After my return from Buffalo in May I knew I had to get back to Erie Canal explorations sooner rather than later. I need more of Buffalo, and having now spent three more days on the eastern portion of the Erie Canal I know I need more time there also. In fact, I envision three more trips, hopefully this year, to see what I missed and learned about.
Completed in 1825, the canal was immediately popular and full. Enlargement began, completing in 1862. The final route change was with the Barge Canal completed in 1918. At that time packed with traffic, but the interstates and trains now get most of the cargo. The Erie Canal is being reinvented for recreation. Below is a chart of the developments. I want to see where all three routes were. Some places the original and enlarged remains can be seen. My frustration is finding a good map(s) showing the actual original routes with overlays. The quest will continue, and maybe I will have to create such a map to help others.
Both the Champlain and Erie Canals begin in the Hudson River. In fact, Lock 1 of the Erie is in the Hudson. The Barge Canal begins in Waterford with Lock 2 at a lovely facility. Below is from that dock looking at Lock 2.
and, turning around looking west to the Hudson. The bridge is an old railroad, now one-way car, bridge over to Peebles Island (which I also explored).
a close up of Lock 2, its lift is 33.6 feet.
After a quick look at Peebles Island and the state park, I crossed the Mohawk River heading up to Cohoes on the southwest side of the River – an industrial city being restored that I must tour. Besides the Niagara Escarpment, the Cohoes Falls were the biggest obstacle to the Erie Canal construction efforts. Falling a height of 90 feet, the Cohoes Falls comes close to Niagara Falls 167 feet.
there is a park and overlook. The chart below finally filled in my blanks of the routes in this area. At this point, the first two canals were south of the Mohawk River, and the Barge Canal cut in from Waterford north of the river. Cohoes became quite an industrial area, now restored, and part of my next explorations.
and a panorama that you can enlarge to full screen
It was then back across the river to follow the barge canal, stopping first at Lock 3.
Locks 2 and 3 above are the beginning of the Waterford Flight of Locks 2 through 6 of the 1918 Barge Canal. These five locks have a lift of 169 feet in just over 1.5 miles. Until recently these locks were the highest lift in the shortest span in the world. The five lock’s lifts range from 32.5 to 34.5 feet, and accomplish what the 18 original locks accomplished in Cohoes, and 16 pairs of double locks with the enlarged canal in the 1860s. Here is Lock 4 looking back to Waterford
and, now looking west you can barely see Lock 5
This panorama (which, again, you can click to full screen) gives a feeling of this wonder of multiple locks. You can see in my images, that the Locks, on back roads, are not tourist areas. I had the beautiful areas to myself.
After Lock 6, and before the canal enters the Mohawk River are these guard gates.
Guard gates can be found along the canal, and are used to close off the flow of water. This enables draining of sections for repair work, or flood control. I am just overwhelmed with the engineering that has gone into this marvel.
You may have noticed this adventure started on a Sunday – not my usual departure day, but the museum I wanted to see at Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site is closed on Monday and Tuesday. Of course I had already explored this short stretch for longer than planned, and the historic site still an hour away. And, within that drive were many more canal sites I wanted to experience. But, trying to follow the river, I got lost, not having carefully researched the back roads. I asked WAZE to get me to there quickly, and arrived about 2:30. What I missed along the way, well “on the list” for the next trip to the area.
The historic site is spread out over 245 acres with locks, canal buildings and an old canal store, and remains of an aqueduct. All three canal periods in one place. Starting first in the museum, the young docent was a wealth of canal history. We shared notes, and comments on canal history books.
turning around looking across the Schoharie River are the remains of the aqueduct from the Enlarged Canal period.
just south of the museum is the original canal. Until the enlargement and the aqueduct, canal traffic was towed across the Schoharie River entering at this point. When the canal was routed a tad to the north with the aqueduct, this section became a feeder canal (with water) for the enlarged canal. Now filled in at this point.
this model in the museum shows where the original and enlarged canals were co-located, and can still be seen. Seen that is, if you remember. I was so excited to get from the Barge Canal to the old Canal store I forgot the short hike to this spot – well, next time.
If you leave the museum in Fort Hunter, and head north towards Tribes Hill, in moments you cross the Mohawk on a movable dam. Just a few road crossings go across the moveable dams whose sections (below the fixed road bed) can be raised or lowered to control the river’s flow. Lock E12, Tribes Hill, is in the foreground
Another proud young lock keeper going off duty, wanted to show off the old power plant. Instead of water driven turbines, this internal combustion engine (with a back up) drove the electric motor in the middle.
