Cruising
America's Great Loop
© 1993 - 2017 CaptainJohn.org
How to lock through the locks on the Erie Canal - click next.
When it comes to navigation, there simply isn't anything to worry about on your cruise along the Erie
Canal as long as you are going forward,
you can not get lost.
   Time your entry into the Canal for mid-May, maybe later depending on the weather and Erie
Canal opening. Normally, the canal opens the 1st of May, but I've known it to open as late at the 17th of
May. This is one place you don't want to be the early bird because of all the winter floating debris that come
floating down the canal after opening. I usually try to make sure the canal is open two weeks before I get
there. The Erie Canal depth remains pretty constant between 9-10 feet.
   It takes approximately 7 days to cruise the 338 miles between Waterford, NY and Buffalo on the Erie
Canal. The Canal begins at the Hudson River, just north of Albany, and meets the Niagara River in
Tonawanda, NY just north of Buffalo (and just south, and up stream - by the way - of Niagara Falls).
   NOTE - To transit the full length of the Erie Canal, your vessel must be able to clear a 15' 6" fixed
overhead bridge on the
west end of the Canal at Tonawanda. Your vessel's height above the water must be
able to clear 15' 6" to make it under this bridge.  Otherwise, a 19' 1" clearance will take you to Three Rivers
where you must exit via the Oswego Canal into Lake Ontario.
   There is a slow canal speed limit on the entire Erie Canal. NYS navigation law dictates a 5 mph
canal speed limit in most areas and a 10mph limit in others. There is also a toll for boaters to use the Canal.
Tolls, of course, are based on your vessel size. It cost $50.00 for a 10 day pass (good for boats over 39')
our last time through.
   Cruising the Erie Canal is a long and a very slow cruise. Between moments of sheer excitement and
reaching for your camera, there are long stretches of the canal where your own personal thoughts will seem
to be the only thing to change. By the time your done - you'll be itching to give your vessel full-throttle and
put a little break-neck speed back into your journey. More importantly, you'll be very thrilled over having
shared this incredible experience.
   Each day is a new adventure far from the maddening crowd. Each day is a lesson in history, nature,
and patience. It won't be until you reach Rochester, NY that you will catch a glimpse of vehicles whizzing by
at 70 miles an hour - a reminder that “life in the fast lane” is just a short distance away. And still, you won't
acknowledge how enjoyable this journey has been until you realize no one aboard (even the kids) has even
mentioned the word: telephone, television, or computer.
   The Erie Canal is living ”life in the past lane” - and boating on the Erie Canal is a perfect
experience for all ages. Cruising the Erie Canal is life in the past lane - not in the fast lane. Not only are you
cruising at around 5 mph, you are also traveling through one of the most historic and beautiful parts of the
country.
   Your days on the Canal will pass in timeless relaxation.  Many of the canal towns have parks that
provide free electrical and water connections, and when you tie up in the late afternoon, there is plenty of
time for a bike ride, fishing, or visiting a local attraction before dinner.
   For sure, when voyaging the Erie canal,  you will come to see life from a different perspective. A
solitary blue heron, flocks of geese, small heard of deer, and even an occasional pair of lovers are often in
view as you slowly traverse from one end of the canal to the other. Between the small towns and villages,
the journey is most often very quiet, peaceful and relaxing. It can also be, very thought provoking. It is a
time when being on your boat, moving over the quiet, calm, still and relaxing waters of the canal - has a
way of making you put your entire life in prospective.  It is here, you will realize what is really  important,
and what energizes and excites your life.

   If you have young kids, grand-kids, nieces, nephews, etc., and any thoughts or desire whatsoever of
having them join you on any portion of the Great Loop - this is the time and the place. The Erie Canal
offers not only an enjoyable trip but an incredible educational experience. The slow, easy going pace of
the canal makes it very safe, and provides ample opportunities to stop most anywhere along the way.
There are museums, nature trails, bike trails, Caves,  Waterfalls, (even an underground boat tour). Along
with the Fish, Deer, Geese, and Ducks, you will even see a few "Golden Arches" along the way.

   Cruising the Erie Canal is a long (6 or 7 days) and a very slow cruise. Between moments of sheer
excitement and reaching for your camera, there are long stretches of the canal where your own personal
thoughts will seem to be the only thing to change. By the time your done  you will be itching to give your
vessel some throttle and put a little break-neck speed back into your journey.  More importantly, you'll be
very thrilled over having shared this incredible experience.
While slow, it is worth every moment of the journey.
   This leg of your journey is 338 miles from Waterford, NY at the Hudson, to Tonawanda, NY at the Niagara River
and entrance to Lake Erie. In order to pass through the entire length of the Erie Canal your vessel must be able to clear a
fixed bridge height of 15' 6". (If you can't clear this height, you must exit at Oswego). There are 57 locks on the Erie Canal
that lift your vessel a total of 565 feet above sea level. The Erie Canal is lined with dozens of canal towns offering all the
services that a transient boater would need.
   Today's canal runs an average of about 9 feet deep. It has a vertical clearance of 21 feet between Waterford and Three
Rivers (Oswego Canal junction), and 15.5 feet between the Tonawanda and the Niagara river. The largest vessels that can
make the entire journey must be
under 300 feet long, 43.5 feet wide, 9' draft, and a maximum 15' 6" height above the
water.
   All recreational vessels
passing through any lock or lift bridge on the Canal System must purchase either a Seasonal
Pass, a Ten-Day Pass.  For boats over 39 feet the toll is $50.00 for a ten day pass. Smaller vessels of course, have a
smaller fee.
   The Erie Canal opens May 1st to September 1st (weather permitting). Locks and Lift bridges are operated daily
from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.  So there is no cruising at night as you can not go any further than the next Lock or lift bridge.
Erie Canal Navigation
::   The Historic Erie Canal   ::
     There are plenty of interesting things to see and places to stop on your voyage across the
Erie Canal.  You should plan on 7 days to cruise the full length. You can take 10 if you want as
a 10 day pass is offered for boats over 39 feet for only $50.00 (smaller boats are less). This
also gets you some free night stays if you chose to tie up free at or near the Locks & Lift
Bridges.   
www.captainjohn.org                                                                      - Cruising America's Great Loop - Once Around Is Not Enough -
Almost the entire 338 miles of the Erie Canal has a 10 mph speed limit. Only exceptions I'm afraid, are 'No Wake' Zones.