Preface: The title 1W indicates this is a west-to-east trip, almost 200 miles between Lake Erie and the cut into Onondaga Lake, not far from Three Rivers, where previously we left the Erie and headed north on the Oswego.  Many smaller recreational boats traveling between the Lakes and the Atlantic follow this west-to-east via Lockport route to avoid using the Welland Canal. Click here for regulations regarding smaller craft in the Welland Canal, considered one section on the Saint Lawrence Seaway and entirely in Canada.

I have to be frank; I’ve traveled this part of the Erie Canal much less frequently than the portion we just finished, and most of my photos are from 2014, so if you’ve been through here more recently and stuff has changed, please update me.  Also, I’ve not been on the water between Black Rock Lock and Pendleton NY.  There may be gaps, omissions of key features in this part of the guide.

That being said, thanks for booking another trip. Virtual trips can magically re-position you; even time travel is possible.  For food, drinks, or a more comfortable pillow, though, you’re on your own.  Remember, doubleclick on a photo to enlarge it.

 

Welcome to Lake Erie, the lake with the seiches,

now looking east toward Buffalo. The Canal is named for this body of water.  It could have been named the DeWitt Clinton Canal, the New York Canal, or anything else.  But mercifully it was not.  “Erie” is an abridged name for a Haudenosaunee people whose more complete appellation was closer to “Erieehronon,” meaning people of the cat, possibly a long-tailed cat.  I add as much info as I do about First Peoples because so many places bear references,e.g., Lakes Erie and Ontario, Lackawanna, Tonawanda, Niagara . . . etc.

 

If we were heading west, here‘s some of what we’d see.  But the rainbow attracts us to look east.  See the white structures on the horizon near the center of the photo?

That’s Steel Winds, an energy project built on a former brownfield, technically in Lackawanna,  where part of the Bethlehem Steel plant was once located.

Grain elevators were invented in Buffalo and made the city rich, a past place of the future.  Since 1959 when grain shipments out of the midwest began to bypass the city via the Welland Canal and the St. Lawrence Seaway to anywhere in the watery parts of the globe, much of this infrastructure was left empty, left to be reimagined.  Oh . . . that white vessel shrunk by the elevators of “silo city . . .”  yes, that’s SS Columbia, a project that plans to bring this steam vessel to the Hudson River.

Some elevators still operate;  not far from the General Foods/Gold Medal Tower is the plant where to this day, as your nose will tell you, they make Cheerios and other breakfast cereals.  I learned this by walking there one day and smelling, Cheerios. Another day, it was clearly Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

Buffalo has a lot of interesting architecture, but the Liberty Building, one of my favorites, is germane to our virtual tour;  twin Statue of Liberty replicas on the roof face one east toward the eastern terminus of the Erie Canal and one west toward the Great Lakes.  Buffalo is a boom and bust city of the canal, reflected by its population size:  1820–2k people, 1850–40k,  1900–350k,  1950–580k, and now declining and approaching 250k.  There really is so much in Buffalo, which in 1900 was the eighth largest city in the US;  today it’s around #50.

Of course, we’re getting ahead of the history here;  none of this would have happened if Buffalo had not become the original “western gate” of the Erie Canal, aka the back door of the Atlantic.  Things could have turned out differently if a town to the north had been chosen.

Everyone knows about “wedding of the waters,” but I want this ceremony, performed on Seneca Chief‘s return to Buffalo, to be as well-known.  One of the confusing aspects of historical research is that names like Seneca Chief get adopted widely, as with this steamboat not long afterward.  As an aside, given what DeWitt Clinton expressed about the Iroquois, of which the Seneca were part, I’m puzzled by this choice of name, unless by that time the name of the Lake had already been divorced from the people.

Calusa Coast, once a regular in the sixth boro, now works the Great Lakes.  Here she passes Buffalo’s Erie Basin and heads for the Black Rock Lock, an entry point for our eventual turn east into the Erie Canal.

The western terminus of the Erie is in the Tonawandas.  Remember my caveat about my relative unfamiliarity with this part of the state, relative to the other side of the state.  Here‘s a summary of some attractions of the area, although even I know they’ve skipped the carousel museum, the Wurlitzers, and the Richardson boatyard.  At the beginning of the boating season, new Richardson boat owners would take part in a mass “sailaway” transiting the canal to salt water, as shown in this delightful video from 1935.  A 1941 Richardson docked alongside the canal back in 2014.

Pendleton is a few miles east, and then a bit farther, it’s the deep cut,

one of the hardest sections of the canal to dig, and it was dug before 1825, i.e., without materials and technology available for the Barge Canal.  As soon as this part of the canal opened in 1825, the Seneca Chief procession departed for New York City. More on the rubble removed here later.

 

See the locks ahead, beyond Lockport’s “big bridge,” which should be called the wide bridge.

 

Once east of the big bridge, we are at locks E-35 and E-34.

We started this leg of the trip on Lake Erie, currently above average height, . . . at 570′ or so above sea level.

We’ll end this post here, above E-35, heading east.  Using the distance table from part 1 of this series, Syracuse lies 146 miles ahead and at 370′ above sea level, and Waterford, 319 miles . . . and 15′.

All color photos by Will Van Dorp, unless otherwise stated.