by the Waterford Canal Committee -
Just north of Albany, the Mohawk River cascades down the Cohoes Falls into the waters of the mighty Hudson. At this ancient convergence - a joining of the most natural of New York’s transportation arteries - one finds also a crossroads of a man-made sort. The Champlain and Erie Canals meet here at Waterford, the gateway to New York State’s Barge Canal System.
The sleepy community formed by the Town and Village of Waterford, New York, represents a throwback to an era gone by. The clock ticks a little slower in this close-knit, blue collar community; just as it has since Henry Hudson turned the Halfmoon around just a couple short miles south of here. While the history of water-borne commerce here predates the earliest of New York’s canals, heavy maritime traffic was not seen until the nineteenth century. Since the inception of the original canal system in the early 1800s, Waterfordians have been accustomed to the sight of bargemen plying through their backyards.
The Old Champlain Canal, which is still one of Waterford’s greatest assets (albeit no longer navigable), still ambles lazily through the center of town. The Waterford Sidecut, a system of locks used to bypass a weighlock on the old system, is similarly prominent and is located next to the current Erie Lock 2. These two waterways brought canal traffic through Waterford when the actual Erie Canal was located several miles south. At the turn of the century, however, Waterford’s busiest canal days still lay ahead.
Recreational traffic on New York State’s inland waterways has increased significantly - due to improved access, cleaner waters, and safer navigation. Communities along these waterways have embraced this resurgence by improving waterfront facilities for boaters and residents alike. In Waterford, free docking is available at the new Waterford Harbor Center, located just below the stately lower gates of Erie Lock 2. Water and electric (30A 110V, 50A 110V, 220V and 440V) are available - in addition to pump-out for a small fee. 500 feet of floating docks and 450 feet of concrete bulkhead are available. A small ship's store with internet access and hot coffee is manned at the lower level of the Visitor's Center during the summer months.
The Broad Street pubs and shops that were so popular with commercial boatmen are still just a short walk from the waterfront. Antique stores and assorted eateries are prominent among this eclectic collection of businesses. Although Waterford’s architecturally rich streets are a must see, greener spaces are just as popular. Peebles Island State Park, one of Waterford’s many hidden treasures, is located just across the river from the docks. The North Bridge to Peeble's Island is currently being rehabilitated, and access should be restored by Fall of 2003. The Old Champlain Canal Trail proceeds north and south from Erie Lock 2, and is ideal for walking and biking. The southern span of this trail will take you to the Northside Business District, and to the Waterford Museum. The northern span leads to an old lock from the original canal, currently under restoration. Soldiers and Sailors Park, with its impressive monument, keeps a solemn watch over the waters of the majestic Hudson. Sugarloaf Pond Park is a popular spot for walking, jogging, picnicking, and duck watching.
Many other village and town parks are a short walk from the water. Flight Lock Road takes one along the path of the Waterford Flight of Locks. Currently in use as part of the Erie Canal, this flight of locks - bypassing the Cohoes Falls just to the south - constitutes the largest lift in the shortest distance on any system in the world! At Lock 6 park, an observation deck removes any doubt as to the veracity of this fact. The Flight stands as an engineering marvel, and is a testament to the ingenuity and determination of the New Yorkers responsible for the design and construction of the Barge Canal. Flight Lock Road also leads to a boat launch and park area, which serves as a popular spot for those wishing to access Crescent Lake. A favorite area for recreational boating, water skiing, and fishing - Crescent “Lake” is actually the pool of the Mohawk River above the Cohoes Falls.
One need not stray far from the docks, however. Button Park and Battery Park make up the Linear Canal Promenade below Erie Lock 2. Along with Lock 2 Park, this area is a popular staging place for waterfront festivals such as CanalFest, Steamboat Meet, and Tugboat Roundup. Another boat launch is located at Battery Park. Easily accessible from Broad Street, the launch can be found at the end of First Street. The Village of Waterford - the oldest continually incorporated village in the United States -also sponsors a “Concert in the Park” series on Saturday evenings over the summer months. Information on what events might be going on at any given time is available at the Visitor’s Center.
Waterford is a scenic, fun, and easy trip from anywhere on New York’s inland waterways. The docks are located just 2 miles north of the Federal Lock at Troy, which is toll free. Locking through is safe, easy, and simple with caution and sensible speed. The Federal Lock, like the state locks, monitors VHF Channel 13.
On the New York State Canal System, Waterford is at the easternmost point of the Erie and the southernmost point of the Champlain. Passes for the New York State Canal System are available as you go through your first lock, and are very reasonable. Of course, with two convenient boat launches, traveling to Waterford with your trailerable by land is also an option. Regardless, Waterford is a enjoyable, frugal trip for anyone.
For more Information:
Village of Waterford (518) 235-9898
Town of Waterford (518) 235-8184
Waterford Welcome Center at (518) 233-9123
Village & Town Website
Waterford Historical Museum
New York State Canal Corporation
P.O. Box 189
Albany, NY 12201-0189
Albany County Convention & Visitors Bureau
52 Pearl Street
Albany, NY 12207
800/732-8259 • 518/434-1217
New York State Division of Tourism
One Commerce Plaza
Albany, NY 12245
Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
518/584-3255 • 800/526-8970
Southern Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce
15 Park Ave #7b
Clifton Park, NY 12065