Celebrations Begin for Erie Canal Bicentennial

You’re invited! This year marks the 200th anniversary of canal construction and exciting bicentennial events are on tap. You’ll find boat tours, bike rides, festivals, music, and family-friendly activities all year long. Here are a few of the special events taking place; find more at https://eriecanalway.org/explore/events

  • Glass Barge: The Corning Museum of Glass is sponsoring a special GlassBarge, a watercraft that will bringing the story of glassmaking as well as demonstrations to waterfront communities. The barge will visit Fairport Canal Days 6/2-4, Seneca Falls Canal Fest 7/7-9, and the World Canals Conference in Syracuse 9/24 and Baldwinsville 9/26-27.
  • Journey Along the Erie Canal, Jun 28-July 7: A team of riders from Our Ability welcomes cyclists of all abilities to join them for a few hours or several days as they complete their fourth cross-state bike ride along the Erie Canal. Our Ability seeks employment and empowerment for people with disabilities.
  • Water Music, July 2-8: Albany Symphony Orchestra is embarking on a seven-day musical journey on the Erie Canal from Albany to Lockport, presenting seven free waterfront performances of new orchestral works and American favorites to celebrate the Bicentennial of the Erie Canal. Stops include: Albany, Schenectady, Amsterdam, Little Falls, Baldwinsville, Brockport, and Lockport. http://www.albanysymphony.com
  • Lois McClure Legacy Tour, July through October: The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s sailing canal boat Lois McClure will visit ports along the Champlain and Erie Canals. Along the way they will celebrate the vital role of “boatwood” trees such as white oak and white pine that have been essential for centuries in boatbuilding as well as in the forest ecosystem. The schooner will be one of the centerpiece vessels at the 2017 World Canals Conference in Syracuse in September. http://www.lcmm.org/our_fleet/lois_mcclure_schedule.htm
  • Bicentennial Celebration in Rome, July 22: The NYS Canal Corporation is planning an anniversary bash with boats, music, and festivities at Bellamy Harbor Park.
  • World Canals Conference, Syracuse, September 24-28: Events, tours, and presentations will showcase some of the most exciting activities on the world’s waterways. Centering on canals as agents of transformation, WCC2017 brings together hundreds of canal enthusiasts, professionals and scholars from around the world to discuss canals and inland waterways as a means to promote tourism, spur economic and community development, improve environmental quality, and exchange best practices on protection strategies for historic sites.

The First End-to-Enders

As both the bicycle and the Erie Canal celebrate their bicentennial this year, we thought it would be fun to highlight one of the earliest bicycle trips taken along the Erie Canal 120 years ago. Earlier this year, Dave Patterson of Missoula, Montana found a detailed travel log of his grandfather’s bicycle trip during the summer of 1897 between Albany and Buffalo and shared it with Parks & Trails New York. “From Albany to Buffalo: An Account of a Pleasant Wheeling Tour Across New York State” describes in detail the sights, route, amenities, and difficulties of the earliest known end-to-end trip along the Erie Canal. To the thousands who have followed in their tracks since then, the experience holds some familiarity.

Austin Patterson and his riding companion Frank Chew left Albany in the early evening of June 21, 1897, with the goal of reaching Buffalo in less than two weeks. Almost immediately, they experienced mechanical issues. Undeterred, they “made a good start on the fine cycle path that extends, with but one poor stretch, clear to Schenectady.” Aside from battling an uncooperative chain, Austin lost a pedal and his tool bag somewhere on the dark trail between Albany and Schenectady. As anyone who knows about the perils of early bicycle touring can attest, these mechanical issues didn’t stop after the first day. Austin faced everything from a stubbornly persistent flat to a crash involving another rider from Utica near Clyde.

Edison Hotel, Schenectady

Schenectady’s Edison Hotel (via Schenectady Daily Gazette)

Similar to today’s experience, Austin and Frank encountered accommodations that varied from the “fine” Edison Hotel in Schenectady (“our money was plenty then,” Austin writes) to the 25-cent-a-night Franklin House in Amsterdam, where Austin writes that he “lost sleep that night on account of mosquitoes or – something.” People living along the route also opened their homes to the touring cyclists, including one memorable host in Clyde, Henry Barton. Austin writes that for only 75 cents, they stayed in a “neat room with a double bed…and in the morning, enjoyed a plentiful country breakfast with amiable Henry B., his large wife, pretty dark-eyed daughter, and bright-faced boy.”

