New York State Canal System

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
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New York State Canal System

New York State Canal System, waterway system, 524 mi (843 km) long, traversing New York state and connecting the Great Lakes with the Finger Lakes, the Hudson River, and Lake Champlain. The waterway, a modification and improvement of the old Erie Canal and its branches, was authorized (1903) by public vote. Work was begun in 1905 and was completed in 1918, when it was opened as the New York State Barge Canal. The system was given its present name in 1992.

The main sections are the Erie Canal, extending west from Waterford opposite Troy on the Hudson to Tonawanda on the Niagara River; the Champlain Canal, joining the Erie Canal at Troy extending north to Whitehall on Lake Champlain; the Oswego Canal, connecting the Erie Canal at Three Rivers with Oswego on Lake Ontario to the north; and the Cayuga-Seneca Canal, joining the Erie Canal with Cayuga and Seneca lakes to the south. The canals (12 ft/3.7 m deep), with 57 electrically operated locks, can accommodate 2,000-ton vessels and, unlike the original Erie Canal, include large sections of canalized rivers and lakes in the waterway. Commercial shipping had largely disappeared from the waterway by the 1990s, and leisure craft now predominate in the waterway's traffic. In an effort to improve recreational facilities and increase tourism along the canal, a major renovation of the system was undertaken in the late 1990s.

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