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Serendipity is as scintillating as any fireworks. And I hope today’s post is an illustration . . . .  Can you make sense of the photo below?

A car carrier came into the sixth boro less than a week ago, and I happened to be in a place that afforded this perspective.  Just luck.  It reminded me of the question about the tree falling in the woods when now one’s around.  If I’d not been at my location when Liberty Promise steamed by, would it really have happened?  What a name, too, Liberty Promise, and a Jones Act RORO with a registry given as NY NY!* This is unicorn-rare, folks.

*Someone got a waiver to make this a Jones Act RORO, built 2010.

I keep most kinds of politics (eg, partisan) off this blog, but celebrating as profound a political holiday as Independence Day . . . the foundation day, is paramount. The oldest magazine in the world, The Scots Magazine, had this reaction in August 1776  to the Philadelphia signing:  “these gentlemen ‘assume to themselves an unalienable right of talking nonsense’.”  That’s some wit!

Take some time in the next few days to think about a country of over 331 million celebrating liberty’s promise, and how that promise gets fulfilled.  My vantage point, my perspective for taking this photo was entirely unique;  no one was within a 100′ of me when I took it; similarly, remember that your perspective on July 4 in the USA is personal, unique, and that means 331 million folks have a different perspective on everything, including liberty’s promise.

By the way, as of this posting, Liberty Promise has just entered Jacksonville FL.

All photos, WVD, whose previous independence day posts can be found here. I plan to spend the day/weekend working,  chasing a “spectacular warship” down the Hudson.

Happy 245th!

 

 

The 1968-built  Chemical Pioneer is a long- and multiple-lived vessel.  Here‘s a photo of her, then known as C. V. Sea Witch, in 1970.  She entered history books in the sixth boro on the night of June 1 into 2, 1973, most of you likely know the story of her tragic encounter, fatal for 16 mariners, collision and subsequent fire with SS Esso Brussels, loaded with Nigerian crude. Fire engulfed both ships and as they dragged anchor under the VZ Bridge, threatened the integrity of the bridge.

Thanks to Steve Munoz, here are photos of Esso Brussels taken several months later

at the Todd Shipyard in Hoboken, which closed two years later, part of a cascade of lost shipyards in the sixth boro.

Later that year she was towed to Greece, where she was rebuilt and emerged from the shipyard in 1974 as Petrola XVII.  She carried the name Petrola--with various number suffixes–until she was scrapped in 1985.

 

Here’s the rebuilt C. V. Sea Witch, now called Chemical Pioneer.

 

Many thanks for these photos to Steve Munoz, who had been aboard McAllister Bros. with his uncle Capt. Bob Munoz.  I could have called this “Thanks to Steve Munoz 20.”

Unfortunately, the disaster of early June 1973 has not been the only one in sixth boro history.  NY Tugmaster’s Weblog devotes a post to some of these, with three most horrific ones occurring in the month of June.  Many thanks to Capt. Brucato for compiling these with links to the final reports.

Interestingly, the hull of PS General Slocum was converted to a coal barge, and it sank in December 1911.  Texaco Massachusetts was towed to a shipyard,  repaired,  and returned to service, as were two attending tugboats, Latin American and Esso Vermont.  Dramatic photos of the Texaco Massachetts/Alva Cape post-collision fire and rescue efforts can be seen here. Alva Cape was eventually towed 150 miles SE of the Narrows and sunk.

From August 20, 1973 . . . it’s another narrated job from Steve. This time, MS Olympia is getting sailed.   Launched in 1953 in Glasgow, she was a long-lived vessel.  Any guesses when she went out of service?

“MS Olympia at 57th St Pier North R.  Eugene F Moran and  Maureen Moran wait on the river side of the pier.”

I gather Eugene was the 1951 Jakobson-build, the ninth and final tug by that name.  Maureen worked under that name from 1971 until 2010.

“Our vantage point was “McA Bros.”

McAllister Bros.  pushing the bow of MS Olympia.  ”

 

“MS Olympia heading for sea.”  Off her port bow, you can see the tall building at Stevens Institute of Technology.

Lower Manhattan on the North River side was truly a different place in 1973.    Have you guessed when this vessel went out of service?  You can read her service history and see lots of photos, some even in the sixth boro, here.

One job done, on to the next for McAllister Bros.  By the way, anyone know why the flag is at half mast?  My search came up empty handed.

And the answer is . . . 2009.  She was beached in Alang on 24 July 2009 and nothing was left a year later.  Her last visit in NYC had been in 2001.

 

This batch of photos is from 1958 from Steve, who has shared photos for at least 17 posts, and maybe more. I’m grateful Steve provides the captioning, because I was in second grade at the time.  Steve explains:  “I was just over 10 years old, and although being brought up on the water on my grandfather’s old 40’ cabin cruiser, I had never been on a tugboat—yet. When I came home from school at lunchtime, my mother told me to come home from school quickly at the end of the day so that I could get my homework done . . . because my aunt was picking me and my father up  to meet my uncle, Capt. Bob Munoz, on his tugboat to do a special job.”  More of that narrative follows at the end of this post.

Below, from that day, with Steve’s comments in quotes: “Diana L Moran alongside USS Franklin D. Roosevelt …”

I gather from records that the 1945-launched carrier had just completed a refit and overhaul at the time.   Diane L was Jakobson built and two years old at this time. If you’re not familiar with the sixth boro, that’s the Williamsburg Bridge and in the distance to the north, the Empire State Building.

Dalzellera pulling USS FDR-CV42-with assistance from Catherine Moran and Dalzellaird.”

This Catherine Moran, built in 1939, was mentioned in relation to Erie Canal work here, and may still be working as Sherry D in Napa CA.

Dalzellera pulling with assistance from Catherine Moran, Dalzellaird, and Fred B Dalzell.”

“Taken from the stern of Dalzellera alongside USS FDR.”

“USS Enterprise  (CV-6) at  Brooklyn Navy Yard.”

She participated in more major battles in WW2 than any other USN vessel.    Efforts by NYS to purchase and turn her into a memorial were unsuccessful.  Soon after Steve took these photos, she was sold for scrap, done subsequently at Kearny NJ.

“USS Independence (CV-62) at Brooklyn under construction.”

For this carrier as I saw her in 2010 in Bremerton WA, go to the end of this post.  In March 2017, she was towed out of Bremerton, 16000 miles around Cape Horn to be scrapped in Texas, which was completed in early 2019.  Anyone know who did this tow?

Barbara Moran in East River, heading east.”

This was the 1949, not the 1948, boat by that name.

Steve gave me a long version of his account of the day, but I’ve taken liberty to abridge it.  “Uncle Bob greeted us as we boarded the Dalzell Towing Company’s Dalzellera, flagship of the Dalzell fleet and converted from steam to diesel only 5 years earlier, was previously the Jersey Central RR steam tug Bethlehem. Dalzellera had a 1750hp diesel engine, a surplus WW II submarine engine coupled to a new unique drive system for NY harbor–a controllable pitch propeller.   When Dalzell was purchased by McAllister in 1965, she was renamed D. E. McAllister.

But that day our special job happened to be at the New York Naval Shipyard, Brooklyn Navy Yard, helping move the aircraft carrier USS FDR from its slip into the East River,  downriver,  and then  into the graving dock. It was a dead ship,  968’ long, 45,000 tons, in port for overhaul and repairs. The time for this move was selected to take advantage of the slack water in the early evening.  Dalzell had the contract with the US Navy to move the ship, but did not have enough of its own tugs available to do the job alone. Hence,  tugs from McAllister, Bronx Towing, Red Star, and Moran were also involved, for a total of 13 tugs.

Uncle Bob was the mate on the Dalzellera, but for this job he was one of several pilots assigned to control and monitor the movement of the ship and the tugs assisting the carrier. He was stationed up on the port bow on the flight deck.

Having the ship on a hawser allowed a unique vantage point as seen in the pictures.  And, it was uneventful. I was on the port side of the main deck with everyone else away from the after deck, just in case the line snapped. Then it happened. BANG!  I watched the line part and jump up toward the carrier’s bow. No one was on the after deck, so no one was hurt, no damage done.  Another line was lowered and the towing continued like nothing ever happened. As we got closer to the dock, Carol Moran got too close to one of FDR‘s overhangs on the port side and destroyed her mast, which fell onto her deck. Shortly afterwards the tug was relieved to allow it to head back to the yard before dark, since her mast lights were out.

Dalzellera was relieved of hawser duty just before the ship’s bow entered the graving dock and helped continue the push into the dock while the yard personnel started getting lines up to the ship to guide it into position. It was dusk when the task was finished. We picked up Bob at the end of the pier and headed back to our base.  After this day I was hooked on tugs.”

Thanks much, Steve.  As with the Enterprise, efforts by NYS to purchase USS FDR and turn her into a memorial were unsuccessful, and she was scrapped in Kearny NJ in 1978. Some photos of that last trip to the scrapyard can be found here.

For more tugboats of this decade, click here.

Finally, here’s USS Independence as I saw her in 2010 in Bremerton WA.

 

Here are the previous posts in this series.  Let me call this vessel what it is:  the last Barge Canal bulk carrier, launched on May 21, 1921 as Interwaterways 101,

the first of five, built at the farthest end of the Great Lakes, Duluth. Less than a week ago, she celebrated her 99th birthday.  She worked as the last bulk carrier on the canal until 1994.  Her work history is delightfully told in the documentary Era of the Erie #3 embedded at the end of this post.

Below, photo from June 8, 1921 at what was likely a “meet and greet” at the start of her inaugural trip into the new Barge Canal and system.  Those are not the hats and coats of workingmen.

Less than a week later, she’s eastbound in Fairport towed by Cowles Towing Line‘s Lorraine.

