“Low bridge, everybody down.”
That was a familiar call in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries across central New York State as barges made their way through the state’s canal system.
On Wednesday, the National Park Service designated the 525-mile-long Barge Canal system a National Historic Landmark. The New York State Barge Canal is a descendant of the Erie Canal; in fact, it encompasses the Erie, Champlain, Oswego and Cayuga-Seneca canals, wending its way through 18 counties. Its span allowed commercial and recreational vessels to pass from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, facilitating the growth of settlements in the Midwest, Great Plains, and Northeast. Unlike the original Erie, however, it was designed for self-propelled vessels, and didn’t need the towpaths of old that were trod by barge-towing mules.
The designation came after a push by New York’s Congressional delegation, including Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer.
“I was proud to fight for this designation because the canal is a symbolic reminder of New York’s excellence from the 1800s to this present day, honoring generations of our history and industry,” said Sen. Gillibrand in a released statement. “Today, the New York State Barge Canal gets the recognition it truly deserves as it officially becomes a National Historic Landmark.”
You can still experience the engineering marvels of the canal’s lock system, first-hand. Boating is allowed on the canals, with the purchase of canal passes from the state. Landlubbers can hoof it over parts of towpaths on the Canalway Trail.
For more information on the canals, click here.