The similarities start to disappear, though, as soon as you read about the food they ate along the way. Now when most touring cyclists seek out a hearty meal to refuel, they eat granola bars, fruit, and carbohydrate-loaded meals like bread and pasta. Almost every day, Austin and Frank subsisted on pastries, cakes, candy, and milk. On June 29, Austin writes that “we reached Palmyra a little after 2 PM. Our dinner had been entirely of cherries, so we got some cake and ice cream to back it up.”


Austin Patterson’s itinerary from the first documented End-to-End bicycle trip along the Erie Canal in 1897.

Another difference between End-to-End touring in 1897 and 2017 is the route between Buffalo and Albany. While the Erie Canalway Trail did not exist as a 360-mile off-road route in 1897, Austin and Frank did take advantage of a variety of off-road paths. Outside Utica they encountered a “fine cinder path built by local wheelmen.” These private paths appeared across the country during the late 19th and early 20th centuries to provide cyclists with a smooth place to ride in an era when paved roads were just starting to make their debut. They usually required club membership or a toll to take advantage of the privilege of riding on the equivalent of a modern-day multi-use path. “In spite of the many placards hinting that those who did not help pay need not ride, we sailed along with easy consciences, believing that as visiting wheelmen we were entitled to all the privileges of guests,” Austin wrote. Other separated paths existed between Albany and Schenectady, in the Mohawk Valley between Little Falls and Herkimer, and an early-day rail-with-trail between the railroad tracks through Mohawk, Ilion, and Frankfort. Today, much of the Erie Canalway Trail uses the abandoned towpath, with cyclists, hikers, runners, and dog-walkers sharing the historic path. In 1897, during the Erie Canal’s heyday, cyclists using the towpath had to contend with a different definition of multi-use. Austin writes that despite taking advantage of a better riding surface than the adjacent roads, “we had to be on our guard against being thrown into the canal by the mule-ropes.”

The most relatable experience Austin documents comes at the end of his trip, 11 days after he left Albany: “the last fourteen-and-a-half miles were asphalt and over this I rode down into the heart of the city of Buffalo—the goal attained at last.”

Click here to read Austin Patterson’s “From Albany to Buffalo. An Account of a Pleasant Wheeling Tour Across New York State”

Do you have an Erie Canalway Trail End-to-End story to share? Visit our website to register as an End-to-Ender and tell us about your journey.

CUSE Cycle Hits the Trail

Have you noticed the new bike share docks and bikes at Onondaga Lake Park? You may have seen several bright white bikes with orange tires docked next to each other in the Willow Bay parking lot. If you have, you’ve been introduced to CUSE Cycle, a new bike sharing system on East and West Shore Trails that parallel the shoreline.

CUSE Cycle is the brainchild of Dave McKie and McKie Sports, a sporting goods store on State Fair Boulevard in Syracuse. While the shop focuses on hockey equipment, they’ve also rented bike and rollerblades out of a garage at Wegman’s Landing on the east shore of Onondaga Lake for 20 years. In 2016, owner Dave McKie unveiled a new two-wheeled service, CUSE Cycle. Modeled on the CitiBike system in NYC, CUSE Cycle allows users to use their smart phone to rent a bike for a day or week, or to purchase an annual membership. Daily and weekly users have access to the bike for 24 hours, but must check into a dock every 30 minutes or they will be charged a fee. Annual members can use the bike any time for up to an hour each use, and are charged less for going over the time limit.

CUSE Cycle chose an equipment vendor, Republic Bikes, known for both quality of product and technological innovations that keep costs down and save energy. Each CUSE bike is outfitted with a solar panel and Bluetooth wireless technology to power and facilitate rental, docking, and tracking. They are sturdy and easy to use, with regular maintenance performed by McKie Sports.

2016 served as a trial run for the service on Onondaga Lake. 15 bikes and three docking stations were put in service on September 1, and operated until October 18. Each dock had eight parking slots to avoid overcrowding. Dave McKie reported that most users were happy with the service, and that several members purchased annual memberships which will allow them to use the service until next September. There were some technical issues, and difficulties experienced by some users with the smart phone app prompted installation of additional signage and information at the docking stations.cusecyclemap

In 2017, CUSE Cycle will expand to 20 bikes and four stations. Luckily for Erie Canalway Trail fans, the new station will be located in the parking area for the Lakeview Ampitheater and the NYS Fairgrounds, relatively close to the trailhead at Reed Webster Park/Warner’s Road. Depending on weather, bikes and stations should be installed in March or April.

