Sep 2, 2015

MidLakes day trip on the Erie Canal

I think everyone has at least one thing that is a must-do during the
summer.  For me it is spending time on the Erie Canal away from the hustle and bustle of the everyday world. This year I took the MidLakes Navigation’s Emitta II from Dutchman’s Landing to Cross Lake.  The name Dutchman’s Landing intrigues me. Captain Dan Wiles explained that before MidLakes Navigation bought the land there was a bar there of the same name. It is no longer there.  I can’t help but wonder if the name derived from the time – before the canal system - when New York State was New Netherlands and the Dutch traveled the waterways of New York in search of furs and other tradable commodities. 

Captain Dan provided just enough narration to keep the ride interesting but not so much that I couldn’t just ride and day dream of the time when the canal was the main travel road of New York. At one time it was America’s Super Highway – it was the way West. I was surprised that there wasn’t more activity on the canal. It was a Saturday and the weather was ideal with just a hint of fall colors on some trees. I only saw a few pleasure boats and a couple fishermen. At one time the canal was extremely busy with some boats providing crowded sleeping conditions for those making the multi-day trip.  Cargo boats had living quarters for the captain and his family.  Some children were born and raised on a canal boat.  The ports were booming and I would assume that living along the canal was not the most desirable place to live.  Today there are some camps along the canal but many of them have been replaced with beautiful homes. 

In the canal heydays travelers never saw the beautiful mute swans.
They may add to serene ambiance but they are an invasive species. The mute swans are larger and more offensive than native waterfowl and will drive off and even kill native birds plus they eat up to 10 pounds of aquatic vegetation daily.  Too bad they don’t eat the water chestnut, another invasive species native to Europe that doesn’t have any natural enemies here. Some homeowners have mats of water chestnuts so dense that they have to clear a path through the water so they can get to their docks.  On the happy side I saw a couple of bald eagles and great blue herons which are making a great comeback. 

I never get tired of locking through. On the way to Cross Lake the Emita II locked through Lock 24 in Baldwinsville.  It is the second busiest lock on the canal.  On the way to Cross Lake we traveled along the canalized Seneca River and through Jack’s Reef, a short cut. The waterfront of Baldwinsville is a great example of canal towns being revitalized. According to Captain Dan tourism along the canal generates $350 million and over $3 billion in non-touristic revenue. It was another great day on the canal.

Midlakes Navigation has a variety of day trips lasting from one-hour to five-hours.  A gift of tickets would be great for any occasion and I think it is a must-do when Central New Yorker’s are hosting out of the town guests.  The canal is historically and uniquely Central New York.