The Canal System
Different panels appear on opposite sides of the marker
The Erie Canal was the most important of America inland waterways. It facilitated the opening of the American frontier and provided a route west for tens of thousands of settlers and immigrants. Villages, town, and cities were born along its route while commerce spread from the Hudson Valley to the Midwest. The Eire Canal transformed New York into the Empire State and the nation into an economic superpower. Almost two centuries later, its name is still synonymous with American industry and ingenuity.
The Erie Canal keeps evolving. Put into service in 1825, it was enlarged from 1834 to 1862, and again in the 1890s. The canal finally underwent its last and largest expansion, opening as the New York State Barge Canal in 1918. Each era reflected demand for larger barges and bigger cargoes. Introduction of self-propelled boats in the 20th century allowed the path of the canal to be changed, utilizing New York many lakes and rivers.
During an century of evolution, the canal infrastructure incorporated many new technologies, transitioning from cut stone to poured concrete, wooden lock gates to giant steel versions, and hand-operated cranks to electrified push button controls. Modernized Barge Canal locks, designed for steel barges with 3,000 tons of cargo, could accommodate boats with 100 times the capacity of those from the 1820s.
As the nation changed, the canal adapted. By the 1960s, the canal could no longer compete with modern modes of commercial transportation and the St. Lawrence Seaway, and lost its economic viability as a commercial corridor. Although it is still used commercially, recreational use has become its primary function. Steel fabricated oil barges have now largely been replace by tour boats, pleasure boats, canoes and kayaks. The Canal System
Welcome to the NYS Canal System, one of the world premier inland waterways. The 524-mile Canal System includes the legendary Erie Canal, and the Champlain, Oswego, and Cayuga-Seneca canals. The waterways travel through New York heartland, gliding past lush farmland, famous battlefields, charming canal towns and thriving wildlife preserves. The canals can also be enjoyed along hundreds of miles of Canalway Trail and at numerous parks and picnic areas across the system. Along this historic corridor, pleasure boaters, paddlers, history enthusiasts, hikers and bicyclists alike delight in unlocking the legend of New York canals.