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Today's canal course

Today's canal course

length 584 km
Built 1817-1825
Expanded 1905-1918
Beginning Hudson River near Albany
Parting posture Lockport
The End Niagara River at Buffalo
Descent structures 36
Ports Rome , Syracuse , Rochester
Used river Mohawk River
Information center, museum Erie Canal Discovery Center
Competent authority New York State Canal Corporation

The Erie Canal is a canal that connects Lake Erie near Buffalo with the Hudson River in New York City , and thus the Great Lakes next to the Saint Lawrence River with the Atlantic .


The canal branches north of Albany , about 230 km north of New York City at an altitude of 7 meters from the Hudson River and follows the Mohawk River in a westward direction to Rome , where it reaches a height of 130 m. This is followed by some descending locks to Syracuse , up to the north of Seneca Lake (one of the Finger Lakes ), where a canal branches off to Lake Ontario and the lowest height of the middle section is reached at 116 m.

From here the canal rises again to 154 m (near Rochester ). Here the canal crosses the Genesee River on an aqueduct (which has since been converted into a road bridge) and runs 103 km along the Niagara strata until it is overcome by five locks in Lockport ( Niagara County ). Here the final height of 172 m is reached and after another 48 km the confluence with the Niagara River in Tonawanda (now a northern district of Buffalo). When it opened on October 26, 1825, the canal was 584 km long, 12 meters wide and 1.2 meters deep.


Erie Canal in Clinton Square in Syracuse by moonlight , 1871, painting by Johan Mengels Culverhouse , Onondaga Historical Association, Syracuse

The construction was proposed as early as 1699. The governor of New York, DeWitt Clinton , earning initially only scorn for his vision of a channel as Clinton's Ditch ( Clinton's moat was called). President Thomas Jefferson did not want to provide federal funding to build the canal, which he found economically pointless. After Jefferson, the canal only connects New York with the wilderness or the sparsely populated areas of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Nevertheless, in 1789 the Niagara Canal Company began planning the construction without government support. Construction began in 1817. The first part of the canal was completed in 1819 and the entire canal was opened on October 26, 1825. Benjamin Wright was the chief engineer . The Erie Canal reduced transport costs to the then largely undeveloped areas of the Great Lakes by up to 90%. This greatly accelerated the settlement of this area and began the rise of New York to become the most important port on the east coast. In his maxims and reflections, Goethe mentions that the city of New York has become "abundantly rich, especially since the opening of the Erikanal".

Since the soils of New England and large parts of New York State are unsuitable for agriculture, it was only thanks to the canal that the path into the Ohio River valley was open. Agriculture in the Midwest was able to sell its products on the coast. Trade, financial services and industry developed there.

In the years 1905 to 1918 the canal was thoroughly modernized with partly new alignment and renamed the New York State Barge Canal . With a width of 40 meters (locks 13 m) and a depth of 3.7 meters, it was navigable for ships up to 1,800 tons. After the Welland Canal went into operation , its importance began to wane, especially since the canal (like the old one) was not navigable in winter. Since the 1990s it has mainly been used for recreational shipping.

The unused sections of the old canal were left to grow wild in many places. In the meantime, however, some sections are being restored and used as recreational facilities through private initiatives. a. by paddlers and cyclists.

The Erie Canal was added to the List of National Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks in 1967 by the American Society of Civil Engineers .


  • From New York to Niagara Falls. The Erie Canal . Documentation, 2005, 45 min., Director: Horst Cramer, production: SWR , first broadcast: July 17, 2005

See also

Web links

Commons : Eriekanal  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. Syracuse By Moonlight , website on , accessed April 20, 2019
  2. ^ Siegfried Birle, Peter Ginter: USA / A foray through landscape, culture and everyday life. 2nd Edition. Vista Point Verlag, 2001, p. 94.

Coordinates: 43 ° 1 ′ 20 ″  N , 78 ° 52 ′ 51 ″  W.