2017 not only marks the 200th anniversary of Erie Canal construction. It’s also the 200th birthday of the bicycle, invented in Germany. Celebrate both by cycling these bicentennial routes on the Erie Canalway Trail:
- Cycle from Rome to Syracuse in the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park. Start in Rome and you’ll be at ground zero for canal construction. Dignitaries turned the first shovel of soil in Rome on July 4, 1817. Why Rome? To ensure early success, workers started first on the easiest, most level section. Canal surveyors laid out the “Long Level” extending in both directions from Rome. This 66-mile section, from Frankfort in the east to the outskirts of Syracuse to the west, was completed without a single lock. You’ll see a number of aqueducts and bridges as you ride along the old canal—and it will be just as level for cycling as it was for canal construction 200 years ago.
- Cycle in the Capital Region and visit Cohoes Falls. The steep climb out of the Hudson Valley around Cohoes Falls at the eastern end of the canal was one of the biggest obstacles to canal construction. Engineers designed 18 locks in Cohoes to climb 165 feet of elevation and circumvent this barrier to westward navigation. View the 75-foot cataract from Falls View Park and look for the remains of the stone locks that operated here in the 1800s adjacent to the parking area for the park. Follow the trail west for a scenic ride along the Mohawk River/Erie Canal.
- Cycle from Lockport along the Erie Canal in Western New York. In June 1825 one of the final sections of the Erie Canal was completed in Lockport. The Lockport Flight of Five was a staircase of five locks that solved the challenge of helping boats climb the 60-foot Niagara Escarpment. Start your trip at the locks and visit the nearby Erie Canal Discovery Center, which showcases the building of the famous Flight of Five. Cycle east from Lockport; the trail is adjacent to the longest section of the canal that still follows its original path and retains its historic relationship to the communities and landscapes along its banks. You’ll discover historic Main Streets, lift bridges, farm fields, and 20th century locks alongside historic lock ruins, canal engineering marvels, and cobblestone and local sandstone buildings.
- Go End-to-End. Cycle from Buffalo to Albany and, like thousands of canallers before you, connect Lake Erie with the Hudson River. When you do, you’ll get a sense of the Erie Canal’s impact as the longest artificial waterway and the greatest public works project in North America.The canal gave rise to villages, towns, and cities, opened the interior of North America to settlement, and put New York on the map as the Empire State.
There’s a lot to celebrate in 2017! Head to the Canalway Trail and let the fun begin!