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.
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's free for paddlers to go through the locks.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The canal system consists of more than 524-miles of interconnected canals, lakes, and rivers that link with the Great Lakes, Lake Champlain, and the Atlantic Ocean at New York City. Choose mileage that will be comfortable for you to cover in a day or weekend of paddling-- and leave some time to stop and explore on land as well. If you are new to paddling, test the waters with an hour or two of paddling.
Many paddling rentals offer a variety of lesson packages or tips to ensure you are comfortable before heading out.
Exciting plans are underway to develop a 128-mile water trail along the Erie Canal from Rome to Waterford. Here, the waterway flows through deep and scenic valleys, woods and farmland, and past industrial cities and small towns. All of these features will help make this water trail a national treasure.
Erie Canalway is working with a number of partners to plan for improved accessibility, designate camp sites, highlight the region’s rich heritage, and promote recreation. Stay tuned for details.