Then I headed down to a set of locks with an old canal store – totally forgetting about the set of locks I mentioned above. That is the Mohawk River (and Barge Canal) behind the old store.
and, some history you can click to enlarge and read
Finishing up this spot, and enjoying it, there was just the right amount of time left to drive to the Victorian B&B in Little Falls, New York, for the 5PM arrival I promised. Little Falls is interesting, the B&B not well marked, and it took awhile for Oscar to answer the door. After I took a nap, Oscar and Linda offered a tour of the town prior to heading to get a bite to eat. Nice town, nice architecture, few eating options, historic, clean B&B, etc. But, buy me dinner and I will keep you in stitches with stories of Oscar and Linda.
The plan for Monday was to see the inside of Union Station in Utica, deadheading there, and then working back to Little Falls. After my cross-country train trip I discovered the impressiveness of the interior of the station which I had not been able to see when traveling through.
Backroading to Utica, first this old railroad bridge caught my eye (originally thinking it another canal aqueduct, I learned the right story in Herkimer)
First stop heading to Utica was to be GEMS ALONG THE MOHAWK. It is the building below and to the right, along the dock. Inside is the tourist information area, a shop, and restaurant., The building is sandwiched between the River and the NY State Thruway.
When I traveled the canal about 10 years ago this was an evening stop, with lodging at a nearby motel. The real “gem” inside is Melody Milewski, the hostess. She needs to write several books. Canal history galore as she was a previous director (and her husband the last hoggee on the canal) of the now closed Erie Canal Village in Rome – a real sad story, and in no way her fault. She also worked for a small private cruise line – BLOUNT SMALL SHIP ADVENTURES – and looking at their website they have just what I want touring the Great Lakes, Erie Canal and Hudson River. I learned so much from her. You may have heard of the Herkimer Diamond Mines – another trip someday. The owner of the mine (the only lady owned mine in the US) is a friend of Melody’s, and when the village closed she begged Melody to come work for her at GEMS, which she also owns. Well, “gem Melody” provided me with a wealth of travel information – thank you.
Here is a real gem, and to whet your appetite, here is but one quote from Wikipedia – “Inside is a restaurant and a barber shop, one of the few barber shops in a train station today. The 15,000-square-foot waiting room’s 47-foot-high vaulted ceiling is supported by 34 marble columns. The station’s blueprints called for the importing of columns that originally adorned Grand Central Station in New York City. Eight large benches are heated with steam pipes and vents.” Below is my first stop in Utica on 8 June this year, and almost the same view on this trip, 15 July (but from the station platform, and not car vestibule).
how can you not want to visit here?
also based from the Utica station is the Adirondack Scenic Railroad – obviously another planned trip.
people were coming onto the platform – then the announcement came, a train heading to NYC was due in. Yes, I waited. Again, perfect Ray timing.
I was tempted
but this was a canal adventure trip, so it was back to find Lock 19. Again, Ray’s perfect timing as the Tug – Governor Roosevelt (circa 1928) – was just about to lock through.
Deja Vu? Yes — see the railroad bridge? Amtrak’s route to Chicago. I remembered looking out the lounge car of the Lake Shore Limited while on the bridge, seeing the lock, but zooming by too fast to take a picture. But, now I could watch this historic Tug lock through. Here are two galleries you can open up to view larger.
bye Governor Roosevelt
now heading back east – quick lunch, even though well after 1 PM – on the canal of course at the Ilion (NY) Marina.
In Ilion (yes, Ilion, New York) is the Remington Museum and Country Store at the Remington Arms factory. Had to stop there. Eliphalet Remington built his first hand forged rifle in 1816, and when he founded the Remington Arms Company he moved it to Ilion on the Erie Canal in 1828. This could be the oldest US manufacturer still making its original product in the same location. Guess what, “Staffing Problems – Museum Closed.” Well, maybe next time.
Continuing east on 5S south of the Mohawk River now (NY5 is north of the river – the route I took out to Utica) there was not much until looping back into Little Falls. Well, there is Lock 18, with signs hard to find. Tied up is the tour boat that runs from Herkimer.
Then there is the Herkimer Home State Historic Site on NY 169. On the canal trip I took years ago we had a side trip here. Built about 1764, this is the home of Revolutionary War hero, General Nicholas Herkimer who in 1777, while en route to help defend Fort Stanwix was ambushed by British-allied Loyalists and Iroquois at Oriskany. This was an important battle that essentially stopped the western pronged attack of the British attempt to cut New England off from the rest of the colonies. I visited and reported on Oriskany in October 2011. I am learning I do not know enough (or much of anything) about the American Revolution in the Mohawk Valley – yes, I have a pile of information to plan that learning trip.
Here is the General’s home.
