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 do

What to have on hand


  • Alert the lock operator- Call the lock operator, use marine radio (Channel 13), or signal with three horn or whistle blasts. 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. Position yourself along the lock wall as directed.
  • Stay clear of the lock gates as they open. Watch for the green light to signal that it is safe to leave the lock.
  • 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

  • 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.


Lock Through Virtually

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