Erie Canal from Tonowandas to Little Falls, New York: 9/8 to 10/3/2013

From Buffalo we motored up the Niagara River and managed to avoid going over the falls even though our chart plotter did not offer any images for this small area. We found the sign that directed us into the Erie Canal and there we pulled our mast out and laid them flat on to supports we made at the boatyard. John did all the work and Wardell’s ran the crane. It took 2 1/2 hours for the job to be complete and $500.00. They made out well and we were ready to start down the canal. We bought a 10 day pass and figured we could easily make the 330 mile trip in that period of time.



The canal at the western end is largely a man-made channel averaging 12 feet deep and maybe 40 feet wide. There are few locks but lots of lift bridges that need to be raised for us to pass under. This requires traffic be stopped for the time it takes for us to go. Along the way many towns like Holley, Middleport, Medina etc. provide a wall to securely tie up for the night. Some of these places even provide water and electric and laundry service.


Our day is passed with one of us steering as the channel is narrow and you must watch for debris and other traffic. We start by 0800 and go until 5PM because the lock system closes then. In summer months they stay open till 9PM. We listen to local radio and enjoy lots of bird-watching, history and old homesteads as well as interesting people doing interesting things.

This is a picture of a woman named Julia who built herself a rowing dinghy in her apartment in NYC and then decided to row it from East to West by herself. I am happy to report she completed the task in good shape.


In Middleport the local police station has free showers for cruisers passing by and as the temperatures are record high and very humid, we decided to take full advantage of this opportunity for a proper shower.
There are also many bikers and walkers along the canal. For several days in a row we saw the same couple biking the canal route. In the evening we had dinner with them and found out that they were on a quest to bike from Buffalo to Albany(total of 330 miles) where they lived. They were retired teachers and traveled at about the same speed we did. Another interesting person was walking from one end to the other advocating for different teaching methods for learning challenges. Many walkers are just out for their exercise but in years past the canal paid people to daily walk the canal looking for leaks in the walls.

We stopped for a visit with Lucy’s family in Newark. The brothers still live and work the family farm which is only about 7 miles from the Erie Canal. We had the family out for pizza and beer while it poured rain outside. Bubba the dog was not very happy about the visit however and refused to budge from the dock despite his masters insistence.

Earlier in the season we had heard of a 3 week closure due to flooding damage and so we hustled on eastward. However at lock 17 on the 17th of Sept. we were advised of a closure at lock 13 (who has a lock numbered 13 anyway?). Little Falls, New York was to be our “home” for the next 2 plus weeks.
Little Falls turned out to be a gem of a place for us. This is the area for the Herkimer diamond mines. I got one like this myself from my 90 year old “boyfriend”. He came to visit and talk many afternoons.
Moss Island is alongside of Lock 17. Everyday there were climbers coming to practice their top-roping skills on the cliffs of Moss Island.
When the last Ice Age was receding a huge amount of water drained down the Mohawk Valley creating large scour holes(potholes) in the gneis rock layers on Moss Island.
We became good friends with Tom and Jaime the lock keepers at Lock 17. It is the largest lock of all the Erie Canal at 40.5 feet. The Mohawk river runs through town and creates the "falls".
We watched the leaves change to orange and red and had many mornings with beautiful fog. The weather stayed warm and sunny and burned away the fog by mid morning.
As the time for re-opening the canal came nearer, we started seeing boats coming on down toward Lock 17. We were told not to go beyond Lock 17 until time for reopening came because of potential flooding again with heavy rain. We welcomed the increased activity and cocktail hours with new friends.

Time to publish this post but I promise to soon publish our Debacle of Lock 14 and the end of the Erie Canal.


7 thoughts on “Erie Canal from Tonowandas to Little Falls, New York: 9/8 to 10/3/2013

  1. Lucy & John,

    I look forward to each new post on your blog. We will be easing east in two weeks to visit Greg, who is living and working about 1-1/2 hours northwest of NYC. We hope that there is still some color left on the trees.

    Can’t wait to read about the “Debacle of Lock 14.”


    Love alll of the pictures, too.

    • Thanks Dennis, i can tell you that you will still find color. we are just south of Albany heading southward to NYC tomorrow (we think) and the color is still developing. it has been beautiful weather here and we are pleased with this. Hope all is well. Hello to Barb and Greg. much love. Lucy and John

  2. Actually, my comment should have read “heading east,” although we do kind of “ease” our way there when we make the long drive to New York. DK

  3. We’re really enjoying keeping up with y’all this way. Didn’t really understand Lucy’s apparent interest in geology until I got to the part about 90-year-old boyfriends and diamonds. Starts reminding me of one of Anna Nicole Smith’s marriages …. But seriously, the writing is good and the feeling of the surroundings comes through strong and clear. Love the photos, too.
    How are you adjusting to life aboard and not having jobs or other things to get you out of the “house”? It sounds like a great way to see the countryside, though I would have thought they’d let people know farther down the canal that the way was blocked at some point. Going to have to look at a map to see the route.
    Thanks for the updates and look forward to seeing you when you reach the Gulf and the West Coast of Florida.

  4. This blog is really great! Love following your progress. Liked the pic of Bubba being a typical stubborn Boxer. Wising you the best in your travels. Lv, John and Nancy and Bubba too!

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