You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Urger’ tag.

Recently I got a request for something on single screw tugs.  Ask . .  and receive, from the archives.

May 1, 2011  . .  the 1901 Urger was on the dry dock wall in Lyons looking all spiffy.  A month later, she’d be miles away and alive.

On March 19, 2010, the 1907 Pegasus had all the work done she was scheduled for, and the floating dry dock is sinking here.  In 10 minutes, Pegasus would be afloat and a yard tug … draw her out.

On a cold day last winter, a shot of the 1912 Grouper, in dry dock, waiting for a savior.   If you’re savvy and have deep reservoirs of skill and money, you can likely have her cheap.

In that same dry dock, the 1926 boxy superstructure DeWitt Clinton.

To digress, here’s how her much-lower clearance looked when first launched in Boothbay.

Back on July 30, 2017, I caught the 1929 Nebraska getting some life-extension work.   Unlike the previous single screw boats, Nebraska has a Kort nozzle surrounding its prop, which clearly is away getting some work done on it also.

On February 10, 2010, the 1931 Patty Nolan was on the hard.  She was put back in, but currently she’s back on the hard, with plans to float her again this summer.

A CanalCorp boat, I believe this is Dana, was in dry dock in Lyons this past winter.  If so, she’s from 1935.

As you’ve noticed, single screw tugs have sweet elliptical sterns.  All painted up and ready to splash, they are things of beauty.  On December 16, 2006, I caught the 1941 Daniel DiNapoli, ex-Spuyten Duyvil, about to re-enter her element.

Also in dry dock but not ready to float, on March 10, 2010, the 1958 McAllister Brothers, ex-Dalzelleagle is getting some TLC.

Is it coincidence that so many of these single screw boats are   . . . aged?  Nope.  Twin- and triple-screw boats can do many more things.  Is it only because the regulations have changed?  Have any single-screw tugs been built in recent years?  Are single-screw boat handling skills disappearing in this age of twin- and triple-screw boats?  No doubt.

All photos by WVD, who enjoyed this gallivant through the archives.

And speaking of archives, Mr Zuckerberg reminded me this morning that nine years ago exactly, the sixth boro was seeing the complicated lading of the tugs and barges being taken by heavylift ship to West Africa.  There were so many challenges that I called the posts “groundhog day” like the movie about a guy having to use many many “re-do’s” before he could get it right.

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

Lock E-34 and E-35 are twins in several ways:  both have a lift/descent of 24.5′ and the top gate of E-34 is actually the bottom gate of E-35, as you can see here.  Tug DeWitt Clinton is about waiting to exit the bottom of E-34.

About a quarter mile downstream, we look back at E-34, as the heritage train is about the cross the “Upside Down Bridge,” which some will argue is not really upside down.

Remember I mentioned “rubble” in the last post, the rock that was painstakingly removed from the cut through the Niagara escarpment?    It made cheap building material, as seen in the 1840s canalside building once used to build block/tackle and other gear for canal boats.  Now it’s a museum operated by Lockport Locks and Erie Canal Cruises.

There are a number of other stone buildings downstream constructed with “canal rock” and rock from local quarries.

Six miles to the east, we arrive at Gasport, where a sign says the population is “just right;”  by numbers that means about 1200 people.

The town was named by two canal travelers doing a scientific expedition in 1826.  They saw flammable coal gas (burning, I presume) in the area, and named the town.  It stuck.  The expeditionists were Amos Eaton, professor at Rensselaer School  and Joseph Henry, who went on to be first secretary of the Smithsonian Institute.

Middleport, population possibly just right too and under 2000, features one of the 15 lift bridges in the western part of the Canal.  These are as unique to this section of the canal as moveable dams are to the east.  Boaters radio ahead, and a bridge tender will respond.

Five miles east of Middleport, we arrive in Medina.  Note the large apple sculpture to the right of the photo.  Contrary to appearance, the fire department there was not trying to sink or fete the 1925 DeWitt Clinton.

Orleans County is not NYS’s largest producer of apples, but the fact that so many orchards line the canal makes an impression, especially when you look down at pickers working on ladders in the trees.  Click here for a photo from about 100 years ago of apples around an applesauce plant north of Medina.

The chief feature about the canal through Medina is the curving aqueduct that to this day carries the canal.  Some of that is captured by this “bird’s eye” view (scroll) from Arch Merrill, who wrote popular histories about this part of NYS.  Here‘s an aerial that shows the the canal carried over Oak Orchard Creek.

 

This NYS Archives photo is looking east over the curve, and the kids are doing what they’d never be allowed today.

Medina is known for its stone, shipped to projects near and far along the canal.  In fact, Medina is home to the Sandstone Hall of Fame, one of many “must see” sights in western NYS.   Medina was also home to a very young First Lady of the US, 27 years younger than her husband.  More info here.  Another interesting stop in town is the Medina Railroad Museum, housed in a 1905-built New York Central freight house.

Urger here is tied up at the west end of the curve.

At the east end of the curve, Oak Orchard Creek flows through a very large culvert and then over a waterfall to the right, and then eventually into Lake Ontario.

A few miles east of Medina is another culvertUrger, the blue/gold tug is moving through the canal above Culvert Road.

This is the view of Culvert Road from the boat.

