Boaters doing the Great Loop have several options for traversing the canal. Taller boats follow the eastern half of the Erie Canal to the Oswego Canal to Lake Ontario. Boats with an air draft of 15.5 feet or less can follow the Erie Canal all the way west to Lake Erie, experiencing the distinctive lift bridges and many villages that are the hallmark of the western portion. A third option is to cruise north on the Champlain Canal to the St. Lawrence Seaway by way of Lake Champlain, the Richelieu River, and Chambly Canal. Here’s travels • Expect along how a leisurely to New make York’s pace the canals: most on the of water. your Distance in miles can be misleading, since you must account for both running time and locking. Plan about 20 minutes to pass through each lock. • Know your comfortable cruising times. Do you prefer to travel four, six, or eight hours per day? You can plan a more enjoyable trip if you know your limits and have some sense of where you’ll stop each night. • Bring your bike! Paralleling the canal is the 365-mile Erie Canalway Trail, which runs from Albany to Buffalo on former towpaths and railbeds. • Hundreds of canal-side concerts, festivals, and events take place from May through October each year. Check the New York State Canals’ online event calendar to take advantage of them while on your journey.
Boating Through a Lock
Going through a lock is one of the unique experiences of traveling along the canal. Each of the Erie Canal’s 34 concrete locks measures 328 feet long by 45 feet wide, with lifts ranging between 6 feet (E-25, Mays Point and E-26, Clyde) and 40.5 feet (E-17, Little Falls). It takes about 20 minutes to lock through. Lock operators are on hand to offer stepby-step coaching to make locking safe and enjoyable. A few simple preparations and the right equipment will make for smooth sailing.
What to Have on Hand
• Pole or boat hook for pushing off the sides of the lock. A paddle works fine, too. • Work gloves or rubber garden gloves for handling lines. • Larger boats will need long boat lines to help control the boat in the lock. • Extra boat fenders that are large enough to protect your boat from rough concrete lock walls. As you approach, alert the lock operator via marine radio (Channel 13) or by sounding three horn blasts to signal your approach. You can also phone lock operators (see “Resources” Wait for the sidebar green for light contact for permission information). to enter the lock. Once inside, station your vessel along the wall as instructed by the lock operator. Keep bow and stern close to the wall during lockage using the lines provided. Once the lock has filled or emptied, the gates will slowly open and you’ll be on your way.
Eric Canal Resources
• boating and New alerts York information for State mariners Canal and are Corporation: up-to-date available at: General notices www.canals.ny.gov
• Contact Numbers for Lock Tenders: www.goo.gl/MpWZes
• Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor: Find things to see and do along your route, learn about the canal’s history, find boating information and resources, and view photo galleries at: www.eriecanalway.org
• NOAA: Charts are available for the Erie, Champlain, Oswego, and Cayuga-Seneca canals at: www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov