OSWEGO CANAL – 7-10 MAY 2022 – Part II

Monday, May 9, was a bus tour starting at 8:40 at the Port of Oswego (still love how that sounds) and traveling south along the river for almost 22 miles to Phoenix. The river continues another two miles to where it joins the Oneida and Seneca Rivers. The Oswego drains an area of 5,122 square miles, including the Finger Lakes and Oneida Lake. Oneida Lake is the largest lake entirely within New York state, almost 21 miles long and a mile across at its widest point. If you have any interest in the Erie Canal you should join the Canal Society of New York State. On their field trips extremely well done historical trip guides are prepared, and well worth study – I have read this one three times now.

OCanal-May 2022-ya

At the Port of Oswego we learned of the importance of the port with lake commerce and saw close up the new $15 million grain elevator. Older elevators were torn down years ago. I find the operation of grain elevators fascinating, and need to learn more. I also subsequently have read that this project was controversial, and stopped and delayed by a lawsuit since it is blocking many historic views.

Next stop Lock 8 (right “downtown”), the northernmost lock, where construction is rapidly finishing up for the opening of the canal. All repair and new work must be done off season in the colder months. Again, I remind you that you can follow this same route with me along the water on the trip I took in September 2019 – just click this hyperlink.

Next? — Lock 7

One of the special and great things traveling and exploring with a society or club with a focused interest is the possibility to get places and see things not open to the public. And, Craig is well connected in NY State history and canal circles, and obtained permission for us to see the remains of an 1850s canal in a private backyard.

As a matter of introduction – some canal construction background. Originally many canals, including the Oswego Canal, were cut ditches (think the nickname for the Erie Canal – Clinton’s Ditch). Waterways were dug, and locks constructed for changes in elevation. The enlarged Lock 14 below (circa 1850s) that we next visited shows what happened over time. The Oswego River originally was small and to the west of the cut canal along the high bank you can see. In future expansions damns were built backing up the river, raising the levels, and creating “slack water” to sail on. There are six dams along this river to create the slack water for easier cruising and fewer locks. And, some of the damns are curved. And why you ask? It is not to increase the strength (although it helps) but to create a greater top surface length to allow more water flow downstream. All carefully calculated out I am sure to make sure upstream levels are kept at a safe and proper width. This first image shows walking down the private yard to the old lock which is almost covered by the river width increase due to the building of dams. Then the gallery (which you click and enlarge) shows close ups of the old stone constructions.

Next we headed to Lock 3 and lunch. We skipped Lock 5, and Lock 4 was never built as originally planned. The early engineers discovered it would not be needed, and instead of renumbering all the plans and lock sites, 4 was simply skipped in the numbering scheme.

First stop after lunch was at Lock 2, where the Oswego Falls East hydro plant is located. We were given a quick look at the inside of the plant, and then given a demonstration of the unique swivel bridge that leads over the canal to the plant.

Again, why do you tour with a unique focused group? – you get to go “behind the scenes” and the next stop was at the Lysander Canal Maintenance Facility to see the historic tug boats URGER and SENECA. Meeting us there was an enthusiastic Steve Wunder, a former captain of both tugs. Just the other day the leader, Craig, provided a link to Will Van Dorp’s Tugster blog for more on our visit there – https://tugster.wordpress.com/2022/05/10/urger-update/ – make sure you take a look as well (I am hidden in the group photo in the back)

how can you not resist this color from markers ready for installation for the season?

It was then a quick stop at Lock 1 in Phoenix, and then a return to the Town of Oswego with a quick look at Lock 6 and its impressive adjoining damn.

Back a tad after 4PM, the CSNYS May 9th Tour of the Oswego Canal was over, and folks headed off to their real lives. Yes, I could have deadheaded home and gotten to “44” by 10PM, but you know me (hopefully) and the plan was to spend all of Tuesday exploring a different route back home. And, that came next after watching another sunset over the lake, and actually enjoying a “Best Western” that was as comfortable as most historic inns or B&Bs I frequent.

Of on Tuesday, to refresh you, I have included below the map with my marked routes that I shared in Part I (you can click for full screen). Heading west I was on the more southernly route until Rome when I headed north to Port Ontario. Having traversed on the waters of Lake Oneida twice I wanted to skirt its northern shore (remember I mentioned above the lake is almost 21 miles long) and then take another NY State Byway -the Southern Adirondack Trail – that you can see my pink hi light on through the green preserve.

Leaving shortly after 8AM, I headed down the remote western side of the Oswego River to Fulton where I picked up Route 3 to Route 49 that runs along the shore of the lake to Rome. But having pursued the travel literature I had to stop in Central Square to see the CENTRAL SQUARE (Railroad) STATION MUSEUM which is only open on summer Sundays. A small museum, but on my route and they have some fascinating rolling stock on display. I arrived, and was impressed at what I saw on their grounds.

an overview of the grounds

In this gallery are the explanations of the Circus Car and the Gas-Electric Car. The green trolley is the last Syracuse, NY, trolley that was taken out of service in 1941. The undercarriage and trucks went to the scrap drives for the war effort, and the body became a “camp.” Rescued from that deteriorating fate in the woods, the next hope was to become part of a restaurant. That did not happen, and now the museum has it to preserve. Remember you can click for larger views.

I really enjoyed the views along the lake, but it was just too hard to find the perfect image to share – so, you will just have to make the trek yourself. At the eastern end of the lake is Sylvan Beach. It was here, on the Blount ship I was on, I remained overnight, but I could not find the spot on the canal, but tried. That night in 2019 we arrived too late for me to hike to the town, but I got to see it this time. Here is the entrance to the lake (looking west) from the Erie Canal Barge Canal.

a beautiful old-fashioned lake side resort, the village had a number of Victorian cottages along the shore, and a mix of interesting architecture. I bet this is a packed place in the summer months. Workers were preparing the Amusement Park, which dates from the 1870s, for its opening. I just found their video – what a classic piece of Americana – I will have to try to get back – when not a crowd. Just a sample of what I saw.

and then east on Route 49 towards Rome (New York that is, however the other Rome is east of here as well). But, wait, what is that sign – LOCK 22 – U-Turn and back down a dirt road.

and what can be better than another little dirt road off a dirt road but a little road with a sign that reads – Lock 21 where work was going on with a bridge that was out. Remember I have sailed through these locks twice – and in each direction.

From Rome it was backroads to pick up Route 8 and the Southern Adirondack Trail Byway. At times I really questioned where I was since there were signs for: POLAND – RUSSIA – NORWAY – scary sounding GRAVESVILLE – HOLLAND PATENT – SOUTH TRENTON – OHIO – wasn’t sure if I was still in NEW YORK STATE or the TWILIGHT ZONE. But to simplify your life and travels – I have been Route 8 up to Speculator (yes New York) and back down through Cranberry Creek to get to Route 29 to Saratoga Springs — and there is nothing to see or do along the way. Some rustic areas to escape to, that is about it.

But – RAY REMEMBER – Saratoga Springs is but 98 wonderful back road miles from home, and you still have lots to do there and enjoy. So close – just avoid race month. Those back roads home include heading ultimately to my favorite Arlington, Vermont, through Cambridge, New York, where I stop at a lovely antique center. It had been awhile since I had been through, and I forgot the train station (now craft beer, etc.) and all the original railroad side buildings – yes, driving back soon.

1 – Join a focused group that catches your interest (such as the Canal Society of New York State) and join in on their events.
2 – Explore Central New York State north of the thruway for some unique areas – well you can go a tad south into the Cherry Valley area and along the Erie Canal
3 – Learn about Saratoga Springs and plan a stay.
4 – And, stay safe and well.

5 – FLASH – as I was finishing this post someone emailed me with a wealth of sources for a tin chandelier like the one I showed you in Part I (not sure I know the woman, but I have replied to her asking) — and, I have emailed one source for the perfect lamp. Will share the sources on Part I – once I have mine purchased.

Thank you for traveling with me, luv, RAY

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3 Responses to OSWEGO CANAL – 7-10 MAY 2022 – Part II

  1. George Lush says:

    Ray, Greetings from Las Vegas. An interesting post on the Oswego Canal. Have you ever been to the Lowell (Massachusetts) National Historic Park? Years ago I took a tour there that featured a boat ride through the canal system off the Merimack River. Water power was harnessed to spin turbines which powered the looms in the textile mills. A prime example of Yankee ingenuity. Stay curious and never stop exploring, George

    • Ray Boas says:

      Hi George – thank you for reading and commenting. Yes, I have explored Lowell a couple of times with the power canals into the mills, etc. The boat ride was not operating since I am usually touring in off hours, but the historical sites there certainly are to be visited again. For some reason I cannot find the post of my last visit with my son to share with you – will keep trying to find as I have images of the streetcar museum on the canal – Stay safe, yours, RAY


  2. Carolyn Norback says:

    Great trip, so interesting and informative, thanks for this. Carolyn

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