I distinctly remember looking out over the garden when I was there before – I wanted to replicate the garden. The monument marks the spot from which he led his troops west.
and, his grave in the family cemetery and large obelisk the state of New York erected.
Swinging back into Little Falls, here is Lock 17. With a lift height of 40.5 feet it was once the highest single lift lock in the world (think one on the St. Lawrence Seaway is now higher). It is hard to get an image of this lock.
but, climbing up the ladder to the lock, catch these views, which you can click to enlarge.
how about a panorama from atop the lock? Click on the below for a full screen view looking back at the Route 169 bridge over the Mohawk River.
Next a look at the antique shops in the preserved mills in Little Falls, and then an iced tea along side the canal at the park.
and, looking west is Guard Gate 4 in Little Falls with some evening fishermen.
Back to Herkimer for dinner at the restaurant at GEMS ALONG THE MOHAWK.. Returning to the B&B I had some business to catch up on, and “enjoyed” conversations with Oscar and Linda.
Tuesday I had many options for the journey home – three ideas in fact, leaving things open to see “how the spirit moves.” I am that flexible – yes true, and an “inside joke.” But, I did want to travel up the west side of Otsego Lake from Cooperstown – it was the rest of the day that was uncertain – a great way to be, follow the hood ornament (well, there used to be hood ornaments – there I go “dating myself”again).
Beautiful backcountry from Little Falls down NY 167 to Richfield Springs (an old summer resort area) and then onto Cooperstown. Packed with tourists, it was nice to see, but I passed through once before and visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame buying my ticket at 3PM on September 28, 2013 – yes, my ticket in front of me now. Following Route 80 on the west side of the lake (last trip I was on the east side of the lake), I passed the old historic hotel (expensive) and then came to the Farmer’s Museum. No need to see more farms and print shops – remember I am a member of Old Sturbridge Village and Historic Deerfield, but while here, might as well look at the entrance and gift shop.
I went into the entrance in the stone barn above (restrooms in the stone silos) to get a map of the farm to make a decision. There was a sign – Cardiff Giant. I could not believe it, was the GIANT really here (historian that I am)? Yes, and the young lady at the counter (unlike the ticket seller at classic The Stanley Theater in Utica) said, “he is just around the corner if you would like to take a look.” Of course !!!
click to open gallery and read and learn
how many people can say (in the 21st century) that they saw (let alone knew who he is) THE CARDIFF GIANT
how do you top this? Drive up the lake, of course.
and then find the Fort Plain Museum and Historical Park, where you learn how little you know about the American Revolution and the crucial confrontations in this area. More explorations in order.
Back towards the river, heading west, there was the sign to Lock 15.
Still a tad uncertain what do see next, a brochure in my box fell out – Howe Caverns – and that was it. Plug Howe Caverns into WAZE, and head a tad south away from the canal cruising, skipping eating to maximize touring time.
I was surprised to find that this attraction is off by itself, away from the rush of the world and other attractions or amusements. As it is today, it was opened in 1929 (although tours date back into the 19th century).
Ticket purchased, a short wait in the queue for the next tour, and fortunately a small group of less than 20 – their maximum group is about 43. One starts with this animated history of discovery.
That is Mr. Howe, recounting how (I could not resist) he discovered the cave. I have advised our local veterinary to educate everyone to carefully listen to bovines. In May 1842, Howe was looking for his cattle one hot day. He found them up on a hill huddled around some bushes. As he approached he felt a blast of cool refreshing air. Pushing the bushes back he discovered an opening into the ground. He soon entered with the owner of the land. They made many explorations deep underground, and in February 1843, Howe bought the land for $100 – soon making improvements to give tours.
I will let you learn more about the limestone caverns and how (there I go again) they were formed on your own. (I am not the only one, their ticket stub reads YOU NEVER FORGET HOWE). The various formations have been named and described during the tour, and I cannot remember it all. So, here in some galleries is a flavor of what to see almost 200 feet underground. If in the area, do stop by for the 1 1/2 hours cave adventure, which includes a boat ride.
It was then I-88 to Albany, crossing the Hudson to Troy, and Route 7 to Vermont and Route 9. Dinner in Bennington, and back home to “work.” Too much fun.
1 – Explore the Erie Canal in sections. Start with the eastern section from the Hudson River to Schenectady.
2- Expand those explorations further out in the Mohawk Valley.
3- See American Revolution history first hand in this area – crucial to the existence of the United States.
4 – Discover Cherry Valley and the old US Route 20.
5 – Have fun Shunpiking.
Amazing, Ray! Reading the travelogue I thought I remembered all, but found I didn’t. Thanks for this. Truly amazing, you should write a book!
Nice blog post! Great to see you enjoyed stopping into Schoharie Crossing!