Saturday, January 15, 2011

Hunting for Clinton's Ditch

Well, it has been a cold, snowy, blustery winter in Central NY. But the snow did stop long enough for me to get out for a couple walks. I have been enjoying snowshoeing along the trail in Port Byron, but I also wanted to look for remnants of the first canal in spots that I had not been to yet. So here is a little tour.

There are a couple of good places to go in Cayuga County to do this. Montezuma; east of Port Byron; and east of Weedsport. Where the Canal Trail crosses Route 31 near Towpath Road, you can see a overgrown section of the first canal (aka; Clinton's Ditch, Great Western Canal) Of course, anytime I am in the area of Enlarged Lock 51, I need to stop in for a quick visit. (My dog Lizzy goes on all canal explorations) Check the map that is on the pdf of Lock 51 and notice the route of the early canal. The turn south to look at the hill to the south and then follow the contour of the land. You can almost see the route of the canal.

Head a bit west and turn left on the first road. This is Pump Road. At the next intersection, turn right onto Clinton Road and stop for a moment. This was the location of Cold Spring Pump, where an artesian well supplied water to local residents and canallers. The intersection sits south of the first canal, so look for the route of the canal in the woods and backyards of the homes on the right. Then drive west. The important thing is the land. Notice the hillside to the left and the wet swampy areas to the right. In-between was the canal.

As you head west, you will also begin to see the line of the Rochester, Syracuse and Eastern Trolley. It ran along Clinton Road, so don't be fooled. If you see power-line poles, you are looking at the old trolley route. After a bit, you will see a road on the right. This is Lippoldt Road. Turn onto the road and drive down to the intersection with Route 31 and the canal trail. It is a quiet road, so I park on the side and walk up the trail.

Again, head west. You will come to the concrete abutment of the New York, West Shore and Buffalo Railroad. (Here is crossed the Enlarged Erie and if you follow the line of the railroad embankment north, you will see where it crossed the NY Central line. Good train watching spot.) Just west of this abutment, look south (left). On the far side of the field you will see the horizontal line of the first canal. You can see it in the photo, just below the line of trees, hugging the hillside contour. I have included a photo of where I was on the canal trail. Notice the fencing as a landmark. The fencing is where a culvert once crossed under the enlarged canal.

Now if you are thinking about exploring the old canal, don't. This section of canal is on private land. Please respect landowner rights.

If you follow the trail west; the trail, the old canal and Route 31 will all come together where the canal trail crosses the highway. There are also some good spots to see the first canal if you cross the road and continue on the trail. The two canals took very different paths through this area, so you can often see the first canal from the canal trail.

Have fun!

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