Continuing eastbound, she’s departing lock E21 into the summit level.  Comparing the photo above and below, I’d say it’s warm, and the hatch with portholes has been raised to increase ventilation.  That was air-conditioning in 1921.  Also, that was prior to the national electric grid, so lock 21, like all the locks, created its own DC power from water turbines.  I love ILI 101‘s steering pole here;  it’s very Great Lakes.

This “aerial” was taken from the top of the “guillotine” gate at lock E17.  The “faces” in the rock at Moss Island are unmistakeable.

This “aerial” from the east end of lock E7 allows a good view of the stern.

Here she has departed the Barge Canal and is lying alongside a wall in the port of Albany.  Notable is the horse and carriage here, and

the Model-T era automobiles here.  Cowles Towing Line’s Lorraine appears to have taken ILI-101 on a transit of the Barge Canal.  ILI 101 was renamed Richard J. Barnes in 1936 and Day Peckinpaugh in 1958.

As a final treat, click on the image below to see and hear Day Peckinpaugh, the last Barge Canal bulk carrier, under way.  She is a NYS treasure and we should monitor her future.

And for the pièce de résistance, click on the image below for an excellent half hour documentary on her place in the Barge Canal era.  For more by Low Bridge Productions, click here.

Many thanks to Craig Williams and the NYS Archives for these images.

Three Rivers Junction, where the Seneca meets the Oneida, forming the Oswego, it’s got to be right around that bend.

At Three Rivers we sail into our own wake;  we’ve performed the ouroboros.  There’s just this sign, which we saw on leg 9 of the earlier virtual tour.  No pier, no quay, no wharf, no concession stand . . . no place or reason to stop. Different groups of the Haudenosaunee may have had their names for this convergence, but I’ve not learned any.  The inn that was here, off the left side, has never been replaced.

If we turn north here, we return to Oswego.  If we turn east, we head for Waterford.  I know a boat currently in the Pacific that was right here coming from Lake Erie/Buffalo seven years ago, and turned east here.  Arriving from Lake Erie, about 200 miles back, meant getting lowered 200.’  From here to Waterford means about 160 miles, but we have to be raised about 60,’ and then lowered about 400.’  Quo vadis?

This is the end of the line. Thanks for coming on the virtual tour.

I hope you carry away a sense of the beauty and variety of this corridor, which you won’t see from the NYS Thruway or even the Empire State Trail.  Part of my goal was to help virtual travelers see a past, present, and future microcosm of the tangled evolution of this continent.  Conflicts and other events happened here between indigenous peoples, then between Indigenous and European, then Europeans tangled with each other, and finally schisms arose and continue to arise between different descendants of settlers.  Infrastructure innovates and then becomes vestigial, to be left or removed or reimagined and repurposed.  This tremendous although seasonal thoroughfare got built and evolved.  As of 2020, the locks can still be made to accommodate vessels up to 300′ x 43.5′ with water draft to 9′  and air draft 15.6′.  If SC-330 existed, it could still make a real trip from salt water back to Manitowoc WI.  I’ve included photos of some fairly large vessels in these two virtual tours.

I end here at the crossroads (or crossrivers, more accurately) because the waterway is at a fork, a decision point, in its history.  One future is the status quo or better, another future might see it become vestigial, i.e., the end of the line.  Either way, some role evolves.  Here‘s a description of the state’s ideas just four months ago, although given Covid-19’s appearance, that January 2020 speech seems like years ago.

Some speculate, Article XV of the NYS Constitution notwithstanding,  that we face the Erie Canal’s  disappearance as a thoroughfare.  It DOES cost taxpayer money to operate and maintain even if transiting recreational vessels pay no fees, said to be the case through 2021. Since 2017 recreational boaters have paid no tolls;  before that, fees were very low, especially calculated as a percentage of the value of some of the yachts I’ve seen transiting.  Commercial vessels pay, although the tolls are small compared to those in Panama. Also, the sheer number of recreational boats has declined since a high of 163k in 2002;  in 2018, 71k transited locks/lift bridges.  In that link, this:  “The figures account for each time a boat goes through a lock or under a lift bridge, not the actual number of boats. If a boat travels through several locks, it would be counted as locking through each time. The numbers also do not account for boaters who only travel locally and do not go through a lock. A large percentage of boating traffic falls into this category.”   I’d love the be able to unpack those numbers further.

If  tolls cover 5% of the budget,  remaining 95% … a lot of money … needs to come from somewhere else.

This navigation season would normally have begun next week around May 15.  That will not and can not happen this year, a direct result of NY-on-pause policies implemented to combat Covid-19 spread, and I support those policies.  But canal maintenance projects that involved draining  (de-watering) sections of the canal (remember guard gates and moveable dams?) and disassembling some locks, severing the canal,  are not finished. But what if the canal never opens as a thoroughfare at all in 2020?  In May 7, 2020 Buffalo News‘ Thomas J. Prohaska reports that eighteen legislators from canal communities across the state have written NYPA calling for full opening this season of the thoroughfare.  It would be the first time that it has not opened since 1825.  It’s undeniable that March and April 2020 for New Yorkers as well as folks in the rest of the US and the world have been unprecedented. Just earlier this week in central NY a hot spot appeared among construction and agriculture workers.  But we will go back to the way things were, right?  Recent special funding stemming from Re-Imagine the Canal focus, though, seems to be going to non-navigational projects, ones that look at the water rather than ones that enhance the thoroughfare.  To be fair, the strategy seems to be to increase reasons to come to the water in hopes that this will increase usage of the water, the locks, and the lift bridges.

Will this be the 1918 canal in 2118 or sooner, ruins in a countryside park, places to make people reflect on their mortality?

Will it be sublime views of nature reclaiming its space?  There’s intermittent water but no thoroughfare, a severed waterway, and eventually

it’s gone, reborn or devolved into a gully or a bog.

We choose.  We have voices. We have fantastic 21st century writing, communication tools to speak to “deciders.”

These posts have been my individual effort during the “Covid-19 pause” to share a draft of a project I had imagined would involve augmented reality.  This has been my way to stay indoors and busy during this unprecedented time.  Many of you have helped over the years, have shaped my perception and understanding on this place.  You know who you are and I thank you.

If you’re interested in learning more about this waterway, consider joining the Canal Society of New York, an organization that’s existed since 1956, and holds yearly conferences and field trips along the waterway.  Their website has lots of information and many useful links.

If you want more detail about the canal from Eriecanalway.org‘s application to the US Dept of the Interior/National Park Service in reference to the New York State Barge Canal Historic District, click here and start in section 7.

I plead guilty to multiloquium here, so let me end with a set of my photos I’ve taken along the Erie Canal, a treasured thoroughfare as much now as in 1825.

Dancing by the river,

skimming through the system,

looping together,

paddling as far as you want,

transiting from seas to inland sea,

waiting timeless bateaux ,

max’ing the dimensions

solo shelling,

Hudson boat getting raised at lock E-17,

Canadian boat heading for the St. Lawrence,

awaiting passengers to summit the thoroughfare,

stopping for regional treats,

exploring the middle of the thoroughfare,

using minimalist power,

repositioning delivery,

mustering,

returning from a tow,

locking through at season’s start,

fishing in the shade,

frolicking on fantasy fiesta floats,

simply yachting,

squeezing through and under and above,

bringing tools to a job,

rowing a home-built,

locking Urger through for at least the 10,000th time,

raising money from Buffalo to Burlington VT,

[your tour guide] tending line . . .

the air guides standing vigil, and

the misunderstood “monsters” preparing to plumb the depths of the canal, just some of the things that happen here.  This last photo is for TIB, who wanted to know.

 

 

 

 

How we got here from Montezuma can be seen here on a map from the DEC.  Sorry, but I have no pics of Cross Lake, boyhood home area of Hiawatha, but not H. W. Longfellow’s version.

Lock E-24, the only lock we transit in this last leg of the trip, is the pride and joy of Baldwinsville.  In the photo below, the Budweiser sign middle top is near Bud Light Amphitheater on Paper Mill Island.    For the source of the photo and the story below, click anywhere on the photo.  Baldwinsville is a village in the towns* of Van Buren and  Lysander, one of the locations within the Central NY Military Tract, areas of land used to compensate soldiers who’d served in the Revolution.  Thanks to a Robert Harpur, a classics-trained clerk in the Surveyor’s General’s office, these locations to this day carry “weighty” names, fairly common in NYS in general. Imagine growing up in Carthage, Corinth, or Ithaca NY.  More on Lysander, the town and not the Spartan admiralhere.

*The boundary lines for towns, villages, and hamlets are confusing.

A short distance out of town is this rail bridge.  By its location, I’d say it dates from the Syracuse, Lakeside, and Baldwinsville RR, then later the Syracuse, Lakeshore and Northern, but that discontinued service in 1931.  Has it been used since?

The Seneca River, flowing through the NW outskirts of Syracuse, is heavily settled.  You will see a lot of boats, some with only a past and

others with a buoyant future.

Again, many people crossing bridges, like this one E-73 marked at NY 370 Cold Springs, might have no idea what waters and what artwork can be found beneath.

This Sears Oil terminal (not associated with the Richard Sears of the department store) I think has been torn down, but someone needs to confirm that.  The structural dolphins along the left bank are again vestiges of the use of the Canal for distribution of essential materials.

Limitations to the principle that “you are responsible for your wake” were illustrated here.  You slow down if you see someone fishing or canoeing or docked boats.  See the ducks?  Sure, but you don’t slow down for them.

See the hunters above?  We didn’t at first because of their camouflage.  Yup . . . they got waked.  You won’t slow down if camouflage succeeds.

Later, we saw another group of hunters, less well camouflaged and our watch tuned to the possibility that stealthy hunters were present, and they were not waked.

Ditto my comment of earlier about bridges from above and from below.  This is the Route 31 bridge in Belgium NY, a hamlet in the town of Clay.

We pass part of the Docks by Dom fleet.

