightly left and head up the Seneca River.  Next trip planned is from Lake Erie to Buffalo to here.  For now, since our destination is Lake Ontario, we’ll hang a right. At that point we are leaving the Erie Canal per se, and entering the Oswego Canal, another canalized river.  The Oswego Canal has a separate history from the Erie Canal.  The early 1800s saw a plethora of canals built all over what is now the NE US.

A little over a mile down the Oswego, we pass the Lysander Canal Maintenance Yard, likely the newest of six in the system.

About three miles down from Three Rivers Point, we get to the first lock in this system, O-1.   Legend has it that on an island just before Phoenix, French priests in the 18th century took refuge, having fled from the Onondaga Lake area with gold and a brass canon, then left everything behind when they feared an attack by natives. To date, no one reports having located the treasure.  Would you report the loot if you found it?

Just north of O-1, there are two unusual single-span lift bridges–only the yellow one still used.

Oswego Canal locks have dams with tainter gates.

If the west side of the river currently looks empty, the photo below show its appearance in 1907, pre-Barge Canal.  Nine years later the mills burned; click here to see the view after the fire.   And if you imagine therefore that the town is named for its rebirth, you would be wrong. Land there was first owned by an Alexander Phoenix.

 

The Oswego River sees a lot of recreational use.

Although you see lots of wildlife in most places along the Canal, these birds are most plentiful here.

Fulton had such a solid industrial and manufacturing base in the 1930s that it was praised in a New York City newspaper headline as “the city the depression forgot.” Unfortunately, things changed later.  The Fulton Nestle plant that had pioneered morsels,  Nestle Quick, and Nestle Crunch, closed in 2003.  Fulton Birds Eye closed in 2011 but reopened in 2014 as K&N Foods.   Miller Brewing, which closed its brewery in 1994, reopened in 2008 as a Sunoco ethanol plant, and in 2019 sold to Attis, a biofuels company.  On my first visit to a bar in Fulton, friends asked me to order Miller; the response to my request was an icy stare and  . . . “We don’t serve that here.”

Hunter Arms is another lost Fulton business.  From 1890 and 1950 they built high end shotguns here, had some celebrity clients, and to this day, an annual reunion brings enthusiasts back here.

Two islands with notable names between lock O-2 and O-3 and O-5 in Minetto are called Pathfinder Island (see p. 230 of this guide) and Battle Island, a reference to an ambush by French Captain Devilliers and his force of over 700 Canadians, regulars, and Indians of a column led by British Colonel Bradstreet and his force of 1000 troops in 350 bateaux.  There is no lock O-4;  in construction it was deemed unneeded and the numbers left unchanged.

This building on the east bank referred to as “the tavern” was built by John Van Buren, cousin of the 8th US president,  around 1820. John died the following year, and the property was taken over by his son Jacob.  It served as both family residence and business catering to travelers on the canal.

Just to the north of the “tavern” is “the pillars,” built by Jacob’s brother David in 1847.  Both places are privately owned and not open to the public.

More winding scenic miles later we arrive at the top of O-5 in Minetto,

Not much remains except the hydro-electric plant, but Minetto was a company town, manufacturing cloth from 1879 until 1977.

I’m unsure of attribution for the b/w photos here;  all color photos by Will Van Dorp.  Color drone photo by Jim Kerins.

 

 

 

But first, check out this canal notice for the 2020 season.

Three centuries ago canoes and bateaux followed Wood Creek from the Oneida carry (i.e., involving a short portage) into the east end of Oneida Lake. The 1825 and 1862 canals bypassed the south side of the Lake and formed the heart of Syracuse.  For the Barge Canal, machines like HD Oneida cut the channel leading into the Lake at Sylvan Beach.

What may not be obvious as we travel this part of the Canal is landownership. Read the small print on the sign below that until last year marked a fuel dock at the east end of Sylvan Beach.   The sign was removed sometime in summer 2019, because of other, bigger projects planned by the Oneida Indian Nation.

Beyond the Route 13 bridge

people pack into the village,

starting more than a century  ago when many arrived by steamer from the head of the Syracuse trolley line.

As seen from the bridge, boaters raft together from both sides, leaving only a narrow channel out to the lake.

 

Amusement parks have been located here for over 100 years.

The lake is about 25 miles long.  Follow the Canal markers if you want to keep moving.   For decades, these buoys were set and removed by a Canal vessel called Ward’s Island.  No more, since Ward’s Island was reefed off Long Island back in 2018.

