Oct 7, 2013

Exploring the Oswego Canal

I was able to check another experience off my Bucket List. John
and I recently enjoyed Mid-Lakes Navigation’s day tour on the Oswego Canal. When we traveled by car along Routes 481, 57, and 49 I would catch glimpses of the Oswego Canal and wondered what the world looked like from the water. Mid-Lakes Navigation operates tours on the Oswego Canal twice a year – four opportunities to enjoy the Oswego Canal. We took the last tour of the season. We departed from Dutchman’s Landing in Baldwinsville by bus provided by Mid-Lakes. It took us to Oswego where we boarded the Emita II.  Parked nearby were barges from Canada that where transporting corn to the ethanol plant near Fulton.  We wondered why it was necessary to import corn.

The Oswego River is a little over 23 miles long with seven locks that allows for the change of 118 feet in elevation from Oswego to Three Rivers. There are informational signs at each lock that provides information on the lock. The Erie Canal was completed in 1825 and laying of the cornerstone for the first lock on the Oswego Canal took place in Fulton on July 4, 1826. 

Even though I have locked through in many locations I find it a fascinating experience. It takes about 30 minutes for the water level to change and gravity does most of the work.  Captain Dan Wiles explained that one million gallons of water are displaced for every foot of water.  Bridie Manor and the other buildings look different from the water. There were many people fishing below the dam and it was the first time we saw the cable that crosses the river allowing the DEC to check on the river quality and count the fish. 

We passed by Battle Island which is named for a small but pivotal
battle that took place on July 3, 1756 when 300 colonial troops led by Captain John Bradstreet won against 700 French and Indians. I noticed that there was no Lock 4 between Locks 5 and 3. Captain Dan explained that the original plans for the Canal did include a Lock 4, but as construction progressed engineers determined the lock wasn’t needed and work had progressed elsewhere so it was just easier to leave out the lock than to change the numbers of the other locks especially since the other locks were already being referred to by their numbered name. We often have diner at The Tavern on the Lock Restaurant in Fulton and finally we were locking through and waving to the people at the restaurant instead of the other way around.  

When we passed by an attractive Greek Revival brick house with white pillars we were told that it was built about 1820 for the son of John Van Buren, the first cousin of President Martin Van Buren. There was virtually no traffic on the canal which at one time was a major highway and instrumental in settling our country. The world is so sublime and different looking from the canal. We did see several bald eagles and blue herons.  I was surprised there wasn’t a group on the boat because it seemed like such a great trip for families or as a day outing for organizations.  There was a couple on board who were celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary by enjoying life in the slow lane.