The Erie Canal is celebrating its bicentennial this year. What was originally built as a way to move goods back and forth from the NYC and the Great Lakes, is now considered one of NY State’s greatest tourism attractions. That’s right, the Erie Canal is a big draw for vacationers (see this Chicago Tribune article).
Although Buffalo is no longer directly tied into the Erie Canal, we have done our best to pay tribute to its terminus. But how do we play a larger role in the future of the canal, not just the history? Aside from removing the I-190 (the spot of the Erie Canal, now buried under roadway), there is a way that we can better connect to the ongoing legacy of the historic waterway – by canal boat.
I propose that LaSalle Park become a hub for touring canal boats. Rig up the docking amenities to accommodate the boats, and begin offering canal boat tours that leave from the park, head down the Black Rock Channel (Black Rock Lock), and hug the Niagara River, until they the boat can gain access to the waterway to the canal’s western end North Tonawanda.
Due to the slower-yet-still-significant 4 knot waters along the Niagara River (hugging land), one would need to build a modified canal boat, which apparently would not be that difficult to do. I spoke to a boat captain this morning who is familiar with these types of pleasure crafts and the above-mentioned waterway, and he told me that he felt that something like this could work.
Can you image leaving for a week-long excursion (vacation) from Buffalo, heading down the Erie Canal? I would think that a charter operation of this nature would be a big hit, especially if dogs were allowed to go (I’m already envisioning my first trip). Grab your suitcase, a couple of bikes, some groceries and get ready for a relaxing historic cruise on a beautiful canal boat equipped with modern amenities.
Or take a day trip, starting in the morning and coming back that night. The canal boat could even be rented by the hour (if it’s not booked), for parties that are not looking to make a full trip, and only want to spend the day out on the water’s of Lake Erie.
Next up, I’m going to post on creating an aquatic connection between cities like Buffalo and Erie, PA (low hanging fruit), and Cleveland. Or what about Canada? Why are we not making lake excursions to places like Port Colborne, which is the terminus of the Welland Canal… which leads to Lake Ontario and Toronto? So often we talk about train access/trips, yet we never consider the potential of waterways.