The lake can get quite rough, as these Canal-era wreck stories attest.

In the early years of the Barge Canal, the season lasted long after ice closed the canal.  In December 1936, some vessels were iced in and needed to be rescued by a more powerful vessel, in this case, Andrew M. Barnes (aka Interwaterways Line 102, scrapped in 1950), sister vessel of the freighter called Day Peckinpaugh (aka Interwaterways Line 101), and still around.

Brewerton, on the west side, sports one of the three lighthouses built around the lake.  Samuel de Champlain traveled through here in 1615.

Brewerton is also host to two large marinas, Winter Harbor and

Ess-Kay Yards.

with boats from

unexpected places.

West of the lake, the Canal is synonymous with the canalized Oneida River, which

brings us to lock E-23, the busiest lock in the system.

Before we leave E-23, let’s have a look at a gate cabinet, the blue and gold cubes with a number that indicates the lock.  Inside and in pristine condition are the DC circuit switches state-of-the-art 1918!

Does that look like someone construction a study seawall in front of the house?

Nope.  It dates from 1840, and is one side of a lock.   For more, see tug44.

And ahead it’s Three River Point.

Tangentially related:  Less than 30 miles north of Sylvan Beach is the town of Redfield, one of the snowiest places in the Great Lakes region, 38.8′ in the 1976-77 season!

Drone photos by Jim Kerins.

Related:  Less than 10 miles off to the left is the Onondaga Lake outlet, aka the connector between the canalized Seneca River and Syracuse.  Long Branch Park covers both sides of the cut, once a major amusement area.  We’ll end up there  in the next tour, in a week or so.  Maybe you can help the effort:  I’ve passed the lake outlet, aka the “cut” to Syracuse, but I’ve never gone through the cut or traveled on Onondaga Lake.  If you have and if you have photos to share, I’d love to see them.

 

Let’s catch up on numbers using the distance table from tug Seneca.  At lock E-20, we are 95 miles west of Waterford.  Also, we have risen from 15′ to 420′ above sea level. For the next 18 miles, we’ll be navigating at the summit level in a laser-straight narrow channel, with a bike trail along the south side.  If you crop away the left side of the photo, this might be a jungle waterway.

Rome was a significant location even before settlers arrived;  First Peoples traveling between the Hudson and the Great Lakes would portage here.  It was sometimes referred to as the Oneida carry, or carrying place.  Because of a necessity to keep this strategic location, different European powers built a series of forts here.

Pay attention to the buoys;  at green 623, we’ll be about a mile north of the Oriskany battlefied.  Nothing is visiblefrom the canal, but here General Herkimer was mortally wounded when ambushed on his way to support a patriot force led by Colonel Peter Gansevoort who was under siege by forces of Brigadier General Barry St. Leger in Fort Schuyler, aka Fort Stanwix.  The ambush led to a bloody but pivotal battle in the American Revolution;  also significant, it pitted Herkimer against loyalist John Johnson, son of William Johnson, both sons of the Mohawk Valley.  Patriots and Loyalists were both allied with different contingents among the Haudenosaunee.

Although Herkimer lost the battle against the forces with Johnson,  it led St. Leger’s force to withdraw to Oswego and British Canada and the 1777 attempt to end the rebellion by dividing the 13 colonies failed, and we won the war.

A note on Peter Gansevoort, he was the maternal grandfather of Herman Melville, who spent part of his youth in Troy, across the Hudson just south of Waterford.  I’ve often wondered what Melville would have written had he traveled west of the Canal, rather than south to NYC and out to sea.

On the north bank as we approach Rome, vestiges of an industrial past are plentiful.  Here’s the dock where Day-Peckinpaugh, in her last years of service,  discharged cement into the silos in the distance.  From 1942 until 1995, Rome was also home the Griffiss Air Force Base, which consumed a lot of fuel.  In recent years, the former base has transformed into a business and technology park, still serving as an airport and housing a USAF research and development lab (AFRL).

During the early 20th century, Rome came to prominence for the manufacturer of copper, brass, and other metal products.   Revere Copper, maker of copper clad Revere Ware, operated here from 1928 until 1974, when the plant was mothballed and production moved to South Korea.

At its peak, Rome produced 10% of copper products in the US.

See the old General Cable water tower?  They had a large complex here from the 1920s until 1971.  The marina and area around the old freight house is referred to as Bellamy Harbor, after Frances Bellamy, sometime resident and originator of the flag pledge.

