Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Winding Canal

 Back in 2002 when I wrote my book about the Erie Canal in Cayuga County, I wanted to make the point about the differences between the first canal, the so called Clinton's Ditch and the second version, the Enlarged canal. The first canal was a contour canal, following the lay of the land, whereas the Enlarged Canal was a cut and fill canal, much straighter. I used a certain part of the first canal (Clinton's Ditch) east of Weedsport to make my point about the winding route and the huge bends that were built into it as the surveyors tried to hold one elevation as long as possible. So I was delighted to see these photos taken roughly around 1960 that show the same area. These come from the Canal Society of New York State collection.

If you were to look for this site today, look at where Millis Trucking sits on Route 31 east of Weedsport. You can see the old West Shore Railway bridge crossing over Rt 31. At one time, this bridge carried the railroad over the Enlarged Erie. The concrete abutments are there today. The curved ditch in the foreground is the first Erie Canal.

 

To help you see it, here are the two canals.


Here is another view showing Clinton Road in the foreground. You can see how the road follows the curve of the canal. Much of this remains today, but is greatly grown over.


Here is the view from the other side of the railroad. Again you can see the canal just north of the railroad. And here we see all three canal routes, Clinton's Ditch, the Enlarged, and the Barge (using the Seneca River).


I always describe this area when I speak about the flow of water in the canal. Imagine your plumber installing pipes that bent around all the rooms. The water might flow, but not very quickly. So it was here. Stick in a few boats, and the flow could almost stop. Any usage downstream (in a lock) and the boats could run aground.

Central New York, especially Wayne, Cayuga, and Onondaga Counties have many places where you can see remains of the first and second canals lying alongside one another. Good stuff and great photos.

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