Jun 18, 2012

Exploring the Erie Canal on the Emita II

There are many things I love about Central New York. Two of them are the Erie Canal and Dinosaur BBQ. When a boat tour on the Erie Canal is combined with dinner catered by Dinosaur BBQ and the weather is ‘Central New York Glorious’ life just doesn’t get any better. Sometimes CNY is so wonderful John and I quip, “If we didn’t live here we would have to visit.”

We recently took a tour on the Emita II departing from Dutchman’s Landing with Captain Dan at the helm. A canal trip is truly life in the slow lane. The views are so different from what we see from the highways that it is actually a bit disorientating. Luckily there are maps that Sarah Wiles, Captain Dan’s sister, used to show us exactly the route we were taking.

We headed west to Baldwinsville. It was so peaceful and serene with people fishing, kayaking, walking their dog or just sitting on their dock. Every once in a while Captain Dan would interrupt his narration with, “Off to the right is an osprey” or “Look by the shore. There is a swan, her mate and signets. Last year she was alone.”

And, there are always the Great Blue Herons. Captain Dan said bird enthusiasts often comment, “It is so nice to see the herons are back in CNY.” He claims they never left the canal area. The herons fly ahead of the boat, land, wait until the boat is nearby and then fly ahead again as if leading the boat. Legend has it that the herons are the souls of former canal boat captains showing today’s captains where the rocks and shallow parts are so that they can be avoided. Legend or not, it seems as if that is just what the herons are doing.

Locking through is always fun. Near Baldwinsville Captain Dan calls ahead to the lockmaster so he can open Lock 24 and have it ready for us. Once in the lock, the gates close and the water level starts to rise. It is all done by gravity with the water from the higher part of the canal flowing into the lock thus raising the boat. Once we are on the level with the water in Brewerton, the gate opens and we head to the picturesque point with a bandstand, and turn around.

Tied up Brewerton was the 1901 Urger tug boat that is now the flagship of the New York State Canal Corporation fleet. The Urger, after it was retired from its original job, serves as a floating classroom and traveling museum with the mission to educate school children and adults about the importance of New York’s canal system – past and present.

Our canal trip got even better when dinner was served – finger-lickin’ Dinosaur BBQ ribs and chicken with baked beans, tossed salad and corn bread with awesome chocolate chip cookies for dessert. Before returning to Dutchman’s Landing we cruised into Onondaga Lake where Captain Dan explained the changes that have taken place along the shore of the lake over the years and how 40 years ago there were only 10 species of animal life in the lake but now there are about 100 and the cleaning of the lake continues. MidLakes Navigation offers a variety of day and overnight tours. They even have one that sails on the Oswego Canal. I’ll put it on my Bucket List.