Below, we are looking straight west toward lock E-21.  To the right, we’re looking up the Mohawk.

Two reservoirs provide the water supply for the Canal.  Several miles north of Rome is the Delta Reservoir, where Mohawk River water is impounded.  Below the dam is a fish hatchery.

,

North of the reservoir is a beach, and this sign explains the origin of the reservoir’s name.  The other reservoir, Hinckley, is larger and about 15 miles farther east, draining into the Mohawk via the West and East Canada Creeks.

These guard gates stand just west of the Mohawk/Canal confluence.

Rome was also where Canal construction began, in both directions, on July 4, 1817.  Several miles west of Rome we pass the “junction lock” on the south side.  If you see this from the air,

it’s apparent as a junction between the Barge Canal going lower left to right in the direction of Oneida Lake, and the 19th-century canal traveling from Rome (lower right) toward Syracuse, to the south of the Lake you see in the distance.

The summit level ends at lock E-21, and beyond that

it’s downhill, and the power houses are west of the lock office, not east.  At this point, we are 420′ above sea level, and heading for Lake Ontario, usually about 247′ above sea level.

We continue tomorrow with our descent toward Lake Oneida and Lake Ontario.

Seeing a waterway shrunk by the land forms around it like this, I find it miraculous that we can travel it from the ocean to the Great Lakes, but some of you, I know, might be starting to feel claustrophobic.

The drone photo below is taken in Little Falls looking back east toward the the Herkimer home and beyond that the Noses.  As before, you notice three modes of transport paralleling each other.  In the left half of the photo, between the railroad and the state road, you’ll notice remnants of John Pierce Stone Works and the quarry above it.  John Pierce had a number of quarries and a Manhattan contracting company.  The road on the right leads to the NYS Thruway.

Bringing the camera down from the drone to human height and swiveling 180 degrees, we look west at the daunting lock E-17 to the left and the Mohawk River to the right heading around Moss Island.  If we followed the river, we would soon be blocked by a falls. It’s called “little” because the drop is not as big as Cohoes Falls, seen earlier near the Flight in Waterford.  Yet, it was big enough that the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company built a short canal around it in the 1790s.

Once inside the lock and looking back, it’s fun the watch the guillotine door descend, as the counterweight, connected by a huge chain, rise. It’s the only lock in the system with such a lower “gate.”  Any guesses on the weights of gate and counterweight?  Answer will be given at the end of this post.

Moss Island often has climbers, as viewed here from the boat,

and even if you’re not a technical climber, you can walk a path up the back side of the cliff to get photos of traffic eastbound  entering and

departing westbound from the top of the lock.

This 1910 photo shows the cliff, the the current lock under construction.  To the right, the location of the previous locks.

Little Falls was the scene of a horrendous train derailment in 1940, attributed to “speed kills.”  A plaque on the north side of the river commemorates this tragedy.

The charming village on the north side of the gorge has seen the population drop from 13,000 in 1920 to fewer than 5000 today.  Now, as in the past, the town is known for cheese.  In fact, the large house that you might see on the ridge high above the town, the Burrell Mansion, was built by David H. Burrell, who invented many devices used by the dairy and cheese industry.

If the building below looks like a freight house, it was built as one.  It’s currently one of eight that have survived of a total of 28 built for cargo transfer in the Barge Canal era.  Currently, Canal Harbor and Rotary Park, west of the village,  has amenities for boaters.  Across the river, some modern industrial buildings belong to Feldmeier Equipment, a world leader in the manufacture of tanks for the dairy, pharmaceutical, and brewing industries.  They grew out of the Burrell’s legacy, and are one of Little Falls largest employers.

Lots of “loopers” transit the Canal, but here’s one of the more unusual craft I’ve seen not so much for what it is than for what it was doing . . . , a vet doing the loop in a kayak as post-Iraq therapy.  Note the yellow decal topside just behind the solar panels behind his cockpit.

Along the way to lock E-18 we follow Jacksonburg Mountain.  First peoples called it Mt. Okwari, or “bear mountain.”  John Jost Herkimer, father of Nicholas,  settled here in 1722, with permission from the local Mohawks, who called him Okwari, because of his imposing size and strength.

Approaching lock E-18, we can clearly see the Mohawk River heading to the right, and the lock leading into another land cut.  The “island” created in between is called Plantation Island Refuge Area.  Clearly, it’s working well as a refuge, since last year as we sailed by, a complacent coyote watched us pass from the safety of his bank.

