Low bridge, everybody down.

Pat and I are on just a short trip, but since we are going to a couple of places that have been on my list for a long time, I thought it would be worth reviving the TravelswithPatty.com blog just briefly.

The focus of the trip was Pat’s high school reunion in Niagara Falls, N.Y. Her old high school has been torn down and replaced by a Wal-Mart, but that apparently did not deter the school spirit. I did not attend the events, but I tagged along on the trip in order to visit the Erie Canal and Eastern Canada.

A view east down the locks from Lockport toward Rochester and eventually Albany

A view east down the locks from Lockport toward Rochester and eventually Albany

I had wanted to see the Erie Canal for some time, and my interest went up when I read a great history of the canal, “The Wedding of the Waters: The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation,” by Peter Bernstein. While that title may be a little grandiose, I don’t think many people are aware of the canal’s importance. By connecting the Great Lakes to the Hudson River, via a canal that connected Buffalo and Lake Erie to the Hudson at Albany, it opened up the Midwest to international trade, made industrial port cities out of Buffalo and Rochester, and turned New York City into the premier American port and center of commerce, leaving Philadelphia and Baltimore in its wake.

The canal travels more than 300 miles through a series of locks and has twice been widened since it opened in 1825. While it was an amazing engineering marvel at the time – and the first big, government-financed, public-works project in the U.S. – it was overtaken by the railroads in only a couple of decades.

The name “wedding of the waters” refers to the ceremony in which New York Gov. DeWitt Clinton took a bucket of water from Lake Erie, traveled the length of the canal and the Hudson, and dumped it in the Atlantic Ocean. In addition to that bit of early political theater, Clinton deserves significant credit for pushing the canal project and its state financing.

I had been particularly interested in a section of the canal in Lockport, N.Y., the county seat of Niagara County and, fortunately, only about 40 minutes from where Pat’s sister and brother-in-law live in Lewiston, N.Y. Pete Broderick, her brother-in-law, made the drive to Lewiston daily for 30-40 years when he served first as District Attorney then Supreme Court judge in Niagara County.

So while Pat was at her reunion, Pete and Pat’s sister Gretchen, her brother Marv and sister-in-law Janie took a two-hour cruise from the locks in Lockport. Originally, Lockport was famous because it had required five locks – the “flight of five” – to get the level of the canal up over the Niagara Escarpment to the level of Lake Erie at Buffalo. Now, just two locks are required, but the state of New York is in the process of restoring the original five locks. It is a very good tour, through the locks and a short ride on the canal. Other cities along the way have similar short cruises, and you can take a private boat the length of the canal if you are really interested. One of the guides told us the cost of taking a boat through Locks 34 and 35 in Lockport is about $8. He said a kayak would be free, although no one had done that yet.

We are leaving here for Montreal and Quebec – also well to the top of my list.

Headed west, toward Buffalo.

Headed west, toward Buffalo.

One thought on “Low bridge, everybody down.

  1. Looks like a trip we’d like to make next time we hit Buffalo and suburbs to visit our daughter. We will probably ask to get into your heads again! Meanwhile have fun. We leave tomorrow for Ireland. Will raise a glass or two in honor of you and Patty.

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