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Canal Locks and Structures

New York's canal system is famous for its engineering.

Get a close up look at locks, bridges, power houses and other structures used to operate the canals with videos and 3D Tours. Most were built between 1905 and 1918. You can find these structures, as well as the remarkable remains of stone locks, and aqueducts used during the 1800s, all along the canals.

3D Tours: Hover on the interactive icons embedded in each 3D tour to see details about the sites and the objects within. Circles on the floor allow you to move around from space to space. Use your mouse to zoom in and get a closer look at the structures.

Locks are elevators for boats, lifting and lowering them as they travel along the waterway. Today, there are 57 locks on New York's canal system, including 35 on the Erie Canal, 11 on the Champlain Canal, seven on the Oswego Canal, and four on the Cayuga-Seneca Canal.

Lift Bridges
Built between 1905 and 1918, 15 lift bridges still carry traffic over the Erie Canal in western New York. When a boat approaches, the operator stops traffic on the roadway and raises the deck of the bridge 15 feet to give clearance for passing boats.

Movable Dams
Eight movable dams regulate water flow on the Mohawk River. Dam gates are lowered to form navigable pools during the summer but are pulled out of the water in winter to clear the way for ice and debris-filled floodwaters.

Hydroelectric Plant
Water flowing along the canal is used to produce electricity at several locations. Find out more at the Mechanicville Hydroelectric Plant at Lock C2 on the Champlain Canal, one of upstate New York's first electrical generating facilities.

Old and New
New York's canals were enlarged several times to allow for bigger boats and more traffic. Newer locks were sometimes constructed in the same spot as older ones. In other places, older locks were abandoned and new ones built nearby. Tour the historic Lockport Flight of five stone locks next to Locks E34 and E35, built in 1918 and still in use today.

Aqueducts are water bridges that carry canal boats across rivers and streams. Stone arches and piers support the structure. There were 32 aqueducts on the Erie Canal in the 1800s. Find out more at Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site near Amsterdam, where you can see the remains of the Schoharie Aqueduct.

Boats traveling on the canals in the 1800s paid tolls based on how much their cargo weighed. From 1850 to 1882, the Weighlock Building in Syracuse weighed, on average, four boats per hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


Power House
Located at almost all locks, these white buildings house equipment used to generate electricity to power lock gates and valves. Nearby, you'll see a gate cabinet, which displays the number of each lock. The cabinet holds the motors and gearing that open and close lock gates and valves.

3D Tours and videos were produced in collaboration with the New York State Canal Corporation and the National Park Service, with additional support from the National Park Foundation.


National Historic Landmark