Erie Canal Albion Main Street cover

Explore the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

According to the New York State Canal Corporation, nearly 80% of the upstate New York population lives within 25 miles of the Erie Canal. The original “Clinton’s Ditch” was completed in 1825 and later updated to accommodate larger boats, leading to the creation of the Enlarged Erie Canal. Further modifications in 1918 allowed for self-propelled boats, which no longer required mules, resulting in the current Barge Canal. The entire waterway is commonly referred to as the Erie Canal.

Visiting Old Erie Canal Lock 62 behind Pittsford Plaza provides a glimpse into the canal’s early days. You may wonder about the locations of locks 61 and 63. We know that Lock 66 is in a neighborhood between Monroe Avenue, Goodman Street, and I-490, so even without historical maps, you can trace the route of the canal. Imagine Monroe Avenue, I-490 through the Swillburg neighborhood, and Broad Street filled with water.

To explore the canal, visit villages like Brockport or Fairport to spend a few hours dining and shopping in these historic canal towns. Greece Canal Park and Meridian Centre offer opportunities to walk or bike the Erie Canalway Trail. You can also get on the water in a kayak or take a tour by boat. Or pack a picnic and visit one of the massive canal locks to watch the boats pass through. The lock and lift bridge operators are knowledgeable and can share stories and provide helpful information. If you catch them while not operating the locks, they may even offer you a tour or show you places you can explore freely.

Enjoy each canal town along the 115-mile stretch between the Cayuga-Seneca Canal and Niagara River, listed below from east to west.

Best of Rochester - Day Trips Around Rochester book

Day Trips Around Rochester, New York

Best of Rochester Award-Winning Book for Best Published Literary Work of 2023.

Roadside Attraction Clyde Blockhouse
Clyde Blockhouse

Clyde

New York State Route 31 courses around the quaint square, where several restaurants, shops, services, and the Galen Historical Society Museum occupy historic buildings. You’ll find Erie Canal Lock 26, roughly three miles southeast of the village. Constructed in 1758 near the Clyde River and burned down in 1788, community members built the current replica of the Clyde Blockhouse – Fort Clyde in 1975 to honor Clyde’s bicentennial. During the French and Indian War, the British Army used the facility as a trading post and early settlers used it as a temporary shelter. During the Revolutionary War, the American Army used it to store smuggled goods from Canada. Wayne County

Golden Chain Tree Lyons May 22 close
Lyons village square

Lyons

Lyons is a picturesque canal town, with the 1915 Ohmann Movie Theater and 1943 Dobbins Drugs still owned and operated by descendants of the original families. A walk around Water, Broad, Church, and William Streets is a great way to explore shops and restaurants. The Museum of Wayne County History on Butternut Street, housed in the former Wayne County jail, is also worth a visit. The Canandaigua Outlet joins the canal beside Lock 27, and Lyons Southside Canal Park offers a superb view of the area. At Lock 28-A, there is a dry dock where boats and barges are floated in for bottom repairs, one of only two such docks on the canal system. When drained away, the water leaves boats, like the Colonial Belle, high and dry. Make sure to visit Evolve for the Home – The Christmas Store while you’re in town! It’s the only year-round Christmas store in Upstate New York, featuring over 7,000 sq. ft. of all things Christmas. The store is spread across three historic properties in the Downtown Historic District. Wayne County

Erie Canal Newark path
Canal Path

Newark

Take a leisurely walk through the Port of Newark’s canalside park and admire the vibrant, heritage-inspired murals. Stop at the visitor information center and walk to restaurants and ice cream shops. Then, visit Lock 28-B and take a short walk along the Lockville Trail to see the historic Old Enlarged Erie Locks 58 and 59. Wayne County

Fun fact: Ontario County’s only real estate on the canal is in Port Gibson, between Newark and Palmyra.

Erie Canal Palmyra William Phelps General Store and Home Museum
Historic Palmyra

Palmyra

Visit the town’s five museums—Palmyra Historical Museum, Erie Canal Depot, Print Shop Museum, Phelps General Store and Residence, and the Alling Coverlet Museum—to experience its rich history. Discover restaurants and shops along the way and head to the intersection of Church and Main to see the historic four-corner churches. In Pal-Mac Aqueduct County Park, explore Lock 29 in a beautiful green space where Ganargua Creek flows into the canal. Wayne County

macedon butterfly trail
Butterfly Trail in Macedon

Macedon

At the end of the Butterfly Trail in Macedon Canal Park at Lock 30, you can see the convergence of all three historic canals—the original Clinton’s Ditch, the Enlarged Erie Canal, and the present-day Barge Canal. Wayne County

Fun fact: There is no Lock 31. It was planned for but never built as it was deemed unnecessary. However, the numbering of the locks remained unchanged.

