You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Erie Canal’ tag.

The Canal has likely been called lots of things, but exotic might never have been used.  But I would argue that it is just exactly that.

Thanks to Peggy Huckel for the top three photos here, six more or less anachronistic rowers of an 18th-century bateau (bah TOW) on a mission.  If you look closely at the second rower from the bow, red shirt and white 21st-century hat, he’s the person who typically takes most photos on this blog.  Our mission?

. . .  To meet this lodya, Pilgrim,  built on the shores of the Onega Sea. It sailed here from the White Sea Canal!  You saw photos of it before in this post from last month, and I won’t duplicate all the info from there. Here you can follow Pilgrim‘s own website in English.

Our mission failed in that Pilgrim‘s arrival happened after our bateau returned to its 18th century port.  But . . .

to me it was important to wait for them.

 

Lock E-8 seemed a good place.

If you’re reading this today and find yourself west of lock E-17 . . . you may see them.  And if your Russian is better than mine, you might say “добро пожаловать на наш канал,”  which sounds like “dobro pozhalovat’ na nash kanal.”  In our current toxic political state of affairs, creative anachronists doing a global circumnavigation like this re-enacting another time, they have my respect.  In fact, I’d love to know what reception US re-enactment sailors would get in the White Sea Canal.

First three photos, thanks to Peggy Huckel. The last five by yours truly, the second rower from the bow, red shirt and white 21st-century hat, trying unsuccessfully to pass himself off in that outfit as a time traveling bosloper.

Other exotic vessels through the Canal have included the following:  Bounty, a solar Ra, Draken Harald “Fairhair,” the current Oliver Hazard Perry, Hōkūle‘a, Sequoia, Royaliste, Wards Island,  . . .  please help me add to this list.  Some more photos are here.

If you’re reading this while traveling through the canal, check out my virtual guide.

White, blue, and red comes in different contexts, and

this one along with the name on the trailboard does give pause.

Glenn Raymo took these photos in Poughkeepsie Sunday, and they were my introduction to an ambitious sailing project.   The best I can tell this project began in Petrozavodsk, a city on the western shore of Lake Onega, in northwest Russia, a few hundred miles east of access to the Baltic at St. Petersburg.  Lake Onega is connected to both the Baltic and the Arctic Ocean via the White Sea Canal. As a person who fancies himself somewhat well-versed in canals, I was ignorant of the White Sea Canal until now:  mostly hand-dug by prisoners of the USSR in the 1930s

Pilgrim is a lodya, a traditional sailing vessel of this area.  Along with the koch, the lodya is an ancient Rusian polar exploration vessel.

If you follow along on the “news” link, you see their step-by-step voyage from Russia.  Exactly two years ago, eg, they had just crossed the Bay of Biscay!   News articles go all the way back to 2006.

To my friends along the Erie Canal, once the waterway is open, keep your eyes peeled.

Many thanks to Glenn Raymo for this catch.  Previous posts with attribution to him can be seen here.

It reminds me of all the memorable vessels that have transited the Erie Canal:  Bounty*, Draken Harold Fairhair, Pinta, Sequoia**,  Hokule’a, Ra, When and If, Amarah Zee, the future Oliver Hazard Perry, Lois McClure . . . I have no doubt left some out.

*I have photos but I’ve not posted them on tugster.   **One of the planned but not realized posted is a review of Capt. Giles M. Kelly‘s book;  any volunteer to write a review?  You’ll get a free book.

And to the crew of Pilgrim,    попутный ветер, друзья мои      I hope I spelled that right.

Please, Lord, no . . . Day-Peckinpaugh has not been put out to pasture, I hope . . .

“Out to pasture or not,” as Craig said, soon someone will have to start mowing the grass around her hull.  Maybe green goats can help?  This photo was taken between locks E-2 and E-3 a week or two ago.

Here’s the Erie Canal between E-28A and E-28B. In normal seasons, by this time (photo taken in late May) the water would be from top of riprap to top of riprap on the other side.  I hope to hike it, in search of treasure, evidence, or  . . . just plain junk.

Here, looking west, is the top of the Lyons dry dock to the left and the top of E-28A to the right.  For a photo of DonJon tug Rebecca Ann on that wall between the dry dock and the lock, click here.  I took that photo August 2019.

