Paddling Q&A

Paddle the canal!

Load up your kayak, canoe or stand up paddle board and explore the waterway's many treasures. You'll be able to access all sorts of interesting canal sites and features that you can't reach by car. There are 125 launch sites along the waterway and several boater-biker-hiker facilities that allow overnight camping at canal parks.

Paddler's Q & A

Can paddlers go through the locks?

Yes. Going through a lock is one of the unique aspects of paddling on the canal. Alert lock operators by cell phone. Telephone numbers are listed here. If you have a handheld marine band VHF radio, contact lock operators on channel 13 and other boaters on channel 16. If you are renting a kayak or canoe, you can ask the rental operator to call ahead for you. It takes about 15-20 minutes to lock through.

How much does it cost?

It's free for paddlers to go through the locks.

What do we need to bring?

Always wear a personal flotation device. Protect yourself from the sun with suntan lotion and a hat and bring snacks and water. It is very important to stay alert and hydrated while you are on the water.

Can we fish?

Fishing is allowed; you need is a valid fishing license from the Department of Environmental Conservation. Bass, pike, and walleye are common catches; trout fishing is popular on the Oswego Canal and on Seneca and Cayuga Lakes.

What wildlife will we see?

Watch for blue herons, eagles, osprey, ducks and geese, turtles, otters, and mink. You'll see more wildlife in more remote sections of the canal. Check out our wildlife slideshow.

Is there a current?

Yes. Even though it is a canal, there is noticeable current in most places. Plan accordingly. If you plan to launch and end at the same place for a day trip, go upstream for the first leg. It makes getting back at the end of the day much easier.

Are there hazards?

Be careful around dams, if you are paddling one of the river sections. The movable dams in the Mohawk River are easy to spot from a distance. Low fixed dams can be hard to see when approaching from upstream. Most dams have a line of orange balls upstream. NEVER go below the markers. Be careful after floods, the safety balls sometimes get displaced.

Follow the buoys: "Red on the right when returning from sea" is standard convention. That means that red markers will be on the LEFT side of the channel when you're paddling east (and generally downstream) on the Erie, south on the Champlain, and northeast on the Cayuga-Seneca Canals. Red buoys are on the right side of the channel on the Oswego Canal.

How far can we go?

The NYS Canal System consists of more than 524-miles of interconnected canals, lakes, and rivers, including the Erie, Champlain, Oswego, and Cayuga-Seneca Canals. You can paddle all of it. Paddlers going from end to end of the Erie Canal typically plan 2.5 to 3 weeks to make the 338 mile journey. For day or weekend trips, choose mileage that will be comfortable for you to cover in a day-- and leave time to stop and explore on land as well. It takes 15-20 minutes to go through each lock, so be sure to add time for locking too. If you are new to paddling, test the waters with an hour or two of paddling.

How many miles is each canal?

  • Erie Canal, which connects the Hudson River with Lake Erie, 338 miles to the west;
  • Champlain Canal, which connects the tidal portion of the Hudson River with Lake Champlain, 63 miles to the north;
  • Oswego Canal, which follows the Oswego River from the Erie Canal 23 miles north to Lake Ontario;
  • Cayuga-Seneca Canal, which connects the Erie Canal to 92 miles of canalized rivers and lakes, including the Seneca River and Cayuga and Seneca Lakes.

Can we get a lesson?

Many paddling rentals offer a variety of lesson packages or tips to ensure you are comfortable before heading out.

Paddle the Erie Canal in the Mohawk Valley

Check out the new Water Trail from Rome to Waterford in the Mohawk Valley. Rent a kayak or launch your own boat and head to the water!

Water Trail Map >

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    The Mohawk River has been a water trail for centuries; c.1790

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    “The Noses” Mohawk River east of Canajoharie c.1825

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    Canoeing on the Erie Canal near Amsterdam c. 1905

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    Schoharie Aqueduct, Fort Hunter (Photo by Halldor Sigurdsson)

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    Mohawk River / Erie Canal east of Little Falls (Photo by Bart Carrig)

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    Lock E18 German Flatts

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    Lock E19, Town of Schuyler near Utica

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    Paddlers near Fort Hunter (Photo by David Brooks)

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    Mohawk River east of Herkimer

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    Waterford Harbor -- Eastern gateway to the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor (Photo by Halldor Sigurdsson)


Paddle the Old Erie Canal in Central NY

Ten miles of calm waters in the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park are great for exploring in a canoe or kayak. Choose from several launch sites between the Town of DeWitt, just east of Syracuse, and Chittenango. Find maps, photos and videos of all the launch areas here at tourthetowpath.com.

  • Cedar Bay Park, DeWitt- 9.5 miles from here to Chittenango
  • Manlius Center, Fayetteville- 7.2 miles from here to Chittenango
  • Poolsbrook Park, Kirkville- 3.2 miles from here to Chittenango
  • Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum, Chittenango
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