Erie Canal Cruising Guide
The Erie Canal is the longest canal section in the New York State Canal System. Beginning at Waterford, NY, the Erie Canal runs generally west following the Mohawk River, Lake Oneida, and the Oneida River to Three Rivers Junction where the Oswego Canal intersects. The Erie Canal then continues along the Seneca River to its junction with the Cayuga-Seneca Canal at Kipp Island and then on through mostly manmade land cuts to its convergence with the Niagara River at Tonawanda, NY and finally Buffalo, NY and Lake Erie via the Black Rock Canal.
The navigation season for the Erie Canal is the same as for the rest of the New York State Canal System: early May through November from 0700 to 2200 daily. However, prior to Memorial Day and after Labor Day these hours are typically restricted to 0700 to 1700 daily.
The Erie Canal stretches approximately 279 NM (321.1 SM or 516.7 KM) from lock #E-2 in Waterford, NY to lock #E-35 in Lockport, NY. From lock #E-35 on to the junction with the Niagara River is an additional 15 NM (17.3 SM or 27.8 KM), then 12 NM (13.8 SM or 22.2 KM) to the Black Rock Lock and finally 4 NM (4.6 SM or 7.4 KM) to Buffalo, NY. This is a total distance of 310 NM (356.7 SM or 574.1 KM) from the Hudson River to Lake Erie.
Aids to Navigation
Red markers are kept to starboard west bound the entire length of the Erie Canal.
NOAA Chart #14786 provides coverage of the Erie Canal system with the exception of a small section of the western end between Lyons, NY and Tonawanda, NY for which no chart coverage exists.
The individual charts can be viewed below:
|Chart Pages for the Erie Canal|
|Erie Canal - Waterford to 3 Rivers Jct.||Erie Canal - 3 Rivers Jct. to Tonawanda|
Available for download, Erie Canal Lock Chamber Waypoint’s. These are in .PDF file format and zipped to reduce download time. This file is available for your personal and private use.
There are 34 locks on the Erie Canal. All Lock chambers are the same as the rest of the NYSCS; 328 feet long and 45 feet wide.
Photos of each lock can be viewed here:
A complete listing of the Erie Canal Locks with distances, lifts, and estimated transit times can be viewed at the Erie Canal Lock & Transit Page. Available for download.
From Waterford, NY to Three Rivers Junction, project channel depths are 14 feet with 13 feet over the lock sills. Three Rivers Junction to Tonawanda, NY you have 12 feet in the channel and over the lock sills.
Minimum bridge clearance from Waterford to Three Rivers Junction is 21’ 4" at normal pool level and 19’ 2" at maximum pool level.
Minimum bridge clearance from Three Rivers Junction to the Niagara River is 15’ 7" at normal pool level and 14’ 8" at maximum pool level.
For a complete listing of Erie Canal bridges, guard gates, and utility crossings along with their clearances, visit the Erie Canal Bridge Clearances Page. These tables are available for download.
All lockmasters maintain a watch on VHF channel 13.
The speed limits for the Erie Canal except in the vicinity of the locks and unless otherwise posted is as Follows:
- Between Lock #E-2 and lock #E-6 - 4.3 knots (5 mph).
- Between Lock #E-6 and lock #E-12 - 39.1 knots (45 mph).
- Between Lock #E-12 and lock #E-16 - 26.0 knots (30 mph).
- Between Lock #E-16 and lock #E-17 - 8.7 knots (10 mph).
- Between Locks #E-17 and Guard Gate #4 - 4.3 knots (5 mph).
- Between Guard Gate #4 and lock #E-21 - 8.7 knots (10 mph).
- Between Lock #E21 and the Sylvan Beach Breakwater - 4.3 knots (5 mph).
- Oneida Lake - Unrestricted.
- Between Brewerton Pier and Three Rivers Junction - 8.7 knots (10 mph).
- Between Three Rivers Junction and State Ditch - 26 knots (30 mph).
- State Ditch - 8.7 knots (10 mph).
- Between State Ditch and lock #E-26 - 26.0 knots (30 mph).
- Between Lock #E-26 and lock #E-32 - 8.7 knots (10 mph).
- Between lock #E-32 and lock #E-33 - 4.3 knots (5 mph).
- Between lock #E33 and Three Mile Island - 8.7 knots (10 mph).
- Between Three Mile Island and the Niagara River - 4.3 knots (5 mph).
As a general guide, Albany to Oswego, NY will require about 3 days and Albany to Buffalo about 5 to 6 days depending on your speed.
Distances between major ports along the Erie Canal can be found on our Erie Canal - Distances Page. The distances table shown is useful in planning overnight stops while transiting the canal and is available for download.
Notice to Mariners
The latest navigational information can be found at Canal System Notice to Mariners. Anyone planning to transit the canal system should check these notices for last minute information on closures and restrictions.
All tables mentioned above including: Lock Chamber Waypoints, Lock & Transit Table, Bridge Clearances, and Distances between Ports can be downloaded as a single file. Erie Canal Passage Pack - Download