Sunday, January 16, 2011

More Montezuma

Montezuma is a great place to visit because there is so much to see and understand. I am certain a person could spend a lifetime studying just Montezuma. And the more you understand about it, the more you want to come back again and again to see it to make the connections between man, the river, the ecology, the geology, the industry, the early explorers and the canals. In earlier posts, I wrote about a couple walks you could take around Montezuma. Here is another walk to consider.

Park at the trail-head on Chapman Road. Walk west along the trail (tow-path). While you are walking, take a good look at the landscape around the canal. Notice where it is level with the towpath, or even where in places the towpath is cut into the ground. Shortly you will come to a path on the right that heads off into the woods. Walking down the path will take you to the site of the old Clinton's Ditch lock. Volunteers have built a crude bridge over the lock, so if you promise to be careful, you can walk over the bridge to see the foundations of the lock tenders house and the hand-dug well. You can even walk along the old towpath back east, but you can't make it back to the parking lot because of drainage ditches.

After looking about the lock site, walk back up the path and then turn right down the ATV trail cut into the brush and trees. You will notice that the land is sloping toward the west. Does a change in elevation always equal a lock? Maybe not. Certainly, the lock is here because of this change in elevation, but there are other ways of over coming changes in elevation. Continue walking down the trail and the landscape will open up a bit as you reach the flats. As you walk west, look to the south and take a good look at the embankment of the Enlarged canal. Then turn north and look for the small berm of the first canal. Then realize that the river was once about 4 feet higher then it is now. Walk up to the bank of the river. Put yourself in a place where you can see the river, the old canal and the new canal with the Aqueduct. Take a moment to think about the 34 years of crossing a river on a slack-water pool where the animal teams walked over the river on a bridge and the boats floated on the natural river. Then look at the Aqueduct and think about the change in canal operations that the enlarged embankment and the aqueduct represents. The embankment created flat navigation from Lock 52 in Port Byron across the wetlands to Lock 53 in Clyde. But it also represents a man-made change in the flow of water through the swamps and how the river reacted during times of high water.

Do be careful around the river. The ice is under the snow and it is easy to take a fall as you attempt to get a nice photo (trust me, I know!). Walk up to the top of the Aqueduct and then back along the towpath. From this vantage point, look down to the flats and think about what it took to build this embankment to they could eliminate the lock and slack water crossing.

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