Boating on the Erie Canal

by John Gearing

The Erie Canal is currently in a state of transition. Formerly it was used exclusively for industrial purposes; but with advances in transportation, industrial use of the canal has ceased. In its place, recreational use is growing. The Canal represents a tremendous opportunity for development as a recreational and historic resource. With the Canal Recreationway Plan approved in 1995, the Canal should experience a stunning renaissance in the years ahead. While residents have long enjoyed boating on the Canal, the idea that the Canal could become a destination for canal lovers the world over has only recently take hold. Consequently, the hire boat business on the Canal is small but growing. Below I have listed as many of the opportunities for boating that I have information on at this time. I plan to update this page with additional information as it becomes available to me.

Narrow boats

-- Mid-Lakes Navigation Co ., Ltd. manufactures and charters English style narrow boats. The boats are in the 38-41 foot range, can sleep 4-5 people and are completely self-contained, with galley, shower, and w.c.. The company is based in Cayuga, New York which is about half-way between the cities of Rochester and Syracuse. This firm was founded by Captain Peter Wiles, a true canal visionary who led a one-man fight to save the Canal in the early 1970's. From the basin near Cayuga charterers may voyage westwards toward Buffalo, or eastward to Oneida Lake. Since it can develop short steep seas (after all, it is some 20 mi in length), the company's boats do not enter the Lake. My father and some of his friends spent a week on one of these boats a few years ago and had a wonderful time. Mid-Lakes Navigation Co., Box 61, Skaneanteles, New York 13152-0061. Phone: 315-685-8500 or 800-545-4318 or visit their web site at:

Collar City Charters , located in Troy, New York at the eastern end of the Canal offers narrowboats built by Mid-Lakes. Charterers have the option of proceeding through the spectacular Waterford Flight and on to the westward via the Erie, or heading northward to Lake Champlain on the Champlain Canal. (Note: I will be adding information about the Champlain Canal in the near future.) There is a three hour comprehensive instructional course held prior to departure. Charters are normally for a one-week period. Collar City Charters, 427 River Street, Troy, New York, 12180. Phone:518- 272-5341or 800-830-5341

Erie Canal Cruise Lines is a new firm with bases in Fairport (near Rochester) and Waterloo (on the Cayuga-Seneca Canal), New York. This firm also uses boats built by Mid-Lakes, featuring 42 ft models with somewhat more luxurious furnishings than the standard boats. 4-6 Passengers can be accommodated. Phone: 1-800-962-1771


-- In Europe, these boats would be termed canoes. Yes, believe it or not, these small boats are finding acceptance everywhere, even on the Canal. Endless Adventures Travel Company offers guided day trips in their 35 boat fleet of rental kayaks on various sections of the Canal between Buffalo and Syracuse. The flat water is ideal for canoeing. Trips feature explorations into canal history, wildlife viewing, and of course the fun of kayaking. Tours start at US$35.00 and include all equipment and a guide. Phone: 716-335-3010


-- In Europe these would be termed Indian Canoes. Canoes may be rented Monday through Saturday at The Boat House , Schenectady, New York. The Boat House is located near the eastern end of the Canal, between Locks 7 and 8, near the site of the historic Rexford Aqueduct. The Boat House, 2855 Aqueduct Road, Schenectady, New York 12306. Phone:518-393-5711


-- Riverboat Cruises, Inc . offers a day cruise at 1:30 and a dinner cruise at 6:30 pm, Mondays excepted. The boat, named the Nightingale III, accommodates 90 passengers. The entire vessel is available for group charter. The day cruise lasts 3 hours and usually pass through on of the Canal locks. The dock is located near the eastern terminus of the Canal, just west of Lock 6. Riverboat Cruises, Inc., One Terminal Road, Clifton Park, New York 12065. Phone:518-273-8878.

Dutch Apple Cruises , located at the eastern terminus in Albany, New York, offers three cruises a week from Albany up the Hudson River, and through the Erie Canal Park at the top of the Waterford Flight. Dutch Apple Cruises, 1666 Julianne Drive, Castleton, New York< Phone:518-463-0220.

The Sam Patch Tour Boat operates out of Rochester, New York and offers day trips on the Upper Genesee River and the Erie Canal. The Sam Patch is 54 ft long and patterned after an old Canal Boat Packet.Trips run from May through October and there are lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch cruises. Sam Patch Tour Boat, Phone:716-262-5661.

The Colonial Belle is a 220 passenger paddleboat homeported in Fairport, New York, east of Rochester. The Belle makes two hour cruises between Pittsford and Macedon from May to October. Tues - Sat there are three cruises per day, at 12:00 (Lunch), 3:00, and 6:30 (Dinner). The 3:00 cruise goes through a lock. There are two cruises on Sunday, 12:00 and 3:00. Phone: 716-377-4600.

The Spirit of Rochester offers day trips on the Canal in the Rochester area, but I don't have any specific information on it. Phone: 716-865-4930.

Mid-Lakes Navigation Co. runs daily canal excursions in the Syracuse, New York area on The City of Syracuse , a 60 passenger double-decked cruiser. There are Dinner, Jazz Dinner, Brunch, Pot-Luck, and All Day Saturday cruises. Dinner cruises feature a full prime rib dinner and most cruises include passage through one of the locks on the Erie Canal. Mid-Lakes Navigation Co., Box 61, Skaneanteles, New York 13152-0061. Phone: 315-685-8500 or 800-545-4318 or visit their web site at: /


-- The Emitta II , operated by Mid-Lakes Navigation Co., offers a series of 3 day cruises on the Erie Canal. Choose from the following trips: Buffalo to Syracuse, Syracuse to Albany, Albany to Whitehall, Syracuse to Buffalo, Albany to Syracuse, or Whitehall to Albany. Meals are served aboard with lodgings ashore. These trips run from June through October. There are also a limited number of 2 day trips but these are popular and sell out quickly. Mid-Lakes Navigation Co., Box 61, Skaneanteles, New York 13152-0061. Phone: 315-685-8500 or 800-545-4318 or visit their web site at: /

In August 1995, The American Canadian Caribbean Line inaugurated a two week cruise from Warren, Rhode Island to Buffalo, New York via the Hudson River and the Erie Canal. The Niagara Prince is a small cruise ship especially constructed for use on the Erie Canal, with a special ballasting system and a retractable pilot house to allow the vessel to pass under the famous low bridges which cross the canal. The trip began in Rhode Island and proceeded to New York City where the Niagara Prince entered the Hudson. The ship first transited the Champlain Canal for a visit to Vermont and historic Fort Ticonderoga and then returned to Waterford, entered the Erie Canal, and journeyed the 340 miles to Buffalo, viewing historic sites along the way. American Canadian Caribbean Line, PO Box 368, Warren, Rhode Island 02885. Phone:1-800-556-7450.

Additional Resources for Info on The Erie Canal

The New York State Canal Corporation
P.O. Box 189
Albany, NY 12201-0189

Phone: 1-800-422-6254

New York State Office of Parks
Agency Building 1
Empire State Plaza
Albany, New York 12238

Phone: 518-474-0456