Butternut Aqueduct
The Butternut Aqueduct in DeWitt carried the Old Erie Canal over the creek of the same name.

Looking for the 

Erie Canal

The Journey Continues

Women's Rights NHP
Women's Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls on the Cayuga-Seneca Canal, home of women's suffrage.

Geography is NOT an indoor sport! Get out on the Canal!


Physical Geography

Human Geography

Regions of NYS

BONUS Sections!


Montezuma NWR

North of Cayuga Lake lies a large wetland known as the Montezuma Marshes. This is where the Erie and the Cayuga-Seneca Canals meet. Much of it is protected today as a national wildlife refuge.

Seneca Falls

The Cayuga-Seneca Canal passes through Seneca Falls, home of the Women's Rights Movement. Here Trinity Episcopal Church is reflected in a man-made lake behind a lock.

Lock 24

The modern Erie Canal uses the Seneca River. One "new" canal town on this route is Baldwinsville, home to Lock 24.
It boasts one of the nicest lock keeper's gardens on the canal as well as a thriving waterfront.

Port Byron Mural
The Erie Canal no longer flows through the village of Port Byron, but the town still celebrates is heritage. In a few years, the Canal Society of New York will renovate some buildings next to a lock from the Enlarged Erie (visible from the Thruway). It will be a canal museum and their headquarters.

Jordan Aqueduct
In western Onondaga County you will find the village of Jordan. This former canal town boasts a beautiful Aqueduct Park (over Skaneatlas Creek) and a well-preserved lock about a mile west of the village.

Camillus Park

Just north of the village of Camillus is one of Central New York's nicest canal parks. A short section of the old canal is watered here by a "feeder canal" from Nine Mile Creek. The wooden remains of the Gere Lock gate are also on display at Camillus Canal Park.


The widwaters of the Old Erie Canal State Park, near the hamlet of Kirkville in eastern Onondaga County. The watered remant of the 19th century canal extends to Rome around 40 miles away.

This model in the Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum shows the ingenious way stumps were removed when the canal was being constructed from 1817-1825. It was a homegrown invention.

Brandy Brook Culvert

The culvert for Brandy Brook near Durhamville, part of Old Erie Canal State Park around ten miles southwest of Oneida Lake.

Verona Beach Lighthouse

The lighhouse at Verona Beach, near where the modern canal meets Oneida Lake.

The Central Canal Section

Montezuma! It's a word that sounds so forboding! In Central New York it has nothing to do with Spanish Conquistadors or a stomach ailment you get in Mexico. It is the name of a wetlands north of Cayuga Lake, another vestige of the Ice Age. Today, it has been largest tamed. Much of it has been drained, and the Thruway cuts through its middle. But in the early 1800s it was a wilderness. It was here that Irish "bogtrotters" struggled to build an important section of the Erie Canal. Many of them died from malaria carried by mosquitoes. But finally, in 1819 the middle section of the canal was in operation from here to Rome ninety miles away. It included a beautiful stone aqueduct that carried the canal over the Seneca River. It still partially stands today.

Today the modern "Barge Canal" passes through the marshes in Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. This is a great place to visit especially during the bird migration seasons in spring and fall. It is also the point where a "lateral" canal, the Cayuga-Seneca, meets the main Erie line. The smaller branch canal connects the two largest Finger Lakes (Cayuga and Seneca) to the rest of the artificial waterway. It makes it possible for boaters to travel all the way to Ithaca or to Watkins Glen. The Cayuga-Seneca Canal passes through the twin villages of Waterloo and Seneca Falls. Both of them have important claims to fame. Waterloo was the first community to have a planned ceremony to honor the dead of the Civil War, and therefore is the recognized home to Memorial Day. Seneca Falls was the home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the tireless warrior of the women's rights movement. In 1848 she and Lucretia Mott organized the first meeting for equal rights for women, including the call for suffrage. Today these historic sites are preserved by the Women's Right National Park, a short walk from the canal.