This is a great place to catch walleye . . . or was.  That’s lock E-27 to the left.

Right near this bridge, I got a photo of a buck swimming across the canal just ahead of the tugboat here.

So why is there no water over the spillway here?  Why are the levels so low in the other photos in this post?  The canal was de-watered at the end of the last season.  This is done each winter so that maintenance and repair can be done in the winter.  That was ongoing last winter until mid-March when the state classified  canal workers as non-essential.  All work stopped until very recently.  So all disassembly that happened last winter is now late in being reassembled.

Until the canal gets re-watered, it’ll make for some interesting hiking.

 

Many thanks to Craig Williams and Bob Stopper for these photos.

And if you’ve not yet watched the Turnstile Tours talk I did back on May 26, have a watch here.  It’ll take about an hour. That’ll be in lieu of blog posts the next days, weeks . . . however long this retreat takes.  I’ll be back . . .

 

May 2010 . . . I took my first trip to see the thrills of the southern Arthur Kill, thanks to Bonnie.  Back then the hull of Astoria (1925-1967 on the East River Line) was still there. Since then, I believe it’s been removed  . . . said to be an eyesore.  !@#$?!!  Here’s more from that paddling trip.  Keansburg Steamboat Company operated it until it ended up here. If I read The Boats We Rode, Roberts & Gillespie, p.13) right, I’m wondering why it spent so many years before being broken up. And why isn’t it listed here?

ABC-1 was hauled out back that month. I know some of you are happy to see what she looks like below the waterline.

OSG Vision was new, and spent some time at the Bayonne shipyard. Here she’s nose-to-nose with Horizon Discovery.

I recall vividly this spectacular spring morning before work . . . Irish Sea went by pushing DBL 103, passing NYK Rigel at Howland Hook.  Mornings like that tempted me to skip work.

I’m not sure where this boat is today, but I did manage to get close-ups out of the water here, three and a half years later.

Heather M II here passed NYK Rigel.  I’ve never seen Heather M since, I believe, but she has classy lines and a great bow pudding.

Colleen was still in salt water back then.  I’m not sure she ever thawed out after a late December transit to Lake Michigan six years later.

Janice Ann, here pushing RTC 28, was still around here.  If you want to read about life aboard Janice Ann, I did a review of a book written by one of her captains here.

Niz C. Gisclair was an exotic in town, likely here working on a dredging job.  She has a Marquette logo on her stack.

Sorry about the backlighting here, but it’s Allied’s Falcon in the Kills. She has since appeared on this blog as Carolina Coast.

And finally .  .  . a sad shot of sister ship of Day-Peckinpaugh, launched as Interwaterways 101.  The vessel below was launched two months later as Interwaterways 105, and from 1936 until 1976 operated as Michigan. She’s languished in the AK for decades, possibly since 1976.  She’s an Eriemax, tailored to the dimensions of the Barge Canal locks, built in Duluth 99 years ago!

Here’s the same vessel on the Erie Canal, date and photographer unknown.

Yup . . . after 18 days of virtual Erie Canal touring, I needed to sneak another Erie Canal pic in here.

All photos except the last one by WVD.

 

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.

Many activities across the state are being cancelled, but our virtual tour boat has been authorized by the USCG and the United Federation of Planets to carry an infinite number of passengers, so long as we have an infinite number of virtual PFDs and our transporter room has virtual  certification.  And your captains . . . well, they have both real and virtual licenses. So, again,  welcome aboard.

Today we head east from Spencerport, a growing suburb of Rochester.  From the waterway, you can see life in suburbs, quite different than a couple dozen miles back where you looked at agriculture. At its peak in the pre-Barge Canal era, 1000 people lived here; now well into the automobile era, the population has climbed to about 3600.  For more images of the Spencerport lift bridge, click here.  And by the way, don’t speed from one lift bridge to another, because sometimes one bridge operator serves more than one bridge, and takes a bicycle on the “tow path” between them.

About four miles to the east, it’s Henpeck Park, one of many places along the canal where murals commemorate the history of the waterway.

Around the bend from Henpeck, signs and gates point to the old Erie Canal bed, which went right into the heart of what grew into Rochester.