Welcome to the Canal Corridor CUSE Cycle!

Going the Extra Mile for the Cycling Tourist

Hostel Buffalo-Niagara offers far more than a roof and a warm bed to cyclists making their way through Buffalo on the Canalway Trail and other long distance touring routes. The hostel offers a long list of amenities geared toward cyclists, a location in the heart of downtown Buffalo, and a welcoming family atmosphere. That’s why they are this issue’s featured Trailside business.

Hostel Buffalo-Niagara has been welcoming visitors from around the world to downtown Buffalo since 1996. The hostel has approximately 50 beds, and a location in the shadow of the iconic Shea’s Performing Arts Center sign on Main Street provides easy access to all of Buffalo’s charms. True to the traditional hostel concept, lodgers rent a bed, and have access to shared bathroom facilities. Hostel Buffalo Niagara also provides access to a full kitchen and luggage storage, all for a low price.

hostel-exterior-w-bikeAs with many hostels, Hostel Buffalo-Niagara has come to attract specific groups of travelers, including backpackers, travelling artists, and cyclists. Affordability and a great location have a lot to do with enticing these groups, but the hostel’s management has made special efforts to cater to cyclists. Manager Jon Privet explained that they were influenced by experiences with reduced rate biker/hiker campsites found in Western parks, believing that cyclists should be rewarded for choosing emission-free, low-impact transportation, and shouldn’t pay the same rate as more energy intensive modes. As a result, the hostel began offering a significant discount to thru-cyclists who weren’t travelling with a car.

They didn’t stop there, though. Hostel management has created an in-house bike share program, where lodgers can use a bike for local exploration at no cost. There’s also a bike storage room, and of course bike tools available for minor fixes. Cyclists also benefit from management’s knowledge of local cycling routes, and connections to the local cycling scene. In the summer, the hostel offers a free “bike breakfast” each Wednesday for local bike commuters, and they are involved in a local bike registration system called Bike Indexhostel-buffalo-niagara

The hostel also posts great stories and pictures of thru cyclists on its Facebook page.

Manager Jon Privet explained that Hostel Buffalo-Niagara’s bike-friendly ways stem from being “inspired by touring cyclists.” Well, Hostel Buffalo Niagara, you inspire us and serve as a great example of a Canalway Trail business going the extra mile for cyclists!




New CycletheErieCanal Website and Guidebook Launched

Parks & Trails New York has rolled out two new ways to help plan a visit to the Erie Canalway Trail. The new website CycletheErieCanal.com and the just-released, fourth edition of the Cycling the Erie Canal guidebook are designed to promote the Erie Canalway Trail as a cycling destination and bring more tourism dollars to upstate New York. 

Whether for a leisurely afternoon or a week-long adventure to become an official “End-to-Ender,” the new website, www.CycletheErieCanal.com, includes everything a visitor needs to plan a ride, including:

  • Trip planning: suggestions based on both region and interest (history, nature, culture, etc.)
  • An interactive map of the trail to track distance and find accommodations and services
  • Rider reviews: first-hand accounts from riders along the Erie Canal
  • Information about the annual Cycle the Erie Canal cross-state ride, which attracts more than 600 cyclists each July, and covers 400 miles between Buffalo and Albany (Next year’s ride is July 10-17).

New guidebook packed with information

The new 152 –page, fourth edition of the popular Cycling the Erie Canal guidebook is an indispensable resource for dedicated cyclists planning to bike across the state or the casual rider looking to take the family out for a couple of hours. It is also great for walkers, hikers, inline skaters, boaters and auto travelers.

Inside you will find:ERIE-3RDEDITION-cover

  • 42 easy-to-read, full-color maps
  • New inset maps to guide trail users through complicated stretches
  • Comprehensive listing of attractions, historic sites, visitor centers, parks
  • Availability of lodging, bike shops, parking and other services

According to the 2014 report, “The Economic Impact of the Erie Canalway Trail: An Assessment and User Profile of New York’s Longest Multi-Use Trail,” visitors generate approximately $253 million in sales, 3,440 jobs, and $28.5 million in taxes for New York’s upstate economy each year.