The Erie Canal, looking west, goes back to the right.  The waterway to the left in the Onondaga Lake Outlet, connecting the Canal to Onondaga Lake and Syracuse, where the Inner Harbor once had a Syracuse Terminal with boat-building facilities.  In fact, the tug Syracuse (seen at the beginning of this post) and the tug Reliable (now a reef near Long Island) were built there.

In 1919 a Greenport NY-built, US Navy vessel,  Submarine Chaser 245, which had served in the Atlantic, Med, and Adriatic was making a victory tour of US coastal and inner coastal cities.  After stopping in Plattsburgh, Schenectady and Rome, plans were made for a stop in Syracuse. At the time Plattsburgh had a population of 11k, Schenectady … about 90k, and Rome … 25k.  Syracuse had 170k.  All was great until SC-245 passed through the Outlet (above) into Onondaga Lake, crew were overwhelmed by the stench of sewage, etc, and beat a hasty retreat all the way to Buffalo.  Battle, as attested by the three “kill” stars on the SC’s stack, had not caused these vets to flee;  pollution, however, did.  Can you imagine the stories these vets told the rest of their lives, crossing the Atlantic, fighting the Austrians, overcoming all adversity, only to be defeated by Syracuse Inner Harbor miasma?

This was not the last or first time sub chasers appeared in the Barge Canal.  SC 330 and presumably her sister ships (I can’t confirm this.)  in the distance were built by Burger Boat in Manitowoc WI.  Here they head for a sixth boro-commissioning and then for sea via the Barge Canal.  I’m not sure where in the canal this photo was taken, or what publication it appeared in.  I found it on FB a few months ago.  Maybe someone can help.  I’ve also long searched for a WW1 or WW2 photo showing war materiel passing through the canal, e.g., tanks on barges, other naval vessels, etc.  Anyone have photos?

Here’s evidence they passed:  Section 8 page 51 of this application document addressed to the US Dept of Interior, National Park Service:  “During World War II New York’s Barge Canal allowed Great Lakes shipyards to build and deliver landing craft,tugboats, PT boats, sub chasers, mine sweepers, and other naval vessels – 414 military vessels passed through the canal in 1942 alone. Canal dredges, derrick boats, and tugs worked on construction of Samson Naval Training Station on Seneca Lake and others were assigned to New York Harbor.”

I posted from Syracuse back in 2013, when Honeywell was making a concerted dredging effort to clean up Onondaga Lake, which had been fouled by the salt industry. Why Honeywell?  Read here. A 2009 scientific article on the degradation of the lake, which some considered the most polluted lake in the US, can be read here.  Honeywell has recently sued ExxonMobil and Buckeye to recoup some of their expenses, but I don’t know the outcome of those actions.

A good read on the the lake going from a spa and fishery to toxic abasement and beginning to come back can be read here.  Here’s another on the lake’s lost resorts.

Here‘s an article about the report and follow-up plan.  The Onondaga Nation finds the extent of the cleanup inadequate. Here‘s more on the Ononodaga.

Notice this stately 1875 Syracuse Savings Bank building, now clearly leased by Bank of America.   The left side of the building front Erie Boulevard, which prior to 1918 was the Erie Canal.

The bank is now on the left extreme of the photo.

Ditto here.  More on Syracuse industry here.

As you might have suspected from other boom-to-bust towns and cities along the canal, Syracuse population today is around 140k, compared with its high of 220k in 1950.

But we’re heading for our rendezvous point, and we have a bit farther to reach it.  That and a whole lot of reflection . . . tomorrow.

 

 

Yesterday we ended at a junction in the canal near red number 4 on the map below,  Montezuma NY.  Today we start about 50 miles mostly south at the southern end of Seneca Lake, at the town of Watkins Glen, at the balloon and red number 1.  This map clearly shows the Finger Lakes area.  The names of the lakes reflect the Haudenosaunee heritage, as this was once part of their homeland.  The numbers show the route we will follow back to Three Rivers.  We could have started at the X in Ithaca to get to the Erie Canal, but then we would miss the four locks on the Cayuga-Seneca Canal.  In the 19th century, the Chemung Canal headed south from Watkins Glen, and by 1858, it connected to waterways in Pennsylvania, allowing for transportation of coal into the Erie Canal.   By 1878, however, all traffic ceased, and coal was transported by rail.  Only recently has a systematic survey of sunken canal boats and other vessels on the lake floor begun.  More here.

About halfway up Seneca Lake is a US Navy sonar testing facility I’ve seen only from land, likely from a high point in Sampson State Park .  Recall my caveats that I’ve not traveled much of this waterway.  The Finger Lakes area has a large number of wineries.

At the north end of the lake lies the town of Geneva, near what was once a major Seneca settlement known as Kanadaseaga.  Since 1818, this has been the top end of the Cayuga-Seneca Canal, and we’re looking south here.

About five miles down the canal from the lake, we arrive at lock CS-4 in Waterloo.  My very subjective best association with Waterloo is that wagons and then wooden automobile bodies were crafted here.

Seneca Falls is well-known as the location of the 1848 convention that ultimately led to the 19th amendment. Today there’s a NPS Historical Park located in a former knitting mill.  Not so well-known is the town’s association with the 1946 movie, It’s a Wonderful Life.”  The story starts on this bridge, with an event in April 1917 that led to this plaque commemorating Antonio Varacalli‘s sacrifice.

It’s a busy place for their canal fest.

Three very subjective associations:  Seneca Meadows Landfill, aka Mt. Garbage, and please do read that link for lots of superlatives and rankings as well as some innovation;  and Sauders Country Store.

And finally, this image of a notice from the late 1880s, commemorating an enterprising salt water captain who dragged a whale all the way here 132 years ago.  Likely, mules were involved, and I suppose it was on a deck barge.  The farther away from the sea he showed his prize, the less spectators were willing to smell, see, i.e., spectate.

If you’re expecting a falls at Seneca Falls . . .  it’s been gone for over 100 years, even since Van Cleef Lake was created, covering the falls.  The building is Trinity Church.

At the north end of Van Cleef, doubled locks CS-3 and 2,  are located.

Tug Syracuse exits the bottom of CS-2 as a flotilla of kayaks waits to enter to be lifted to Van Cleef.

The waterway between Seneca Lake and the

top of Cayuga Lake is narrow, tree-lined and splendid.  And beyond the trees to the left, marsh.  More on that soon.

At the top end of Cayuga Lake, we approach CS-1.

As I said before, this is a wetland area.  The name of the original inhabitants, the Cayuga, literally means “People of the Great Swamp.”  As is true of the Mohawks and Oneidas, the Cayugas have begun purchasing their land back.

The waterway below CS-1 travels along the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, public land preserving the wetland habitat for the many animals that live there. The link in that previous sentence seems to carefully avoid mentioning glacial Lake Iroquois, mentioned earlier in relation to the Noses.   The white spots on the horizon are trucks on the NYS Thruway, I-90.  Looking directly to the right of the tree, the Erie Canal for a short distance runs parallel to the Interstate, beyond the Interstate.  That’s where the junction at my newly-dubbed Tadadaho Island is and where we’re headed.

This drone shot looks southward back toward the junction, which you can almost see following the Seneca River;  where it takes a 90-degree turn to the right, that’s Tadadaho Island.  In the foreground you notice the remnants of an aqueduct.  If you followed the remnants off to the left, you’d be in Montezuma NY.

Here a tug/barge are about to pass it.  Note the people to the right standing on the aqueduct.

Looking back at it, you can see the arches.  There were 31 arches when it was completed in 1857;  all but 7 were demolished for the construction of the Barge Canal.  More here.

Let’s drop anchor overnight here so that you can check the links and maybe go ashore to a well-preserved lock over 150 years old at Four (yes, 4!)  Canals Park.  An alternative is to go over to the Wildlife Refuge and look for birds.

For drone shots, thanks to Jim Kerins.  Other photos, many thanks to Bob Stopper and Michael Riley, also author of Twelve and a Half Miles:  The Erie Canal in Cayuga County and Bridge Dams on the Mohawk.

There are at least two more installments coming.  To continue this series, I’ll reiterate what I said yesterday:  if you’ve done any part of the NYS Canals–even 10 years ago– and feel like adding here any info or photos, activity or historical context, please contact me.  You can supply photos of the area, activity, constituent, or era . . . Together we’ll collaborate to get that represented.  It could be like this one cruising the Champlain Canal in the 1950s.

I grew up less than 10 miles from this very location, in Wayne County, and having seen the whole system, I’ll suggest that, from the water, Wayne seems the most rural county transited by the canal, and that’s just description, not criticism.  Interesting to me is the fact that familiarity makes it hard for me to identify this area’s tourism appeal.

Tug Seneca, whose distance table we’ve been using, followed us into lock E-28A. In the distance, notice the “abandoned” 1912 tugboat Grouper, the topic of many many posts on this blog.

Below is the same area, from 400′ up and looking east. Note the lock center right and Lyons dry dock to its left in February. That’s Route 31, again, along the right side of the canal.  One of the pieces of equipment long-term (and maybe terminally) in the dry dock is Dipper Dredge No. 3, entered service around 1929 and last operated in 1985.  I’m told that the expertise to operate the unit no longer exists.

Lyons pre-dates the canal, only briefly, and is named for the city in France. It owes some international fame to H. G. Hotchkiss and peppermint essential oil, made there for over 150 years.  At one time, the smell of peppermint wafted over the canal and greeted travelers. More on that story here. A unique feature of the canal corridor through here is the number of houses, built by canal workers, made of cobblestones.  For a list with photos of cobblestone buildings in the immediate area, click here.  Signage on the north bank directs boaters around town and the area.

Let’s take a prompt from those signs and go ashore to

admire both the bucolic splendor and, alongside old Route 31 here in Lock Berlin, stare in disbelief at this ditch. Yes, that’s Clinton’s Ditch!  If you have ancestors who traveled west on the Erie Canal, this is where they floated past.

