Tips for Boating Through a Lock

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Tips for boating through a lock

Going through a lock is one of the unique experiences of traveling along the canal. If you’ve never done it or are feeling a little nervous, rest assured! Thousands of people lock through successfully every year—you can too!

And you can count on friendly lock operators for step-by-step coaching to make locking safe and enjoyable for novice and experienced boaters. Paddlers are also welcome to go through the locks. A few simple preparations and the right equipment will make for smooth sailing.

What to have on hand

As you approach


  • Pole or boat hook for pushing off the sides of the lock. A paddle works fine, too.
  • Work gloves for handling the lines.
  • Larger boats will need long boat lines to help control the boat in the lock (e.g., a 20-foot boat needs 30 feet of line). If you’re in a kayak or canoe, you can hold onto the ropes provided in the locks.
  • Boat fenders large enough and numerous enough to protect your boat from concrete lock walls.
  • Paddlers do not need special equipment. Lines are available in the lock to hold onto while locking through.

  • Alert the lock operator using marine radio (Channel 13) or three horn blasts to signal your approach. You can also call lock operators. Paddlers may want to call ahead to alert operators of their arrival time.
  • Wait for the green light for permission to enter the lock.
  • Follow directions of the lock operator.
  • Use the same procedure to contact lift bridge operators on the western end of the Erie Canal.
  • For a simple guide to locking with a video visit: www.canals.ny.gov/navinfo


Lock Through Virtually

It takes about 15 minutes to go through a lock, but you can experience it here in one minute.