In the early 19th century, before highways and railroads dominated, the Erie Canal helped to make New York City the commercial center of the nation. Today, while preserving the canal’s history in the low bridges and locks that you can spot along the corridor, the surrounding region has evolved into a charming destination.
From Albany to Buffalo, 500 miles of interconnected waterways and trails lead to quaint downtown areas, museums, historical sites, boating, dining and more.
For your next day trip or weekend road trip, discover all there is to see and do along the Erie Canal in Montgomery County.
Parks and activities
Follow the path of the canal on the Erie Canalway Trail, which has 300 miles of multiple use trails for cycling and hiking. Campsites are scattered through the canal system. You can rent a kayak at several locations along the trail as well.
Or bring your boat for a cruise throughout the canal; launches are available at many points across New York State. The Erie Canal also runs near several rivers and waterways, with access to fishing spots and paddling.
Take in the scenery on the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook pedestrian bridge, which spans 500 feet over the Mohawk River. Completed in 2016, the views from this bridge show off both sides of the city of Amsterdam.
Erie Canal Locks
The Erie Canal is famous for its lock system, which raises and lowers the level of the water so ships can pass through smoothly. There are 35 locks total in the canal, with many of the original 19th century locks nearby.
Stroll down to the Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site and view multiple eras of canal history, including a section of the original Erie Canal from 1825 and stone locks built in the 1840s. The largest structure is the remains of the Schoharie Aqueduct, which was built in 1841 to carry canal boats. Six of the original 14 stone arches are still standing.
Hiking, biking and walking are available at Schoharie Crossing along towpath trails, as well as a boat launch. Check out the Visitor Center for a trail map and an exhibit on local Erie Canal history. The park is open year-round, while the visitor center is open May through October, Wednesdays through Sundays.
Go to Tribes Hill and see Lock 12 in operation. It is on the north end of Schoharie Crossing, just beyond the park. Then go 20 miles westward to see another lock in action at Lock 15 State Canal Park, which offers picnic facilities, camping sites and great views of the Erie Canal and the Mohawk River. Plus, it is a short walk from the Fort Plain village center.
History and museums
Not only is the Erie Canal itself a major part of history, it is adjacent to many museums and historical sites throughout the state.
The Arkell Museum in Canajoharie hosts works by Georgia O’Keeffe, Mary Cassatt, Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent and many more artists, as well as prints and paintings of the Erie Canal and nearby Mohawk River. Bartlett Arkell, the founder of the Beech-Nut Packing Company, purchased much of the museum’s initial collection. There are special exhibitions throughout the year.
Step into colonial times at Old Fort Johnson. Sir William Johnson built this fortified stone house on the banks of the Mohawk River in 1749. He was the Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the British government and a highly influential businessman in the Mohawk Valley. Johnson and his family stayed in this home through the French and Indian Wars and the beginning of the American Revolution. Open May 16 through October 14 for the 2018 season.
The Fort Plain Museum and Historical Park is a hotbed of history. This original fort on this site, built in 1778 as a refuge for residents and evacuees after the Cherry Valley Massacre, was renamed as Fort Rensselaer, and became a headquarters for Revolutionary War generals. Nowadays, this area is a museum with exhibits on Mohawk and Oneida history, colonial settlers, the Victorian Era and the Erie Canal. The unearthed sites include a stone farmhouse from 1848, blacksmith shop, the foundation of a Revolutionary War-era bridge and settlers’ cabins.
More to explore
Visit one of the many Brew Central craft beverage producers or visit the restaurants that dot the landscape in every city. There are also plenty of spots to have a lovely picnic at several parks alongside the waterfront.
Jam out at the free concerts all summer long at Riverlink Park in Amsterdam. This waterside park and plaza on the Mohawk River has a boat dock, with electrical power and pump out facilities for travelers. Bathrooms, shower and laundry are also available. This family-friendly park also has a children’s playground. And if you’re hungry, eat dinner with a view at the River’s Edge outdoor restaurant.
See a movie under the stars at the El Rancho Drive-In in Palatine Bridge, which is just outside of Canajoharie. This drive-in has been in business since 1952. Grab a snack at the concession stand, sit in your car and listen to the movie through your FM radio. Open April to October.
Like fresh produce and locally grown food? Stop by one of the area’s many farms and farm stands.
Sports fans can watch the Amsterdam Mohawks play college-level baseball in June and July. The Mohawks are part of the New York Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, which includes 14 teams across upstate New York. Games are at Shuttleworth Park in Amsterdam, which also has a tennis court, volleyball court, two softball fields and a one-mile walking path along the Chuctanunda Creek.
This may sound like a lot of things to do, but it is only a small slice of the many activities available along every stop on the Erie Canal.
Go to VisitMontgomeryCountyNY.com for detailed itineraries and guides.