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Erie Canal…History?

I took this picture while floating through the Erie Canal locks in Lockport, October, 2006. I was helping a friend transport his sailboat to Rochester. During the trip I thought, “Wow, what a cool way to travel—why don’t more people use this thing?”

Today I read an interesting story in the New York Times by Christopher Maag. My brother-in-law pointed it out to me, with the observation that the French, Germans, and Dutch still use ’em—why not us?

If the canal becomes viable again, I suppose we’ll really have to update all those historical markers down by the commercial slip. Imagine if all those canal towns in upstate NY could cater to actual commerce again, rather than focusing mainly on historical tourism?

I reached out and took this picture of the stream in Medina that flows under the Erie Canal—an amazing piece of infrastructure.

Consider this paragraph from Maag’s story: The canal still remains the most fuel-efficient way to ship goods between the East Coast and the upper Midwest. One gallon of diesel pulls one ton of cargo 59 miles by truck, 202 miles by train and 514 miles by canal barge, Ms. Mantello said. A single barge can carry 3,000 tons, enough to replace 100 trucks.

Maybe if barges start using the canal again, the Thruway Authority will start making money from it again, and stop referring to it as a big problem for them to manage. And if they do that, then they’ll be able to lower Thruway tolls. Right?

Hey…a guy can dream.

  • Doug Robinson

    If you want to see an example of what could be, look here. One of the best weeks this sailor has ever spent:

  • More folks use the Erie Canalway (latest official name for the tow path) trail than use the waterway. However, it is imperative that the water still flow through the Erie, Oswego, Seneca-Cayuga & Champlain Canals (all four comprise the New York State Canal System.) The Canal System acts as a flood control system for most of western and central New York State as well as a phenomenal tourist attraction.

    The New York State Canal Corporation (a division of the New York State Thruway Aurhority) spends very little money marketing the Canal as either a way to transport goods or as a tourist destination. The NYS Division of Tourism (a part of the NYS Department of Economic Development) will have even less money to promote the Canal or any other location in the State.

    Besides the Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau. the Niagara-USA, and the other western New York County tourism bureaus there are two other important industry (rather than public) organizations that work to promote tourism, Canal New York Business & Marketing Inc. ( and the NYS Travel & Vacation Assn. The Travel & Vacation Assn. is holding its Conference in Batavia this year (

    Perhaps the Canal Corporation should contract with both of these organizations to market the Canal System to a geographic area from Chicago to Boston via Toronto/Montréal to Washington DC to Chicgao.

    Mr. Botzman is the author of 4 bicycle tour guides detailing routes in NYS; one is “Erie Canal Bicyclist & Hiker Tour Guide, 2nd Ed.”