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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preface:  There’s a new heading at top of the page called “virtual tour.”  Covid-19 has changed everything. Now it’s not alarming to walk into a bank or business establishment wearing a mask.  Many people commute from bedroom to desk, and a really long commute is one that involves stairs.  I’ve been to a few remote concerts already this week,  and virtual travel is happening without getting beamed up or down.   Webinars and Virtual guides are popping up everywhere, and zooming has a whole new meaning.

Today I begin posting a “virtual tour” across New York state by the waterway that changed our national history.  You don’t need a ticket or a passport or a subscription.  We’ll take some zigs into the surrounding land, and some zags into history because we don’t need to stay between the channel markers.  Transit from the Hudson River to Lake Ontario will take ten posts, ten days.  Also, to avoid confusion, click here to find the distinction between 1825 Clinton’s Ditch, the 1862 Enlarged Erie Canal, and the 1918 Barge Canal, today often referred to as the Erie Canal.  I’ll point out some vestiges of the 19th-century waterway.  That distinction and other terms are defined here.  Yes, some parts of the canal have been filled in, but those parts were obsolete already.  Sal would certainly saunter along if he could, but he’s got other duties.  Besides, Sal’s been replaced by Cats and Cummins and other mechanical critters.

Here’s a good place to start:  a weathered and water-stained distance table I saw in the wheelhouse of 1932 Canal tug Seneca. Although I don’t know the date of printing, the table clearly comes from a time when commercial traffic on the Canal made runs between the sixth boro to Lakes Erie and Ontario routine.  I’ll refer to it for distances now and again.  In this series, we’ll head to Three Rivers Point, and then take the Oswego Canal/River to Lake Ontario.

We’ll begin just south of Waterford, the eastern terminus of the current Canal.  Approaching from Troy on the Hudson, you’ll see

this sign in the town of Waterford indicating the entrance to the Canal, branching off to port.

Waterford, a town of just under 9000, is a fantastic stopping point for boats even today.  Note the red brick visitor’s center and just to the right, the bridge leading over to Peebles Island.  That Second Street/Delaware Ave bridge links this to a few photos farther below, taken decades apart.

Before plunging into history, have a look at where these boats come from.  Double click on most photos to get larger version.  Often recreational boats,sometimes loopers, tie up there for information and provisioning; international yachts . . .

Great Lakes work boats,

and self-described slow rollers.  We’ll roll quite slow too, to smell the flowers and avoid  . .  you know . . what Sal might’ve left behind.

To this day, commercial vessels that can squeeze under the 112th Street Bridge congregate in Waterford in early September each year for the Tugboat Roundup.

Can you spot the one tugboat that appears in both photos, above and below, taken more than a half century apart?  It’s Urger, whose story is long and involved and can be deciphered here.  The self-propelled barge, aka Eriemax freighter, on the wall to the right is Day-Peckinpaugh, which transported cargo on the canal from 1921.  She’ll come up again later in the trip.

Note the same Peebles Island bridge?  Judging by the barges, I’d place this photo at about a century old, back when the Barge Canal-iteration of the Erie Canal opened.  The archival photos throughout the series come from the Digital Collections of the New York State Archives, and this is my credit.  Visit the New York State Museum also virtually here.

 

In the next post, we enter the flight.  For now, let’s hail the lock master on VHF and see if he’ll open gates.  Click on the link in the previous sentence, and scroll, to see the friendliest lock master in my experience;  as with anything, your experience maybe different. .

Consider this a work in progress. Nycanals.com maintains extensive info about every lock in the journey on their site.

Any additions, corrections, or other comments are appreciated.  I have literally thousands of photos of the canal, but would welcome your best as well. I’d love to make this an ever-growing communal project.  Let me add one more from the 2008 Waterford Tugboat Roundup.

Again, black/white photos from New York State Archives, Digital Collections. Color photos WVD, unless otherwise stated.

Fred of tug44 created a systematic tour here several years ago.  Sally W went through the same itinerary from June 11 until 22 in2012.

 

Let’s call this the leg between East China, MI and Roger City, MI.  A faster vessel–Happy River–over take us soon before we both

 

passed Damia Desgagnes.

North of the Blue Water Bridge, we passed Huron Spirit after she exchanged the pilots on Happy River.

Once out in the width and depths of Lake Huron, we passed CSL Niagara.

Sparta pushed barge Sparta II, containing some sort of liquid.

 

Manitowoc was down bound.

So was Joyce L. VanEnkvort. pushing Great Lakes Trader.

 

The last time I saw her she was just about coming out of hibernation here.

All photos by Will Van Dorp.

The channels –here negotiated by Pride–run close to shore along the southern side of Mackinac Island,

necessitating careful monitoring of navaids, here is Buckthorn.

