What a fascinating visit and step back in history.. Long before the Eisenhower Road System this Canal was a dream of our first president, George Washington. He wanted a canal system linking Washington D.C. through to New York City and beyond. The plan lay dormant with his death, and Thomas Jefferson who followed shortly after had no use for a canal system. Since Jefferson’s block was mainly political, as he wished Virginia to be the main port rather than New York City, it fell to De Witt Clinton of New York to find funding to build this Gateway to the West.
A Canal Boat with the back drop of the Albany State Capitol Buildings
DeWitt Clinton held many positions in New York politics, and as Governor he presided over the construction of the Erie Canal from 1817 to 1825. He believed infrastructure improvements could improve American life, and it did.
Map of the first version of the Erie Canal
The Erie Canal Today – now known as the Canal System which is mainly used for recreation and tourism.
In 2025, major celebrations are planned for the 200th anniversary.
This hand dug canal was created mainly by farmers using elementary farm tools. It was 4 foot in depth and 40 foot wide. In 1862, the Canal was enlarged to 7 foot depth and 70 foot wide.
So how did the Canal work? It moved through the waters via horse power with young boys pulling the horses. In rough and uneven waters locks were created to raise and lower the water height.
The Barge approaching the lock.
The doors to the lock close behind the barge and the water level is elevated.
Rising waters are fed through a series of “windows” on the side of the lock.
An aerial representation of the barge in the lock. The Canal created many jobs and small towns blossomed with its industry. The barge also transported people to the West (Buffalo). While not all who took this ride appreciated it due to inclement weather, it was a quick transport of 5 days from Albany to Buffalo.
The building of a lock.
In 10 years with a series of tolls the Canal paid for itself. The Museum currently sits on the last remaining Weighlock Building, which was one of the 7 weigh stations on the Canal where these tolls were collected..
The Weighlock Building and below pictures of the interior.
Let’s end with some pictures of an actual barge and its interior.
What a fun visit and a must see, especially if you have kids..