The central section of the canal system is unique because the modern canal is far removed from its 19th century predecessors. Today, boaters travel on the Seneca and Oneida Rivers as well as on Oneida Lake, the largest lake completely inside New York. The Old Erie took a more southerly route, including through the city of Syracuse itself.

To me the old route is much more interesting, due to its history. That being said, a cruise along the newer waterway is certainly worth the trip, since it is one of the most peaceful sections of the Erie system. Make sure to stop in the "new" canal towns of Baldwinsville and Brewerton. Compare them to the villages found along Clinton's Ditch. The boat trip continues eastward on Oneida Lake to Sylvan Beach. An man-made section of the canal connects to the Mohawk River in Rome.

You will need to explore the sites of the Enlarged Erie Canal mostly on land. The easiest landmark to find is the Port Byron Lock right by the NYS Thruway between Exits 41 and 40. The Canal Society of New York is planning an interpretive center connecting to this old lock, which will be accessible to Thruway travelers. If you get off the Thruway at Exit 40, you will arrive at Weedsport. There is no "port" today, but the look of this village still screams out Canal Town! Rte. 31 sits on the old canal bed. What structure does Weedsport have that is a relic of its canal days.

A recommended side trip is nearby Auburn, south on Rte. 34. This historic city was the home to Secretary of State William Seward (Lincoln Administration) and the most celebrate conductor on the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman. Both museums are fascinating places to learn about Central New York's proud history.

If you want to follow the old canal route, take Rte. 31 east into Jordan. In the center of town you'll find a park with the remains of a lock from the Enlarged Erie. There is no water, but if you look carefully, you can trace the path of the abandoned canal in both directions. Turn right on to Rte. 317 and follow it to Elbridge. Then turn left on to NY Route 5. When you enter the village of Camillus, turn left on to North Street. This takes you out of the village to the Camillus Erie Canal Park. Here is one of two long stretches where the old canal is watered in this part of the state. A feeder canal brings in water from nearby Nine Mile Creek. A short distance down the towpath (excellent for hiking and biking!) is the aqueduct over this same creek. While in the park make sure you see the country store and the restored Gere Lock Gate, moved here from nearby Lakeland. Since the gates were made of wood, most of them do not survive today. This, happily, is an exception.

When you return to Rte. 5, it leads you eventually into the Salt City of Syracuse. The highway is now called Erie Blvd., for obvious reasons. It used to be the canal itself. Note how flat it is into downtown. In the city center you will find Clinton Square, which was a canal port in the 1800s. Look for the monument for the Jerry Rescue, where the citizens of Syracuse forcibly freed a fugitive slave named William "Jerry" McHenry. Abolitionism was another one of the causes that was spread along the Erie Canal, the nation's highway. (To learn more about the anti-slavery movement in Central New York, visit the Onondaga Historical Association on nearby Montgomery Street.)

If you continue on Erie Blvd., you pass through downtown and arrive at one of the gems of the old canal, the Erie Canal Museum. The building sits at the former confluence of the Erie and the Oswego Canals, where the "canawlers" paid their tolls. (For this reason, it is sometimes called the Weighlock Building). There is a packet boat in the chamber, that you can explore to find out what life was like for passengers during the golden years. There are exhibits about the canal and Syracuse, especially about the salt industry of the 1800s. If you take the stairs to the second floor, you will see a profile of the Erie Canal from Albany to Buffalo. Count the locks!

Continue eastward on Erie Blvd. (NY Rte. 5). You are still following the pathway of Clinton's Ditch. Notice that you are in an east-west trending valley, with fairly steep hills on both sides. This is another vestige of the Ice Age, formed by the flooding glacier around 10,000 years ago. (A more spectacular example of a spillover channel is in nearby Jamestown at Clark Reservation State Park. You can learn more about this scenic spot in the Central New York section of this website.) You will arrive in the suburb of DeWitt. Turn left on Kinne Road and go underneath the I-481 expressway. Look for the sign for Old Erie Canal State Park. Park your car and walk down the towpath to see the Butternut Creek Aqueduct (see photo at the top of this page). This marks the western end of this narrow park, which continues snake-like all the way to Rome. This long level section of the Enlarged Erie is still watered, so it can be explored in a canoe or in a kayak. Landlubbers can hike or bike on the towpath trail. Many canal structures are found along the parkway, including culverts and aqueducts. Pick up a free brochure, especially if you are traveling by car. It shows roadways that parallel the old canal and places of interest.

