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Authored by Kerri Fitzgerald
April 5, 2017

 Famous For Its Engineering, Explore the NY State Canal System

As you travel, you’ll see locks, bridges, gates, and other interesting structures used to operate the canal system today. You’ll also discover the remarkable remains of stone locks, aqueducts and other structures built during the 1800s.

1.) Locks

Lock New York’s Canal System

Locks are elevators for boats, lifting and lowering them as they travel along the waterway. Today, there are 57 locks on New York's canal system, including 35 on the Erie Canal, 11 on the Champlain Canal, seven on the Oswego Canal, and four on the Cayuga-Seneca Canal.

2.) Lift Bridges

Lift Bridge New York’s Canal System

Built between 1905 and 1918, 16 lift bridges still carry traffic over the Erie Canal in western New York. When a boat approaches, the operator stops traffic on the roadway and raises the deck of the bridge 15 feet to give clearance for passing boats. Stairs and walkways allow pedestrians to cross while the bridge is up.

3.) Movable Dams

Movable Dam New York’s Canal System

Eight movable dams between Schenectady and Fort Plain regulate water flow on the Mohawk River. Dam gates are lowered into the river to form navigable pools during the summer but are pulled out of the water in winter to clear the way for ice and debris-filled floodwaters.

4.) Guard Gate

Guard Gate New York’s Canal System

This type of gate helps to isolate sections of the canal in case of emergency, such as a break in the canal wall, accident, or extreme high water. They are also used when a section of the canal needs to be drained for maintenance or winter freeze protection.

5.) Power Houses and Gate Cabinets

Power Houses and Gate Cabinets New York’s Canal System

Located at almost all locks, these white buildings house equipment used to generate electricity to power lock gates and valves. Nearby, you’ll see a blue and gold gate cabinet, which displays the number of each lock. The cabinet holds the motors and gearing that open and close lock gates and valves.


6.) 1800s Lock

1800s Lock New York’s Canal System

Stone-walled locks built during the 1800s were replaced by much larger and fewer concrete structures between 1905 and 1918. You can see many early canal structures in parks throughout the National Heritage Corridor.

Go where the big ships cannot with Blount Small Ship Adventures. Travel from New York to Montreal on Locks, Legends & Canals Cruise or journey from Chicago to New York on Blount's Great American Waterways Cruise.


Pictures and text courtesy of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor
Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Website: Click Here


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