However, the same report notes that just 2.5% of estimated annual trail visits are made by persons residing outside the 35 counties surrounding the Erie Canalway Trail. The new website and the new edition of the guidebook are designed to especially attract riders from beyond the Canalway corridor.

Parks & Trails New York created www.CycletheErieCanal.com with funding from New York State Economic Development/I LOVE NEW YORK, in partnership with the NYS Canal Corporation and the National Park Service Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. The guidebook was updated with funding from the NYS Canal Corporation, as well as additional support from the National Park Service Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor,  First Niagara, CSEA, and Brookfield Renewable Energy.

Find Your Park in the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

News from the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

Take a day or weekend and find great places to explore and enjoy in the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. Erie Canalway has paired national parks and canal sites to create five free itineraries that introduce people to some of the best historic, cultural, and natural sites and recreational experiences within the Canalway Corridor.

Each itinerary features must see sites, as well as options for side trips. Suggestions for cycling, paddling, walking and canal tours, as well as nearby places to eat or picnic are also included. Find Your Park itineraries are available online for free and can also be downloaded at www.eriecanalway.org/FYP.htm.

“New Yorkers don’t have to travel far to experience national parks and our historic canals,” said Bob Radliff, Executive Director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. “These itineraries are equally great for families, as they are for people looking for weekend trips and getaways with friends or relatives.”

Five national parks and heritage areas are located within an hour’s drive of major cities in the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and all are close to significant canal heritage sites, the 524-mile-long NYS Canal System, and the 360-mile Erie Canalway Trail.ErieCanalway-FYP_600px

National parks and heritage areas featured include:

Saratoga National Historical Park, Stillwater

Fort Stanwix National Monument, Rome

Women’s Rights National Historical Park, Seneca Falls

Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, Buffalo

Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, Niagara Falls

The new itineraries are part of the National Park Service’s Find Your Park campaign to kick off its 100th anniversary. Search for more Find Your Park experiences to learn, discover, be inspired, or simply have fun in national parks.

This article was submitted by Jean McKay at the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor as part of an ongoing feature in Canalway Trail Times.

Trailside: Home the easier way – Erie Canal Bike Transport can bring you back

Erie Canal Bile Transport, Lock 33, Photo 3

Getting quickly and easily back to the starting point is always a challenge for multi-day Erie Canalway Trail cyclists. Erie Canal Bike Transport is working hard to remedy that.

Meet Evan Schiller, owner of Erie Canal Bike Transport. Ten years ago, Schiller was ferrying travelers from the airport to a popular Rochester-based bed and breakfast when the owners of the B&B asked him if he would like to expand his service to provide cyclist transport. As the B&B had recently been included in the Three Day Itinerary-Lockport to Palmyra, the B&B owners had received a number of requests from their guests to be driven back to their starting point.

“I really didn’t have any experience doing this, but I recognized the need, bought a trunk bike rack and gave it a shot,” said Schiller. As requests continued for transport between Lockport and Palmyra, his business grew to a four-bike rack system. This year, Schiller has equipped his vehicle with a five-bike rack and added a second van to his fleet, allowing him to handle groups of up to eight.

In 2015, Schiller also plans to cover the entire length of the trail from east to west. In keeping with the theme of the classic Erie Canal song, Schiller has named his mechanical “mule” Sal.

“The Erie Canalway Trail is such a great resource,” notes Schiller.” The people that bike the trail think it is fabulous.” Schiller hopes the 2015 release of the new edition of the Cycling the Erie Canal guidebook and Cycle the Erie Canal website will be a great opportunity for bicyclists to learn of his service and that it can make their experience easier to manage and more enjoyable.

He credits the Bicyclists Bring Business roundtable, held in Tonawanda in October, with his decision to add a new division and website to his transportation company and name that part of his business Erie Canal Bike Transport to help more cyclists find his service. According to Schiller, all his cycling customers have been out-of-state residents or visitors from abroad, the majority of whom visit the trail in June and July. “These cyclists are very organized and book their transport months in advance. They are professional and prepared; rarely do they wing it. My goal is to meet and hopefully exceed their expectations,” said Schiller.

“It’s been a very pleasurable experience. You meet great people. Everyone says they’ve found my service to be very desirable and convenient. It gives them peace of mind that they can return to their starting point without any surprises,” added Schiller.