There are several places along this historic pathway that should be visited by even the casual canal explorer. The first is Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum, around twelve miles east of the Butternut Aqueduct. Return to Route 5, and continue through Fayetteville into Madison County. When you get into the Village of Chittenango, turn left on Lakeport Road. The museum complex is on the edge of town, right on the Old Erie. Take your time here. There is an orientation film worth seeing, and then you want to wander through the grounds. You will see dry docks, where canal boats were stored, repaired, and built. Currently, the staff is constructing a packet boat with traditional tools and building materials. If a carpenter is working, ask him/her some questions! Also visit the Visitor Interpretive Center, formerly a old general store, frequented by canal travelers. Look for the sunken boat in the canal itself. If you take a short walk down the towpath, you can see the Chittenango Creek Aqueduct, one of the best preserved along the canal.

Return to the village and turn left onto Rte. 5 East. Notice that the sidewalks are painted yellow in the downtown district. This is the hometown of L. Frank Baum, author of the Wizard of Oz. A few miles later, and you enter the canal town of Canastota. Take Rte. 13 into the central business district. Turn left on to Canal Street and park. The Canastota Canal Town Museum is on the right. It might be small, but it is packed with lots of information about the canal in Madison County. Nathan Roberts, who designed many features of the original canal, especially the five double locks in Lockport, is a hometown hero. There is a good display in this museum on his active career. There is also a section of onion farming around Canastota, and its relationship to the canal.

Take Canal Street eastbound out of Canastota. As the name suggests you are following the path of the Old Erie Canal. You pass through the little hamet of Lenox Basin (how did it get that name?), under the Thruway, and into the village of Durhamville. Here the canal passes over Oneida Creek, and there is a nice culvert for Brandy Brook. The state park continues along NY Route 46 into Oneida County. It ends near New London, where you find the Barge Canal. Modern Locks 21 and 22 are found nearby. They are unique, since they lower boats going west, because Oneida Lake is at a lower elevation than the Mohawk Valley to the east.

If you want to see more of the modern canal, take Rte. 316 (Lake Road) out of Durhamville and then Rte. 31 west and Rte. 13 north to the twin villages of Verona Beach and Sylvan Beach, both on Oneida Lake. They are separated by the canal as it exits the lake. The former town has a nice state park with a good swimming beach, and the latter has an old-fashioned amusement park, the only one on the Erie Canal. Also, look for the old lighthouse near the waterfront, which, unfortunately, is no longer lit.

This concludes our discussion of the Central Section of the Erie Canal. To head toward the Mohawk Valley, take Routes 31 and 46 toward Rome.

Click on the arrow to continue the journey eastward into Eastern New York!

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Salt Display Chittenango Landing
Nathan Roberts Exhibit
The exhibit in the Erie Canal Museum on salt, the white powder that not only built Syracuse, but also funded the early days of the Erie Canal.
One of the hidden treasures of the Old Canal is the Chittenango Landing Canal Boat  Museum. This was once a thriving community centered around dry docks, where boats were built and reparied. Currently, they are constructing a new boat, using traditional materials and methods.
A few miles east of Chittenango is the village of Canastota. Here you can visit the Canal Town Museum, just across the street from the watered Old Erie Canal. This is the home town of Nathan Roberts, who designed the famous locks in Lockport. This museum display honors his achievements.

To learn more about New York Geography visit these three
sections of this website....

Ellis Island
Taughannock Falls

Human Geography
Physical Geography
Economic Geography

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