Colonial Belle Fairport
Colonial Belle

Fairport

With a wonderfully walkable Main Street, you can easily spend an entire day in this quintessential canal town. Learn about historical and modern canal life while enjoying a leisurely three-hour lock cruise onboard the Colonial Belle. Or rent an adaptive or regular kayak or bicycle from Erie Canal Boat Company to explore independently. The village features a range of restaurants, cafes, and shops within easy walking distance of the canal. Fairport’s picturesque bridge is one of 16 lift bridges between Fairport and Lockport and the most unusual, built at an angle and with a slope. Fairport is also home to two of the largest canal festivals: Fairport Canal Days in June and Fairport Music Festival in August. Monroe County

Richardsons Canal House historic marker
Richardson’s Canal House

Bushnell’s Basin

This hamlet in the Town of Perinton offers excellent food and beverage options. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy frozen custard or a pint canalside. Enjoy dinner at Richardson’s Canal House, the oldest original Erie Canal tavern. Monroe County

Schoen Place Pittsford
Schoen Place in Pittsford

Pittsford

Schoen Place is in the heart of Monroe County’s oldest canal town, offering various dining and shopping options. Stroll down Main Street to discover more stores and services housed in historic buildings. Take a 90-minute narrated boat tour on the Sam Patch packet boat and see the operation of Lock 32. If you’re an adventurous paddler, visit Lock 32 Whitewater Park for thrilling class 2–3 spillway rapids. Monroe County

Sam Patch Lock 32
Lock 33

Brighton and Henrietta

In this suburban corridor, there are a few places to access the canal other than the canal path. Lock 33 Canal Park is a great location to observe the boats traveling through the westernmost lock before reaching Lockport. Meridian Centre Park also provides trails that take you into the grasslands behind the Jewish Home of Rochester and back along the canal path. Monroe County

Erie Canal Genesee River Genesee Valley Park bridges
Genesee Valley Park

Genesee River Crossing

Rochester’s thriving manufacturing and trade industry earned it the nickname “Young Lion of the West” for its explosive growth, followed by “The Flour City” for its abundance of flour mills along the Genesee River. The historic aqueduct, rebuilt in 1842, now serves as a bridge for Broad Street over the Genesee River. In 1918, the state redirected the canal to run along the city’s southern border through Genesee Valley Park. Monroe County

Henpeck Park Greece
Henpeck Park in Greece

Greece

Enjoy the canal at Greece Canal Park and Henpeck Park. Head east from Henpeck for one mile and look for a trail that branches off the main path toward Ridgeway Avenue. This trail follows the original canal corridor, where the temporary Junction Lock connected the old and new canal routes for older boats needing to reach the city. Monroe County

Erie Canal Spencerport lift bridge up
Union Street Lift Bridge

Spencerport

The Spencerport Depot and Canal Museum offers a wealth of information about the region’s rich transportation heritage. As the official welcome center for the village, the museum also provides amenities for boaters who dock overnight. Besides the museum, Union Street is home to various cafes, shops, and restaurants to explore and enjoy. Monroe County

Adams Basin Erie Canal Adams-Ryan House
Adams-Ryan House

Adams Basin

The Adams-Ryan House, built in 1825 as a tavern for canal workers, is the main attraction of this peaceful residential hamlet. It has since served as a railroad ticket office and bed-and-breakfast and is now a private home. The hamlet is ideal for a quiet stroll along the canal. Monroe County

Brockport Main St June
Brockport

Brockport

Brockport has two lift bridges—Main Street and Park Avenue—managed by a single operator who walks between them. Hikers, bikers, and boaters touring the canal system are welcome to camp at the Canalfront Welcome Center on Water Street between May and October. Visitors can find various dining and shopping options along the same street, such as the Lift Bridge Book Shop and the historic Strand Theatre, the second-oldest active movie theater in the country. You’ll find colorful murals throughout the town depicting its canal history. Monroe County

Holley Canal Falls
Holley Canal Falls

Holley

Holley Canal Park offers a variety of activities for visitors to enjoy, including picnic areas along the canal, an impressive waterfall, and a peaceful nature hike. Overflow from the canal creates the beautiful Holley Canal Falls, which flows into the glen and merges with Sandy Creek. This picturesque location is perfect for capturing family photos, holding wedding ceremonies, fishing, and soaking up the natural beauty of the surroundings. Orleans County

Albion Santa School bronze statue Charles W Howard
Bronze statue of Charles W Howard