Off the road just slightly in Black Brook Park are these remnants of lock no. 54 of the Enlarged Canal, i.e., this saw traffic between 1862 and 1918.

I mentioned signage above:  Many murals have been created in Lyons and elsewhere along the canal by organizations like Mural Mania.  See a few Lyons examples here.  Murals help maintain a sense of history.  This one is a work-in-progress (notice the table and chairs in the studio?) painted on large sheets of plywood;  when the time is right, the mural is one of two to be assembled in mosaic form in a location to be disclosed on this blog later.

Another Lyons detail, this time from the Moran archives, of Agnes A. Moran (upper right)  tied up in town in summer 1961.  Many thanks to Chris Williams for a “heads up” on that on.  Click on the photo for the full context, and scroll.

It’s time to get back onto the boat.  Here we’ve passed under the Route 14 bridge.  Note the county courthouse dome in the center of the photo.

More industrial remnants catch our attention;  what looks abandoned now isn’t really, but its current usage differs from its original.

It was built 1900  (or 1903) for the Empire Sugar Beet Company, in season processing 600 tons of beets daily to produce 50 tons of raw sugar.  The beets came from 6000 acres farmed for this purpose locally. No sugar beets have been grown in the county for some time. In the 1940s the factory processed dates brought here by rail and sea from Iraq and Iran, pineapple . .  from Hawaii and the Philippines.

This is the reason one always carries a camera and maintains a sharp lookout.

Traffic on the narrow bridges here reveals what’s going on beyond the wooded banks.

The wooded banks, however, appear to shelter great hideaways, even though there may be a paved road 300′ on the land side.

Traffic . . . again, keep a camera handy, because you never know what you’ll see.  Grand Erie, now a NYS Canals vessel, spent the first part of its life on the Ohio River system.

Have another machine from the inception of this land cut.

Here’s another example of an industrial vestige along the Canal;  until 1989 when the last barge made a delivery, hot asphalt was moved here and through the pipes into the storage tank from a “hot” barge pushed by a tug all the way from Perth Amboy NJ.

Ten miles east of Lyons we arrive in Clyde, a village with a population of about 2000 for over a century.  Clyde Glass Works put the town on the map.  Here’s more on the glassware made here.

What’s not visible from the boat is the proximity of the Enlarged Canal, as seen from this drone photo of the laser-straight “ditch” to the right of the current canal.

Lauraville Landing in Clyde back in summer 2017 saw these boats tied up for an evening, part of the “votetilla,” a parade of boats that transited this part of the canal on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of New York granting women the right to vote.  The 19th amendment was passed two years later.

The bottleneck for folks that travel the canal frequently, this is the infamous Clyde Bridge, aka the E-93 bridge that once carried the many-years-defunct West Shore Railroad.  It blocks passage of any vessel exceeding about 15′ of air draft.  If you’re 16′ and can ballast yourself down without hitting the bottom, there’s hope. Otherwise  . . . Lake Erie is only 130 miles behind you, and you’ll see things you missed as you return, right?  The jackstaff with the yellow “flag” aka jack can also be called a feeler or a tell tale.

In the photo above,  we approach just barely drifting, in case we need to reverse engine to avoid hitting.   Below, I took the photo before I knew exactly what this “grafitti” represented.  Later,

I learned that Blount Small Ships Adventures then known as American Canadian Caribbean Line, used to transit this portion of the canal, and here the owner of the company, Luther Blount, is standing atop the highest deck of Niagara Prince, leaving a record before squeezing through on the way west to Lake Erie.  Photographer unidentified.

Two miles east of here we transit E-26, and then another five miles farther, we get to lock E-25. The small boat just before the lock to the left is called a buoy boat.  You may have seen others earlier in the trip and wondered. In the first decades of the Barge Canal, when traffic moved 24/7 as long as the ice was not too thick, channel buoys had kerosene lamps;  buoy boats carried kerosene tanks to replenish the tanks on the buoys to keep the flame burning.  They are still used as appropriate in the system.

A mile east of  E-25,we’re in the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, and

we come to a junction, shown

more vividly here from a 1981 aerial.  We will overnight here and, rather than heading straight ahead for Syracuse, we’re branching off to the right.  And that triangular island, does it have a name?  If the name is as boring as Junction Island, I think we need a a legend and an intriguing name.  In the absence of one, I’ll call it Tadadaho island, and if you want to learn about this scary local, click here.

Given all the mention of Haudenosaunee names in this series, you might be wondering where “Montezuma” comes from.  Well, a cosmopolitan NYC physician named Peter Clark with a commercial interest in the salt deposits under the marsh there  built a home overlooking the area in 1806.  He considered his home akin to the palace of the Aztec ruler, and therefore chose that name.  It stuck.  I’d love to see a photo of that house.  And salt, that’ll come up again.

