Get close to the water and experience New York's canals by kayak, canoe and stand-up paddleboard. The NYS Canalway Water Trail is comprised of 450 miles of canals and interconnected lakes and rivers. It includes the Erie, Cayuga-Seneca, Oswego, and Champlain canals. With more than 140 access sites and several boater-biker-hiker facilities that allow overnight camping at canal parks, it's easier than ever to enjoy the waterway.
The NYS Canal System is not open for through navigation of the locks. Safety concerns, construction delays, and closures in March resulted in the suspension of lock pump-outs and related construction work at eight locks this spring. No boats will be able to pass through locks or travel from region to region until this work is completed, other locks are returned to operation, and the canal is "watered-up."
As a result, there are hazards along the canal that you would not normally encounter. Please read the details below!
Paddling on lakes, rivers, and some land-cut sections of the Canal System where water levels are adequate may be open to paddlers. Getting on and off water safely, river currents, and dams are key factors that will determine which areas will be safe to paddle.
Public and private facility owners may not be able to install floating docks or kayak launches in low water conditions and many boat ramps may be high and dry. Please scout areas you plan to paddle in advance.
The NYS Water Trail Guidebook was written for the Canal System operating under normal water levels and full operation. Some of the information may not be accurate until the canal is fully operational.
Paddling the Free-Flowing Mohawk River- Eight moveable dams that typically create navigation channels between Fort Plain and Schenectady remain raised in their winter positions. While a free-flowing Mohawk River may seem like a fine opportunity for paddlers and some sections are safe, other areas present serious safety concerns.
The water trail flows through time and history, connecting magnificent scenery and remarkable communities.
This mile-by-mile guide includes launch sites, paddler-friendly facilities and amenities, and places of interest for over 450 miles of waterway. Companion map set is water and tear resistant. An indispensable resource for paddlers!
|Download the Guidebook|
|1. Introduction- including Paddling on the Canal, Safety, and Things to See and Do|
|2. Erie Canal- Buffalo to Rochester|
|3. Erie Canal- Rochester to Syracuse|
|4 . Erie Canal- Syracuse to Little Falls|
|5. Erie Canal- Little Falls to Albany|
|6. Cayuga-Seneca Canal|
|7. Oswego Canal|
|8. Champlain Canal|
|9. Resources for Paddlers|
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.
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.
Paddlers are sharing information, asking questions, and meeting others who share a passion for paddling the canals on the New York State Canalway Water Trail paddling group on Facebook. With nearly 700 members, this peer-to-peer group is a great place to get inspired for a paddling adventure on the Erie, Champlain, Oswego and Cayuga-Seneca Canals. Join the conversation: https://www.facebook.com/groups/NYSCanalwayWaterTrail/
Fishing is allowed; you need 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 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.
Many paddling rentals offer a variety of lesson packages or tips to ensure you are comfortable before heading out.
Generous financial assistance was provided by a grant from Market NY through I LOVE NY, New York State’s Division of Tourism, as part of the State’s Regional Economic Development Council initiative; the New York State Canal Corporation; the National Park Service; New York State Office of Parks, Recreations and Historic Preservation, the Community Foundation of Herkimer Counties, Inc.; Rome Community Foundation; Mohawk Valley Collective; and individual donors.
® I LOVE NEW YORK is a registered trademark and service mark of the New York State Department of Economic Development; used with permission.