Albion

Albion in Orleans County was established in 1812. Albion is the Orleans County seat and home to the original Santa Claus School, where a generation of department store Santas honed their craft in the 1940s and ’50s. Visitors can admire a mural depicting this festive history on Main Street and beautiful architecture throughout the city. Perched on a glacial drumlin, Mount Albion Cemetery’s Soldiers and Sailors Monument is a must-see attraction. You can climb the spiral staircase for a breathtaking view of the surrounding countryside. Orleans County

Erie Canal Medina Culvert Road
Main St, Medina

Medina

Take a fun ride down Culvert Road, the only road under the canal. Beep the car’s horn inside the tunnel—it’s tradition. The Medina Railroad Museum is a favorite with families and rail fans alike, featuring an extensive HO-scale model train display and opportunities to ride actual trains during special events. Find excellent restaurants and shops along Main Street and Center Street. You’ll also see red-tinted sandstone buildings made of locally quarried Medina sandstone, like the Medina Armory/YMCA. Used to construct many well-known buildings, you’ll notice Medina Sandstone in Rochester’s City Hall, Saint Bernard’s Seminary, Sonnenberg Manor, Richardson Olmsted Complex, Albany’s Million Dollar Staircase, the Brooklyn Bridge, and even Buckingham Palace! If you want to learn more, check out the Sandstone Hall of Fame. Finally, head to Medina Canal Basin and Medina Falls, where the canal crosses over Oak Orchard Creek. Orleans County

Erie Canal Lockport Flight of Five locks
Lock 35 and Flight of Five

Lockport

Spend time in the city of Lockport exploring Erie Canal Locks 34 and 35 and the historic Flight of Five Locks. Enjoy a leisurely Lockport Locks and Erie Canal Cruise. Several restaurants, a cafe, and an ice cream shop are within walking distance of the canal. Niagara County

North Tonawanda and Tonawanda

These two cities, connected by several bridges, with the Renaissance Bridge being the best option for pedestrians, are at the end of the Barge Canal, where Tonawanda Creek meets the Niagara River. Visitors can enjoy exploring the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum, the historic Riviera Theatre, and a tour of Platter’s Chocolate Factory, known for their unique Orange Chocolate recipe. A stroll along the canal from Gateway Harbor, Mayor’s Park, North Tonawanda Botanical Gardens, and Ellicott Creek Park, or along the Niagara Riverwalk, is a must. Plan your visits around the annual Canal Fest of the Tonawandas in July. Niagara and Erie Counties

Explore More

Where did the original canal go after leaving Tonawanda Creek, and where was its western terminus? Today’s Erie Canal ends where Tonawanda Creek meets the Niagara River because modern vessels can handle traveling on the mighty Niagara. The original section of the canal, which ended where the Buffalo River meets Lake Erie, was abandoned in 1918 when the state rerouted the canal to accommodate larger vessels. Look for evidence of its path when following the Erie Canalway Trail Riverwalk along I-90 to Black Rock Canal Park, where the canal once closely followed the Niagara River.

Erie Canal Pittsford Schoen Place boat
Schoen Place, Pittsford

Additional Erie Canal resources

The Canal Corporation maintains a calendar of canal town events throughout the year.

The Erie Canalway website is a great resource for learning more about the canal and how locks work.

Cycle the Erie, Information and recommendations for those cycling along the canal.

The Erie Canal Learning Hub provides free curriculum resources, field trips, virtual 3D tours, and other online tools for teachers and students who are learning about the Erie Canal.

Did you know?

Of the 20 lift bridges along the canal, 16 are between Fairport and Lockport.

You can rent a houseboat from Mid-Lakes Navigation in Macedon. Take a look at the brochure for some great information.

You can pass through any lock in a kayak (or any non-motorized vessel) for free, without permits. Learn more about paddling through on the Canal Corporation website.

Google Map of Locations

View the map separately here.

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Where are your favorite spots along the Erie Canal?

Your insights and experiences are valuable. Please share them in the comments.

Debi Bower, Day Trips Around Rochester NY

Debi Bower is the founder and creative director of daytrippingroc.com and author of the award-winning book Day Trips Around Rochester, New York.

People often ask me if I get free access to places while exploring. The answer is no unless I’m invited to previews or granted behind-the-scenes access as part of my media role. Generally, I don’t mention my project, Day Trips Around Rochester, NY, because I want the same experience you would have. I create and share content simply because it brings me joy. I would appreciate your support—a cup of coffee or two to help fuel future field trips—if you have found valuable information here that has helped you explore the Rochester area.

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