At the start of the next post, we’ll virtually transport ourselves 50 miles mostly south to the bottom of Seneca Lake, town of Watkins Glen, and head north across the Lake.  One could do the same trip heading north starting in Ithaca, less than 20 miles to the mostly east from Watkins Glen, but then we’d hit only one lock.  So to Watkins Glen we’ll go.   It’s a nice place, by the way for hiking (last three photos here) and spectating this and more.

Many thanks to Bob Stopper of Lyons for some of these photos and information, Chris for the Moran tug heads-up,  Mark De Cracker for the mural-in-progress, and drone-assisted photos by Jim Kerins.

There are at least three more installments coming.  To continue this series, consider this:  if you’ve done any part of the NYS Canals and feel like adding here, info and photos of something sublime or even that I’ve underrepresented–section, activity or historical context, please contact me.  You can supply photos of the area, activity, constituent, or era . . . Together we’ll collaborate to get that represented.  It could be like this one cruising the Champlain Canal in the 1950s.

How many locks have you noticed since Lockport?

Actually, there are none.  The entire 60-mile stretch with all the lift bridges is at a same level, 513′ above sea level.  And adjacent to lock 32, is a sign of contemporary water use, a kayak park.

The Pittsford Canal Shop  lies west of the village.

The village features some fine examples of preservation and adaptive reuse.  Note beyond the replica packet boat Sam Patch, named for a local daredevil,  is a converted silo complex.  A memory of my childhood is summer Saturday night with a truckload of pickles, some of which I’d picked,  for the Forman’s piccalilli plant.

Several places along this trip already I’ve pointed out that the adjacent land is lower than water level.  This is especially true east (actually SE) of Pittsford on a location called the Great Embankment, and area where–to avoid locks–the canal water is carried on an embankment over Irondequoit Creek.  This is risky, and breaches have occurred. Beside and below the embankment is the hamlet of Bushnell’s Basin, a transshipment point in the early days before the embankment was completed.  Richardson’s Canal House is located in the hamlet.

After we round the Great Embankment, we arrive in Fairport. Here excursion boat Colonial Belle makes her way westbound under the Fairport Lift Bridge, a local landmark currently closed for repairs. Colonial Belle has the distinction of having arrived in this part of the canal on her own bottom via the Panama Canal from the West Coast US.

Enjoy the beautiful pre-0700 morning in Fairport.

In my experience, this stretch of the canal gets lots of use at almost all hours.

Signage helps the traveler see what is no longer here, what led to a here being here.

Commuters use the less-traveled, economy connector between Fairport and Macedon.

Some schoolkids were very enthusiastic as we exit lock E-29 in Palmyra.  I’ve been told by a reliable source that lock E-29 power house used to supply power to both lock 29 and 30, since the Barge Canal dates to a time before the national power grid.  The area near the lock includes a park where you can see a reconstructed 19th century canal change (not chain) bridge, where mules towing barges would change from one side of the canal to the other.  Evidence of three-arch stone Ganargua Creek Aqueduct is also right near the lock.  And, in town, a short walk from Port of Palmyra marina, is a set of five museums referred to as Historic Palmyra.

Palmyra plays a role in a book focusing on the transmission of spiritual ideas along the Erie Canal, Heaven’s Ditch, by Jack Kelly.  Not far from here were the places that catapulted Joseph Smith, the Fox sisters, and more into the spotlight.  The canal itself served as a conduit for religious ideas, social movements, trade goods, and of course many immigrants.  And this part of the canal is sometimes referred to as the “burnt-over district” because of all the spiritual movements stemming for here.

East of Palmyra a spillway captures the overflow form the canal, forming Ganargua Creek, aka Mud Creek, a place that played a wet role in my childhood.

Port Gibson, aka Wide Waters, one of the many ports along the Erie Canal, is Ontario County’s only footprint on the Erie Canal.

The canal into Newark gets quite narrow, as you see with Urger eastbound.  Route 31 runs between the bank and that farm.  And again, driving on 31, you could have no sense that a major waterway can be found below that bank.

Here’s roughly the same location on a very cold morning about four months later.

HR Pike headed through this stretch with brewing tanks from China for Rochester’s Genesee Brewing Company.

Tugboats like HR Pike above and Margot below need telescoping wheelhouses and ballasted barges in order to to squeeze beneath bridges like this one in Newark.

East of town, we get to lock E-28B, where a tender is pushing a deck barge eastbound.

Before we leave Newark, a town of  9000 today, down from 12,000 in 1960, have a look here and here at some of the history of the town.  For a few years, the Mora automobile was made here, until it went bankrupt.  Looking back on the transit we’ve made so far, Rochester once made automobiles as well, including the Cunningham, a 1920 model of which is now in Jay Leno’s mega-garage.   And going back even farther all the way to Lake Erie, Buffalo was the home of Pierce Arrow, many models of which can be seen in the Buffalo Transportation Pierce Arrow Museum.  Pierce began making bird cages, then bicycles, and then automobiles.   One of two Moras still extant can be seen in Norwich NY.  

And maybe someone can comment on why there is no E-31 and E-28 has a part A and a part B?

Some Newark photos, thanks to Bob Stopper.

 

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