Biking the Erie Canal, I pedaled through history

Biking the Erie Canal, I pedaled through history

Skip to main content

Skip to footer

A kayaker waits his turn at locks 34 and 35 in Lockport, New York. The newer steel locks sit next to the 1825 Flight of Five, a five-lock stair that lifted boats 60 feet in a stretch of 450 feet.

  • Quick Read
  • Deep Read ( 2 Min. )


|
Along the Erie Canal, N.Y.

When I set out to ride my bicycle from Ontario to my home in Rhode Island, I knew very little about the Erie Canal.

I didn’t know that it was considered an engineering feat when it was completed in 1825, or that it changed the economy of the region by allowing faster transportation of goods from Buffalo to New York City.

Why We Wrote This

A story focused on

What do our usual modes of transportation keep us from seeing? Riding his bike from Ontario to Rhode Island, the Monitor’s director of photography caught unexpected glimpses of an oft-forgotten past.

What I do know is that I love to travel by bike. I love the pace that cycling allows. In a way, it’s not too different from the pace of the motorized boats that replaced the original barges, which were towed by mules. 

As I rode along the canal’s towpaths, stopping to watch the locks in action, visit historic sites, and talk to people, I was transported to a time when this thoroughfare facilitated economic and – just as important – cultural and social interactions. The photos in this essay were taken from my bike on the Erie Canalway Trail.

When I set out to ride my bicycle from Ontario to my home in Rhode Island, I knew very little about the Erie Canal.

I didn’t know that it was considered an engineering feat when it was completed in 1825, or that it changed the economy of the region by allowing faster transportation of goods from Buffalo to New York City. And I surely did not know how the canal transformed towns along its 339 miles, not unlike the Interstate Highway System more than a century later. 

What I do know is that I love to travel by bike. I love the pace that cycling allows. In a way, it’s not too different from the pace of the motorized boats that replaced the original barges, which were towed by mules. A guide at the Old Erie Canal Heritage Park in Port Byron, New York, told me that the canal cut the travel time across the state from three weeks to a single week. 

Why We Wrote This

A story focused on

What do our usual modes of transportation keep us from seeing? Riding his bike from Ontario to Rhode Island, the Monitor’s director of photography caught unexpected glimpses of an oft-forgotten past.

As I rode along the canal’s towpaths, stopping to watch the locks in action, visit historic sites, and talk to people, I was transported to a time when this thoroughfare facilitated economic and – just as important – cultural and social interactions.

The photos in this essay were taken from my bike on the Erie Canalway Trail and are a small portion of the visual treats I found along the way.

A view of a section of the original Erie Canal and its towpath during early morning hours near Fairport, New York.

A boat enters Lock 8 Park along the Mohawk River in Schenectady, New York. A retractable dam next to it controls the river’s water flow.

My bicycle leans against an overpass at a section of the Erie Canal between Rochester and Syracuse during a rest stop.

A boat waits to be scrapped at the dry dock in Lyons, New York. The facility maintains and overwinters canal boats, dredges, and barges.

A church perches above the canal bank in Little Falls, New York. This section of the Erie Canal was built to bypass the falls on the Mohawk River.

A horse-drawn buggy uses a designated parking spot outside a bank in Medina, New York.

You’ve read  of  free articles.
Subscribe to continue.

Help fund Monitor journalism for $11/ month

Already a subscriber? Login

Mark Sappenfield illustration

Mark Sappenfield

Editor

Monitor journalism changes lives because we open that too-small box that most people think they live in. We believe news can and should expand a sense of identity and possibility beyond narrow conventional expectations.

Our work isn’t possible without your support.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Already a subscriber? Login

Monitor Daily

Digital subscription includes:

  • Unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.
  • CSMonitor.com archive.
  • The Monitor Daily email.
  • No advertising.
  • Cancel anytime.

Give us your feedback

Thank you for contacting The Christian Science Monitor.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Biking the Erie Canal, I pedaled through history

Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2023/0822/Biking-the-Erie-Canal-I-pedaled-through-history

QR Code to Subscription page

Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe

Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *