Erie Canalway Trail (Jordan to Camillus)
Location: Jordan to Camillus, Onondaga County
Directions: Park along North Main Street (Rt. 31C), Jordan, in front of Lock 51Garden (between the Laundromat and Masonic Lodge).
Alternative Parking: Town of Camillus Erie Canal Park, Newport Road, Camillus Erie Canal Park, Devoe Road
Hiking Time: 5.5 hours
Biking Time: 2.5 hours
Length: 10.8 miles one way
Difficulty: 1 boot
Surface: Dirt and gravel trail
Trail Markings: None
Contact: P.O. Box 397, Jordan, NY 13080 (315) 689-3278
The idea for the Erie Canal was born in our very own Finger Lakes area in Canandaigua to be more precise. To be absolutely accurate; the idea was born in the Canandaigua jail, which at the time was the second floor of Sheriff Elijah Tillosons hotel, The prisoner who dared to dream this grand folly was Jesse Hawley, a once wealthy businessman, besieged with debt from his less than lucrative freight forwarding business. Hawley had attempted to make a business out of moving flour and wheat from farms in the area to the Mynderse Mill at the falls on the Seneca River (now Seneca Falls), then to market in New York City. The land and water route available to him was difficult, dangerous, and costly. Using maps in the Canandaigua jail, Hawley sketched the route for a man-made waterway, linking Lake Erie to the Hudson River. He wrote fourteen articles detailing the concept, benefits, route, and cost for an idea that many ridiculed as the effusions of a maniac.
In 1809, a member of the Ontario County legislature took the articles to Albany for investigation. Mayor of New York City, Dewitt Clinton, took up the cause. The canal became his political passion as he became Governor of New York. Ground was broken for the Erie Canal in 1817. Eight years later, the canal opened. American ingenuity overcame a multitude of obstacles along the way. America had no engineers or engineering schools in the early 1800s. Clinton asked a British engineer to head this project, but he declined the offer, forcing Clinton to use American leadership. The closest America had were lawyers who had some surveying experience. The canal became a huge on-the-job-training endeavor. It led to the development of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, the Civil Engineering Department of Union College, and the Rochester Institute of Technology.
These inexperienced engineers had to devise ways to build locks, including ones to overcome the 60-foot rise of the Niagara Escarpment in Lockport. They had to develop waterproof cement, blast through bedrock, and build aqueducts, including the 804-foot long span over the Genesee River in downtown Rochester and the 1-mile span over the Irondequoit Valley in Pittsford. A challenge for the western end of the canal was how to keep enough water in the canal, especially during summer draughts. To accomplish this, feeders were built, rerouting water from lakes, streams, and reservoirs along the way into the canal.
Clintons Folly, the original Erie Canal, was only 40 feet wide and 4 feet deep. But, it was an instant economic success. It shortened the transportation of goods between Buffalo and New York City from 6 weeks to 10 days and lowered the cost of transporting one ton of freight from $100 to $10. All of a sudden goods could move east to market and immigrants could move west to open land. Business boomed.
By 1835, the canal was log jammed with too much traffic. So, a major effort was undertaken to enlarge the Erie Canal. Locks were doubled to allow two-way traffic and lengthened to accommodate longer boats. The canal was straightened in various places to decrease its total length and it was widened to 70 feet and deepened to 7 feet. This second version of the Erie Canal is now known as the enlarged Erie Canal.
Over the years, additional work was done. In some areas, there was a second enlarged Erie Canal. But, the next major change came in 1918. The canal was once again over capacity. By now, technological know-how had improved. Engineers now knew how to incorporate the canal into existing rivers and control the water levels. The Erie Canal was once again enlarged and moved. This time it took over riverbeds such as the Clyde River and the Mohawk River. The new and improved version was renamed the Barge Canal.
In sections, for example, Lockport to Greece and Fairport to Palmyra, there is little difference in location of the three canals. With each enhancement, the ditch simply got larger. In other places, the three waterways had distinctly different locations, and all three can be seen today. The stretch from Port Byron through Jordan to Camillus is an example of the latter.
Also called the Erie Canal Parkway, this is an easy-to-follow, well-maintained trail along the abandoned enlarged Erie Canal.
Head east along the path between Lock 51 Garden and the Masonic Lodge.
Pass North Beaver Street as you ride through Old Erie Place Park. Picnic tables and parking are available here.
The enlarged Erie Canal will appear on your right.
Pass a road on the right.
Pass Schapp Road.
Reach the waste weir on the left. This is where water from Carpenter Brook was used to help control the level of water in the Erie Canal.
Cross South McDonald Road in Peru.
Pass a private house and the McIntyre, a former hotel along the canal, as you approach Laird Road. Youve come 4.2 miles.
At 5.8 miles, cross Bennets Corners Road at the town of Memphis.
Cross under power lines.
Pass a gravel road to the right. The trail becomes a gravel and paved roadway.
At 8.6 miles, cross Newport Road. The Brown Cow Caf� is on this corner. Across the road, enter the Town of Camillus Erie Canal Project. (Parking is available here.)
Pass the Camillus Sportsmans Club.
Cross Devoe Road into Camillus Erie Canal Park. (Parking is available here.) Youve come 10.8 miles. [Continue to Erie Canal Park Trail #39 for an additional 8.5 mile loop.]