At the top end of E-18, you can see the green light, signalling that Lil Diamond II was free to enter. Lil Diamond II is one of several boats operated by Erie Canal Cruises, whose dock is several miles west of E-18.

The taller building at the far end of the lock is a power house, i.e., hydro-power generating station.  It’s one of 26 built into the Barge Canal, only a few of which like this one are intact.  Remember that the Barge Canal with its DC electrical equipment predates the grid, so each lock needed its own power generation.

Visible from the river is the 1753 limestone structure referred to as the Fort Herkimer Church.  A walk around the church allows you to see the gun ports in the thick limestone walls.

Herkimer is the base of operations for Erie Canal Cruises.  North of town, there’s a quarry where the public can dig for “Herkimer diamonds,” aka Little Falls diamonds.

Illion is the home of Remington, where an enterprise begun by Eliphalet Remington continues to operate, manufacturing guns, typewriters, bicycles, and sewing machines throughout its 200+ year existence.

Up ahead is lock E-19, where

train traffic finally crosses from the north to the south side of the Canal.

Surprise boat encounters can happen anywhere along the Canal.  One of my bigger surprises was rising to the top of lock E-19 a few years ago and seeing Draken Harald Hårfagre waiting for the lock to clear before heading eastbound.  Vikings!  Eastbound in central New York!  Who knew?    Other unusual vessels that have transited include Hōkūleʻa, Ra, and the presidential yacht Sequoia.  A short account of the latter doing the loop can be read here;  I hope to post about that more in the future. And there must be a thousand more stories I don’t know, would love to hear.

A few miles south of lock E-19 is Balloon Farm, home of  Carl E. and Mary Meyers.  Carl was an inventor of lighter-than-air aircraft, and Mary—also known as Carlotta the Aeronaut—was  an early American aviator who set many flight records before she retired in 1891.

Now the Canal is entirely in a laser-straight  “land cut,” the Mohawk having too many meanders.

This photo is looking NW.  Note the diagonal piece of land rising from the lower right corner.  The waterway above that is the Canal, with the NYS Thruway above that. The wide body of water from the left corner is the Utica Canal Terminal, aka Inner Harbor and the Mohawk meandering off left center.   Getting back to the diagonal piece of land . . . there’s a lattice structure with a red sign atop spelling out UTICA.  This sign seems important because Utica is barely visible from the Canal.  Where the 19th century canal transited Utica, today you find Erie Boulevard.

Just beyond the Utica sign, there’s a lock that leads into Utica Canal Terminal.

Well, the icon may soon be gone, but

it cleverly mimics this sign a few miles to the south atop the Matt Brewing Company, touting the product that made Utica famous, and the beer that was pouring from taps minutes after Prohibition ended on December 5, 1933.  A miracle? 

At the intersection of the Erie and the Chenango Canals, and connected by rail, Utica was well-placed for commerce. Chenango was one of almost a dozen “feeder” canals, referred to as lateral canals, connecting to the Enlarged Erie.

A century ago, 66% of Utica’s workforce were employed in the textile and clothing trade, an industry soon to head south. An interesting profile of the city’s bust and rebirth can be gleaned from this paper.

The sign below in the lobby of the revived Hotel Utica, opened in 1912,  hints at the prestige the city once had.

Stanley Theater is another icon of Utica’s past.  Not much farther south of Genesee Street is the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, with an impressive collection, founded by three generations of the family of Alfred H. Munson.

Before we miss the boat heading west, a few seconds for two more quick details about Utica.  First, you must try Utica greens, one of many food specialties along the Canal.  And second, John Butterfield, a former mayor of the city, is credited with founding both American Express and Wells Fargo.

A few miles west of Aqua Vino on the Canal, we get to lock E-20, here looking east toward the lock off the stern of this 1920s ice breaking tug.

And here’s the info on lock E-17, taken from a plaque on the lock itself.

 

 

 

This dissected ridge just beyond E-13 is referred to as the Noses, a gap already gouged, the opening to the west.  Looking west, notice that this break is used by the Thruway I-90 south of the River, north of it, a major railroad, and to the north of that, a major state road, 5N.  The 19th-century canal ran between the Thruway and the south cliff, aka Little Nose. The north is called Big Nose.

Here’s a quite technical geology article, but here’s the idea:  a fault line runs through the Noses, the single ridge that once held back Glacial Lake Iroquois.  Water then tumbled over a waterfall.  Eventually the ridge gave way here, and  water gushed out, draining the lake and scouring out the gorges of the Mohawk Valley.  Keep this in mind heading west.  According to First Peoples lore, the Great Spirit cracked open the ridge in anger, wanting to punish them for corruption, converting a lake into a river.

