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You won’t see the 80′ Cohoes Falls from the boat heading into the lock E-2, but this is the reason for the flight of five locks you climb right after leaving Waterford bulkhead to starboard.  The falls, shown here in September, is only about a mile, as the crow flies, from the Waterford visitor center.    Imagine the torrent stretching across the entire width of the lower Mohawk during a quick warming and melting spring, looking

like this.

Lock E-2, the entrance to the flight, looked like this about a century ago.  To the right side of the photo, note the Champlain sidecut locks still functional then;  these three locks, of dimensions appropriate to 19th century shipping, allowed access between the Hudson River and the old Champlain Canal. Today they are a spillway past lock E-2.

 

Grande Caribe, an Eriemax passenger vessel, enters lock E-2.  All 34 locks in the Erie Canal can accommodate vessels up to 300′ x 43.5′ x 12′, although the locks in the western half can only be reached if airdraft is less than about 15.’ The past four years I’ve worked as onboard lecturer on this vessel and her twin.  Her superstructure has been lowered to 21′ so that she can fit under the low bridges along the way to Lake Ontario.

The water below lock E-2 is 15.2′ above sea level.

The record year for commercial cargo on the Canal, then referred to as the Barge Canal, was 1951, when records show 5,211,472 tons of cargo was transported, most of it petroleum in units like Carmelite II,  built in Brooklyn in 1941, pushing Hygrade No. 26 into lock E-2.

In May 2018, the Canal opened for the 100th season;  yachts of substantial size enter the lowest lock of the flight vying to be part of the first locking through, and

local school children sing welcome songs as these vessels exit the top of E-2 on opening day, guaranteeing they’ll never forget their Waterford welcome.

On the south side of lock E-3 you can see a Canal maintenance dry dock and to the left, the shops.  When the area is flooded, boats are floated in via the gates at the far (west) end.

Today this slope has extensive tree cover.  Without tree cover, you can clearly see that the flight resembles a staircase, each lock raising vessels just over 30′.  For archival photos , the digital collections of the NYS Archives are a great place to spend many hours as we make our way west.

This photo is taken from lock E-5  eastward down to E-4 and beyond. Note the blue catwalk just beyond the railings atop the lock gates.

This is from that catwalk as tug Frances pushes a barge toward lock E-5, and

the same view in winter.  Click here for archival photos of this area taken in 1911.

The Canal is increasingly a recreational space, and in summer 2019, hundreds of kayaks transited through the lock.  I’ve seen these locks operated for a single racing shell and spotter boat.

Above lock E-6, a series of guard gates protects the flight.  Twenty-some guard gates, like these,  are used in the system.

When the Canal was constructed, places like these–seen above today– needed to be excavated.

At the top of the flight, we are 184′ above sea level.  In less than two miles, we’ve transited five locks, of 57 total in the system, and been raised about 160.’  Since we are heading for Lake Ontario at Oswego in this part of the tour, we’ve got 24 locks and over 185 miles left.

In the next post we head west.

And a postscript . . .  these photos show more boats in the locks and waterway than is typical, but shots with boats in the waterway, which I’ve taken over the many transits I’ve made, are just more interesting.

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