In recent years, I’ve become fascinated with the tales and history of the many wonderful places around me. One such place is the Erie Canal, a true feat of engineering brilliance. Construction on it began in 1817, and it took 8 years to complete the entire length, which stretches from Buffalo to New York City.
What I find particularly magical about this man-made waterway are two things. The first is the vestiges of the original canal. Sometimes there are remains of a cement lock obscured among forests and trees. Then there are portions of the old canal bed, sometimes now part of a highway, other times a difficult-to-discern gully harboring just a trickle of water hidden in a forgotten tract of woods.
I recently discovered some of these treasures while walking the canal path with my trusted Boston Terrier buddy Brinkley. We walk this stretch of canal often, and since finding them, I am obsessed with the many mysteries they hold and the stories they could tell.
I am next awed by the seasonal draining and filling of this 363 mile long waterway. With a change in elevation of 500 feet from the Hudson River to Buffalo, a series of locks change water levels so boats can pass through. My amazement comes from first wondering what is the source of such an incredible volume of water, and second, the complexity of calculating all the who, what, when, where and how’s of this process.
On a recent walk, it appeared that the momentous process of filling this behemoth had begun with what appeared to be a swelling of the winter melt. I felt full of excitement and wished I could witness the entire process. A week later we returned and the bottom was hidden until next November.
The canal was almost full.