Signs of New Life for the Erie Canal

November 3, 2008 at 5:33 pm Leave a comment

After decades of decline, commercial shipping has returned to the Erie Canal, though it is a far cry from the canal’s heyday. The number of shipments rose to 42 so far this year during the season the canal is open, from 15 during last year’s season, which lasts from May 1 to Nov. 15. Once nearly forgotten, the relic of history has shown signs of life as higher fuel prices have made barges an attractive alternative to trucks.

Completed in 1825, rerouted in parts and rebuilt twice since then, the Erie Canal flows 338 miles across New York State, between Waterford in the east and Tonawanda in the west. (See related map.)

It carved out a trail for immigrants who settled the Midwest, and it cemented the position of New York City, which connects with the canal via the Hudson River, as the nation’s richest port. In 1855, at the canal’s height as a thoroughfare for goods and people, 33,241 shipments passed through the lock at Frankfort, 54 miles east of Syracuse, according to Craig Williams, history curator at the New York State Museum in Albany.

Though diminished in the late 1800s by competition from railroads, commercial shipping along the canal grew until the early 1950s, when interstate highways and the new St. Lawrence Seaway lured away most of the cargo and relegated the canal to a scenic backwater piloted by pleasure boats.
By Sewell Chan, City Room

New York Times


Entry filed under: Get Wet, Maritime, Region. Tags: , , .

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