Near the strait that forms the somewhat undefined boundary between Huron and Michigan,  we meet Sharon M I pushing Huron Spirit, the barge and not the pilot boat by the same name.

The massive bridge spanning the strait here is about 10 miles to the east.  Click here to find out where the Mack Bridge ranks among the longest suspension bridges in the world as of now.

Note the blue color the water.  Here’s how the colors of the Great Lakes look from satellite images.  Earlier this year a Sea Grant scientist told me the new issue on the Lakes, especially the upper ones is oligotrophism related to zebra and quagga mussels.  Erie, however,  tends toward the hypereutrophic with especially serious algae blooms this summer.

Until I’ve a better system for night photos on the dark Lake, I’ll dispense with photos like the one below.

The Budweiser mural on the silos in Manitowoc today is just a mural, artwork, since the silos are now owned by Briess.  No beer–except home brew– is made in this part of this town.  As to the current owners, here’s the Briess Malt & Ingredients site, resident peregrine and all.

SS Badger can withstand anything the Lake can throw at her, but crossing in extreme weather might make for uncomfortable and dangerous conditions for the passengers, as was the case within 24 hours of my taking this photo.

Here’s a fluvial centric map of Chicago.  We docked just south of the area marked 4 here, but I decided to scout out Bubbly Creek, near 1.

Here’s a photo of Bubbly Creek from a century back, along with an explanation of the name.

My actual destination on Bubbly Creek was the Chicago Maritime Museum.  Check them out. If I’d have been there a little later, I could have gone to the presentation on Cap Streeter, a synopsis of which is here.

Once docked, though, I wanted to explore the southern shore water’s edge around to the east, to Indiana.  That’s the Chicago skyline below, and

here, is more of the picture I wanted, the Burn’s Harbor steel making site, part of the manufacturing infrastructure for which much of the Lakes’ traffic exists.

Quite a nice beach, actually.

All photos and sentiments and any inadvertent errors by Will Van Dorp, who will soon return to this area and suspend new blog posts until  reliable wifi is available.

You may recall that back in 2014, I often juxtaposed  canal&river/rail in photos like the one below.

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This post was originally going to feature only photos of the river and canal from the rails, like the one below, but

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then I decided to pair photos from the train toward the water with the opposite:  photos from the water toward roughly the same land area where the rails lay and the trains speed.

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Train shots are difficult because of speed, coatings on the windows, trees and poles along the tracks . . .  but I’m quite sure a letter that begins “Dear Amtrak:  could you slow down, open windows, and otherwise accommodate the photographers” would not yield a positive response.

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I hope you enjoy this attempt on my part.  And if you ever have a chance to ride Amtrak along the Hudson, Mohawk, and Lake Champlain . . . sit on the better side of the car; switch sides if necessary.

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Here we’re on the Livingstone Avenue Bridge looking south and

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here we are south of it, looking north.  Yes, that’s Crow, Empire, W. O. Decker, and Grand Erie passing through the open swivel.

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Here’s the pedestrian bridge in Amsterdam

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as seen from both vantage points.

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The 1766 Guy Park Manor from a speeding train and

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from the Mohawk River/Erie Canal, where post-Irene repair has been going on since 2011.   Here’s a photo taken soon after the unusual weather.

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Schoharie Aqueduct from Amtrak,

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a slow boat, and

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the east bank of Schoharie Creek.

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Little Falls onramp to I-90 from rail and

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below.

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The rail bridge at Lock 19 from the span and

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from west of it at Lock 19.

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And these all east of Utica I can’t pair, but decided to include here anyhow:  a dairy pasture,

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a construction yard, and

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a truck depot.

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Maybe if I write that “Dear Amtrak” letter, I could just ask if the window could be cleaned a bit.  If you’re going to try this, take amtrak when the leaves are off the trees.

All photos by Will Van Dorp, who embeds this post from “Good Morning Gloucester” to reveal a bit of my past . . . 1988.  Scroll all the way through to see a piece of shipwreck “treasure.”

What happens if you build a pilot boat in Massachusetts to be used on the Great Lakes?  It needs to get to its place of use.

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Thanks to the NY Media Boat, I got these photos this week as the Huron Spirit hurried through

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the sixth boro.   North of the watery boro, I was invited to ride through the Erie Canal  before it closes on November 20.

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Above is the wall above lock 16 and below, it’s the approach to lock 19, where you have to first duck under the triple-track rail bridge.

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The photo below, taken at lock 21, was Wednesday afternoon.  By now, the newest Gladding Hearn pilot boat has exited the Canal and is making its way up the Great Lakes chain.

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All photos by Will Van Dorp, who wrote this story on the Lakes Pilots.

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