This gap was the way west for early settlement of what we now call the Midwest, and east for trade that led to the rapid expansion of the port of New York City.

Looking back east from the water, you see rail and highway traffic on opposite sides.  The Walmart trucks are explained by a Walmart distribution center near Johnstown.

Grande Caribe here appears from a lush valley and approaches the town of Canajoharie, and heads

into lock E-14, seen in the distance beyond the black railing.

Canajoharie developed into a major Canal port because of the work of Bartlett Arkell, founder of the Beechnut, originally a packing company.  Canajoharie is certainly a rewarding place to walk around, stopping at the Arkell Museum, the family home, other homes, and old churches.  Beechnut still operates in the area in a much larger and newer facility across the river from Amsterdam in Florida, NY.

Many old stone buildings can also be found in Palatine Bridge, the side of the river the lock E-14 is located on.

Note the sign just west of lock E-14.  Amish?

Several miles north and west of Palatine Bridge in Stone Arabia, this 1788 Dutch church is open to the public.  If you want a still-accurate portrayal of the area, click on this 20-year-old article.

Fort Plain, location of lock E-15, was once an important manufacturing center.  The town was first settled by Palatine Casper Lipe in 1730.  Fort Plain was also home to Bud Fowler, and if you’re a baseball fan and don’t know the name, you must click here, or just google him.

An intriguing very large white building on the north side of the river just beyond E-15 is the garage for salt storage and the Longhorn Trucking Company.  It’s intriguing because of its size and absence of windows, spawning in my experience a plethora of stories about its purpose.

A bit further west is the Old Palatine Church, built in 1770.  Major funders for the construction were the Nellis family, who remained loyal to King George, and therefore had to flee to Canada not long after construction.   As is true for the 1788 Dutch church in Stone Arabia, this church is open for special occasions.

Just before St. Johnsville is the fortified Palatine homestead built in 1750, currently restored and operating as Fort Klock.  Although it was located not far from the river via a trail that comes out between red buoys 408 and 410, it’s not visible from the river.

Lock E-16 leads us into the first “land cut.”  Because the river meanders so much in this section, Barge Canal builders decided to bypass the river to the south.

Canal boats often overnight at this very remote lock because of constant dredging needed to keep the waterway navigable.

Less than a quarter mile west of the lock is this  southside wall, actually a portion of old lock 34, and a good tie up for small boats.  The recessed stone section, visible in the foreground,  once accommodated lock gates.

The landcut created an unnamed island.  You can name it.  I’ve named it Jigonhsasee Island.

Guard gates between the mainland (right) and the Jigonhsasee Island control water flow.  Dredging is often needed here because of silting from Nowadaga Creek flowing in from ridges to the south.

If both guard gates above are closed, water is shunted over the Rocky Rift moveable dam, the most remote one on the lower Mohawk.  Invisible on the south side is the Thruway and south of that is the Indian Castle Church.

Just round this bend,

you’ll see a sign indicating the home of General Nicholas Herkimer, son of Palatine immigrants who settled this area.  Click on the link for much more detail.

The site is a worthwhile visit.  The obelisk to the left marks Herkimer’s gravesite. The 19th-century canal ran right in front of the house, so you’re looking at the south bank of the canal.

We’ll stop here.  A few miles ahead is the most spectacular lock in the system.

More on the Palatines can be found here.  There’s even an annual Palatine conference/reunion.   Some prominent US families with Palatine ancestors include the Rockefellers and the Zengers.

For more on the Haudenosaunee,  the story about the formation of the “Iroquois confederacy,” this is a good read.

If you want a diversion, catch the next charabanc and see the sights:  from Canajoharie to Howe’s Cave is 20 miles, and to Cooperstown is less than 30.   Cooper will come up again later.  Hurry back, or you’ll miss the boat west.

Drone photo by Jim Kerins.

Related and in relation to the 2020 canal season, here’s an article from boatUS.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,415 other followers

If looking for specific "word" in archives, search here.
Questions, comments, photos? Email Tugster

Graves of Arthur Kill

Click on image below to order your copy of Graves of Arthur Kill, by Gary Kane and Will Van Dorp. 3Fish Productions.

Seth Tane American Painting

Read my Iraq Hostage memoir online.

My Babylonian Captivity

Reflections of an American hostage in Iraq, 20 years later.

Archives