The Mohawk and Champlain Barge Canals

Lock 2 Waterford Barge Canal 1917.jpg

The barge canal's opening at Lock 2 in Waterford, NY, in 1917.

The age of the great canals was heady and influential, but short. A railroad along the Mohawk River soon won out over the Erie Canal, and the iron horse supplanted the canal boat. The old Erie Canal closed in 1917 when the Mohawk Barge Canal opened. Today, that canal, part of the New York State Canal System, is within the Mohawk River and is called the Erie Canal. The system's canals are 12 feet (3.7 m) deep and 120 feet (37 m) wide, with 57 electrically operated locks, and can accommodate vessels up to 2,000 tons (1,800 metric tons).

The canal system is open for navigation generally from May 1 through November 15. As it is now a series of impoundments between dams, it is also useful for flood control. These impoundments changed the Mohawk from a shallow river to a series of lakes, drastically changing the river banks. In Crescent, where the water level was raised 28 feet, a row of buildings along the river was inundated. Homes in Forts Ferry, the original settlement in Clifton Park, flooded and were eventually abandoned.

The present-day Erie Canal is used primarily for recreational boating. The last voyage of a commercial ship, the Day Peckinpaugh, was in 1994.

The original Champlain Canal has met a similar fate. Like the Erie Canal, it is now part of the New York State Canals System. It follows the Hudson River along the western shore of the Hudson River, with one lock in Halfmoon.


Lock 1 of the Champlain Canal in 2017.

The Mohawk and Champlain Barge Canals