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We came to the Buffalo area, parking at the AA Royal Motel and Campground in North Tonawanda, NY, primarily to visit Niagara Falls. On our first day there, the weather forecast was less than ideal for a trip to the falls so we chose instead to take a short drive to the town of Lockport, NY.
The town of Lockport has played a key role in the life of the Erie Canal and is home to the historic E34 and E35 locks as well as what was originally known as the “flight of five”. The Erie Canal, built during the first quarter of the 19th century, dramatically altered commercial transportation and opened new markets for this portion of the country. In the early days most of the barges were towed along the canal by mules. The locks in Lockport are the final locks before reaching Lake Erie to the west. Originally, there were two sets of 5 small locks here, the “flight of five”. One set of these locks was replaced by the much larger E34 and E35 locks in 1918. The remaining “flight of five” locks remains as a spillway.
The Erie Canal runs for 363 miles, connecting Lake Erie to Albany, NY. There are a total of 36 locks which take care of the 565 feet of elevation differential. We took a boat cruise that traversed Locks E34 and E35 from the down river side to the up river side and then back. (Sort of a smaller scale reminder of our trip through the Panama Canal in 2011.) Each of the locks raises and lowers canal traffic by 25 feet. The Erie Canal is not used much for commercial shipping now but we were told that it remains economically viable for the State of New York from pleasure boating and tourist traffic.