I’ve driven across New York a couple of times for work over the past year and in between all the cities and trees along the highways during the drive I always noticed the signs for canal locks and became very curious about this canal that runs east-west across the state of New York.
The Erie Canal really fascinates me. It’s incredible that a man-made river was created to move boats and their cargo’s thru New York state in the early 1800’s.
Proposed in 1808 and completed in 1825, the canal links the waters of Lake Erie in the west to the Hudson River in the east.
In order to open the country west of the Appalachian Mountains to settlers and to offer a cheap and safe way to carry produce to a market, the construction of a canal was proposed as early as 1768.
On July 4, 1817, ground was broken for the construction of the canal. When finally completed on October 26, 1825, it was the engineering marvel of its day.
It included 18 aqueducts to carry the canal over ravines and rivers, and 83 locks, with a rise of 568 feet from the Hudson River to Lake Erie. It was 4 feet deep and 40 feet wide, and floated boats carrying 30 tons of freight. A ten foot wide towpath was built along the bank of the canal for the horses and/or mules which pulled the boats and their driver.
The bridge in the distance in this photo was referred to as the “Upside-Down Bridge” because as a deck truss, it looks like a through truss positioned upside-down. The bridge was rumored to have been built as such by the railroad to limit the size of boats that could use the Erie canal, and try to put the canal out of business. The validity of this legend is uncertain. Ships with tall masts might have be unable to fit under this bridge, but it turns out that this didn’t matter for long, since by the 1910s all bridges built on the canal had far less clearance than this bridge.
A good friend of mine lives in Lockport and told me about the history of the Erie Canal and during one visit we went out to explore the area.
We checked out Locks 34 & 35 and went on the Lockport Cave tour, which was a walk and boat ride through a water tunnel that was blasted out of solid rock in the 1800’s to create hydraulic power using the Erie Canal to power local industries.
Here’s a few photos from the Lockport Cave tour. It was interesting to walk back in history thru this old water tunnel that used to power several nearby factories.
While visiting Locks 34 and 35 we got to see a few boats going thru the locks. It’s interesting how the boats are raised and lowered with the water and the gates to travel east or west across the state.
This is a short video I took showing a boat waiting for a gate to open.
If you’re ever in upstate New York visiting Buffalo or Niagara, take a trip out to Lockport to check out the locks and the cave tour, it’s well worth it.
Lockport Locks 34 & 35
210 Market Street
Lockport, NY 14094
Lockport Cave Tour
5 Gooding Street
Lockport, NY, 14094