This is what you see of Rochester as you head from Greece and toward the west today.  As happened in places like Schenectady, Utica, and Syracuse, the Barge Canal path avoided the old city centers, and sections of Clinton’s Ditch and the Enlarged Canal were filled in.   I’ve posted this glossary before, but in case you are confused, you should check it.

Some refer to this as the Barge Canal’s Culebra Cut, then and

now, or at least in fall.

You see nothing of the city, except the “unintended” side of a very few structures like that white one at the top of the photo.  Given the trail down to the water, I wonder what transpires there, in the hidden world of Rochester: fishing, indulging, what else.  Someone standing or driving on the other side of the building would have no idea a major waterway can be found behind the buildings.

Vestiges like these remind of a time when essential materials arrived here by water.   In fact, google-map-check the route the canal follows through the west side of the city;  it’s tank farm after tank farm, dating to this means of supply.  Rochester’s 1950 population exceeded 330k; today it’s shrunk to around 200k.

The airport lies just south of the Canal near here.

I’ve not been north of the canal on the Genesee, but in a few miles you’d get to Corn Hill and then High Falls, the water power that put the location on the road to a boom.  There’s so much more to write about Rochester and the Canal.  A brilliant story of reinvention involving use, disuse, and the obsolescence driving repurposing is that of the Rochester subway, previously the 19th century canal aqueduct.   Rochester also was home to Dolomite Shipyard, where ocean-going vessels were built, vessels that once launched, made their way to salt water via the Canal.  More on the Odenbachs, the family that owned the shipyard, here.

Genesee Crossing, where the canal and the Genesee River intersect, is a place where a flowing river dumps silt into the canal, a place where dredging is always necessary.  Fifty miles south of here is Letchworth State Park, sometimes called “Grand Canyon of the East,” where the Genesee tumbles over a series of falls in a deep gorge.   As the Mohawks played a role in the eastern part of this guide, the Senecas did here;  the Mohawks were the “keepers of the eastern door” of the Haudenosaunee, and the Senecas were the “keepers of the western door.”  Their traditional range was once between the Genesee River and Canandaigua Lake, reaffirmed by the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua here.   Cornplanter and Handsome Lake, two signatories of that treaty, have histories that are worth a read.  As happened elsewhere, though, treaties were signed, borders were encroached upon, conflict arose, new treaties were signed; and the whole cycle repeated.

Mary Jemison, built in 1931 and a former Chesapeake Bay “buy boat,” is a retired (and for sale) Genesee River excursion boat .  She’s also interesting because of her namesake.  Mary Jemison was a Scots-Irish child born on an immigrant ship in the Atlantic Ocean.  After landing in Philadelphia, her family moved into western Pennsylvania, disputed territory at the outbreak of the (last) French and Indian War.  In 1755, when she was 12, she was kidnapped and most of her family killed in a raid;  as was Haudenosaunee custom, she was adopted and lived the rest of her life as Dehgewänis, a native woman, for much of the time along the Genesee River.  More of her story, including her connection to Letchworth, can be read here.  The name Jemison is still used by members of the Seneca nation.

These three pedestrian bridges, connecting parts of Genesee Valley Park, were built over a century ago, and

are among my favorite sights along the canal.  Erie Canal Adventures, formerly Mid-Lakes Navigation,  operates these rental houseboats.

Here’s another view of Genesee Crossing, as seen from the dredgers dock.

Beyond these guard gates, we’re in the SE suburbs of Rochester.  We’ll stop here for the night.  Meanwhile, Rochester is associated with George Eastman, Henry Lomb, Hiram Sibley, Frederick Douglas, Mitch Miller, Susan B. Anthony, Steven Sasson, Chuck Mangione, and anyone can list folks I’ve left out.  It’s also the home  of Genesee Brewing, which will come up later.

Right here we’re  halfway between Erie Basin Buffalo and Inner Harbor Syracuse, about 90 miles in each direction.

Let’s end on a vintage photo said to be in the Rochester area in the 1920s.  Anyone know more?

And, here’s a post I did on tugster five years ago showing the variety of traffic on the Erie Canal in the Rochester area  100 years ago.

 

 

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.

 

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 1,388 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

August 2020
M T W T F S S
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31