While we were in Northwestern New York, we saw lots of signs dealing with the Erie Canal. I was quite interested and wanted to check it out. I had rusty memories of grade school history and even two songs that we had learned in relation to the canal.
Oh the E-R-I-E was a-rising, and the gin was a getting low,
I scarcely think, I'll get a drink, till I get to Buffalo
Low bridge, Everybody down,
Low Bridge, We're coming to a town
Excerpts of both which I sang to Cindy. Be glad you weren't there.
It was cool to look at some of the remnants of the canal. It peaked both our interests in brushing up our knowledge of the canal and what it represented. I got a little book that we both looked through. It was quite fascinating. It was first proposed in the 1700's. It wasn't built until 1817. It cost over 7 million dollars even back then. It was 363 miles long, 83 locks, 18 aqueducts and 300 bridges. It was enlarged between 1835 to 1862, at a cost of 28 million. But it was a huge success. It cut an arduous trip of 4 to 6 weeks, down to 6 days. It opened a path from New York City and the Hudson river all the way to Lake Erie. The building of the canal initiated the profession of civil engineering in this country.
The advent of trains in the area was the final demise of the canal, but it operated from 1807 until the early 1900's, about 100 years. Here is a replica of a small canal boat..
A part of the canal that has been preserved for history. For years, the boats were towed along the "tow path" by a group of three mules. There were regular spots along the way to change out mules, or teams were loaded and unloaded from the boats. Eventually steam boats replaced the mules.
Locks were needed to move up or down, in elevation, all the way to Lake Erie. A boat would enter a lock, one at a time. The water would start out at the same level as where the boat entered. Then the water was either raised or lowered, to the level of the canal beyond the lock. And the boat would then proceed at this new level. It took only about 15 minutes for boats to get through a lock. In Lockport, where the Niagara escarpment was, it took 5 locks in a row to get the boats up and down.