It’s the open cultivated land that makes the “western canal” so different from the eastern half.

Between Knowlesville, above, and Eagle Harbor, this widening is the canal may have been a barge harbor.

Eagle Harbor UMC is clearly below canal level, as is much of the land in the area.  Check it out on a google map.

 

Here’s what looking south down Main Street [Albion] looks like when you’re passing under the raised lift bridge.   Less than a quarter mile down that street is Pullman Memorial Universalist Church, named for a hometown legend, George Pullman. Before his name became synonymous with luxury train travel, he and his father were known as the “go-to guys” for moving buildings that stood in the way of the project to widen the canal.  One can speculate about the influence the packet boats he saw passing had on his quest to create more comfortable train cars.

Since we’re here, it’s worth noting that less than three miles north just off N. Main onto Route 104 east is the Cobblestone Museum, a type of house material found elsewhere also but not with the frequency it is along the Lake Ontario/canal corridor.  The menu for the database is here.

East of town when I passed here in 2014 was this gem, Tender #6, dating from the 1920s. I’ll allow you to guess what transformation the #6 has seen;  answer at the end of the post.

In fall, as I’ve mentioned before, a lot of boats want to clear out of the Great Lakes and get to warm salt water via the canal for the winter.

Hulberton is another one of those canal towns you’ve not heard of, unless you grew up around here.

These guard gates west of Holley are among the 22 sets in the system.

 

We’re now approaching Brockport, quiet on the canal during rush hour on the bike trail.

SUNY Brockport follows on a tradition of higher ed at this location since 1841.

 

And we’ll tie up for the night in Brockport.  Some things to know about the town include the fact that the first 100 mechanized reapers were built by Globe Iron Works here for Cyrus McCormick.  The town’s connection with the canal is celebrated in a mural in town;  murals depicting canal and community history are increasingly common.

By the way, if you know the importance of of General Isaac Brock on this part of the country and what side he was on, you might wonder why this town appears to be named for him.  It’s not.  It’s named for Hiel Brockway, a passenger vessel entrepreneur, founder of the Red Bird Packet Boat Line.

Sad story about Tender #6. She’s about 80′ down and attracting fish south of Shinnecock.

More photos from this section of the canal, including a 1941 restored Richardson yacht,  can be seen here.

But first, check out this canal notice for the 2020 season.

Three centuries ago canoes and bateaux followed Wood Creek from the Oneida carry (i.e., involving a short portage) into the east end of Oneida Lake. The 1825 and 1862 canals bypassed the south side of the Lake and formed the heart of Syracuse.  For the Barge Canal, machines like HD Oneida cut the channel leading into the Lake at Sylvan Beach.

What may not be obvious as we travel this part of the Canal is landownership. Read the small print on the sign below that until last year marked a fuel dock at the east end of Sylvan Beach.   The sign was removed sometime in summer 2019, because of other, bigger projects planned by the Oneida Indian Nation.

Beyond the Route 13 bridge

people pack into the village,

starting more than a century  ago when many arrived by steamer from the head of the Syracuse trolley line.

As seen from the bridge, boaters raft together from both sides, leaving only a narrow channel out to the lake.

 

Amusement parks have been located here for over 100 years.

The lake is about 25 miles long.  Follow the Canal markers if you want to keep moving.   For decades, these buoys were set and removed by a Canal vessel called Ward’s Island.  No more, since Ward’s Island was reefed off Long Island back in 2018.

The lake can get quite rough, as these Canal-era wreck stories attest.

In the early years of the Barge Canal, the season lasted long after ice closed the canal.  In December 1936, some vessels were iced in and needed to be rescued by a more powerful vessel, in this case, Andrew M. Barnes (aka Interwaterways Line 102, scrapped in 1950), sister vessel of the freighter called Day Peckinpaugh (aka Interwaterways Line 101), and still around.

Brewerton, on the west side, sports one of the three lighthouses built around the lake.  Samuel de Champlain traveled through here in 1615.

Brewerton is also host to two large marinas, Winter Harbor and

Ess-Kay Yards.

with boats from

unexpected places.

West of the lake, the Canal is synonymous with the canalized Oneida River, which

brings us to lock E-23, the busiest lock in the system.

Before we leave E-23, let’s have a look at a gate cabinet, the blue and gold cubes with a number that indicates the lock.  Inside and in pristine condition are the DC circuit switches state-of-the-art 1918!

Does that look like someone construction a study seawall in front of the house?

Nope.  It dates from 1840, and is one side of a lock.   For more, see tug44.

And ahead it’s Three River Point.

Tangentially related:  Less than 30 miles north of Sylvan Beach is the town of Redfield, one of the snowiest places in the Great Lakes region, 38.8′ in the 1976-77 season!

Drone photos by Jim Kerins.

Related:  Less than 10 miles off to the left is the Onondaga Lake outlet, aka the connector between the canalized Seneca River and Syracuse.  Long Branch Park covers both sides of the cut, once a major amusement area.  We’ll end up there  in the next tour, in a week or so.  Maybe you can help the effort:  I’ve passed the lake outlet, aka the “cut” to Syracuse, but I’ve never gone through the cut or traveled on Onondaga Lake.  If you have and if you have photos to share, I’d love to see them.

 

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.

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