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Champlain Canal Lock 5 and Riverwalk Sensory Trail

Updated on August 21, 2014

Lock C5 of Champlain Canal

Power house built in the 1800s, still in use today to open the locks.
Power house built in the 1800s, still in use today to open the locks.
First set of locks.
First set of locks.
Another view of the power house.
Another view of the power house.
Boat going through the locks.
Boat going through the locks.
View of the Champlain Canal.
View of the Champlain Canal.

History of New York Canalway System

Riverwalk Sensory Trail – Champlain Canal

The thing I really like about my hiking adventures is the unusual and wonderful places I discover that I never knew were there. The other day, that moment of serendipity happened while going for a picnic with my son and three-year-old granddaughter. We ended up at Lock 5 of the Champlain Canal, part of New York’s extensive canal system.

History

The history of New York is very rich indeed, and one of my favorite pieces of history was the romantic and adventurous history of the Erie and Champlain canals, as well as others, that played such a huge part in the industrialization of New York.

The New York State Canal System is made up of the Erie Canal, Cayuga-Seneca Canal, Champlain Canal and the Oswego Canal. Erie Canal construction was completed in 1825 and cost 7 million dollars to build. Within nine years, the Erie Canal generated enough revenue from tolls to pay off all construction costs. The Erie Canal can be attributed to the transformation of New York State and the United States. The New York State Canals increased Western settlement and provided countless economic benefits in the United States.

The New York State Canal System is not only rich in history, but also culture. Many immigrants worked long and hard on the canals to create this magnificent waterway. Folklore, songs and speech lingo emerged from those individuals working along the Canal. As the population grew and the Canal prospered, it became not only a transportation waterway, but also a vacation area for the well-to-do.

The canals helped form a whole new culture revolving around canal life. For many, canal boats became floating houses, traveling from town to town. The father would serve as captain, while the mother cooked for the family and crew and the children, if old enough, would serve as "hoggees" and would walk alongside the mules to lead them along at a steady pace.

For those who traveled along the Canal in packet boats or passenger vessels, the Canal was an exciting place. Gambling and entertainment were frequent pastimes on the Canal and often, families would meet each year at the same locations to share stories and adventures.

Today, the Canal has returned to its former glory and is filled with pleasure boats, fishermen and cyclists riding the former towpaths where mules once trod. The excitement of the past is alive and well. (http://www.canals.ny.gov/history/history.html)

Today's Canal Use

Although the canals are still in use today, New York has developed an extensive trail system utilizing both old and new pathways and is collectively known as the Canalway Trail. It consists of over 300 miles of multiple-use trails across upstate New York. The Canalway Trail follows the towpaths of both active and historic sections of the New York State Canal System as well as adjacent abandoned rail corridors.

The Canalway Trail is not only a great long distance bicycling destination, but also an ideal close-to-home recreational resource for biking, walking, jogging and other types of seasonal trail activities. . The Canalway Trail primarily consists of a stone dust surface with some asphalt segments.

Lock C5 is just north of Schuylerville on the Hudson River and 14.3 miles from Lock C4. This lock is interesting as it is actually the site of two locks, the current Champlain Canal Lock 5 (Hudson River) and a junction lock that once connected the modern Champlain Canal and the former Champlain Canal which ran through the heart of Schuylerville. The junction lock no longer operates, but is worth a look if you are interested in the canal's history. The modern lock 5 lifts boats 19 feet up the Hudson River into an artificial channel. The downstream elevation is 83.5 feet and the upstream elevation is 102.5 feet

Riverwalk Sensory Trail

Riverwalk Sensory Trail

New York State has done extensive renovation of Lock C5 and the most impressive is the Riverwalk Sensory Trail and natural playground and picnic area.

The natural playground was built using natural features such as hills to install slides and smaller hills to install tunnels consisting of large drainage pipes that kids can run through. There is even a pirate ship built into the side of a hill where kids can use their imagination to pretend they are pirates sailing off to adventure and treasure hunting.

What really drew my attention was the Riverwalk Sensory Trail. Although very short, at only 1,540 feet, it is a multi-use trail and is totally handicapped-accessible. The trail opened on June 15, 2013 and It connects to the new Alfred Z. Solomon Kayak Launch located just below the Lock 5 Canal Office.

This unique trail, along a picturesque portion of the Hudson River near the confluence of the Battenkill River, is one of the longest sensory trails of its kind. It is designed to provide a riverside outdoor experience for individuals who are mobility or visually impaired. The nearest similar trail is over 100 miles away in the Mohonk Preserve west of New Paltz, New York.

On this particular day it was my family enjoying the trail, and there were surprises around every corner. My granddaughter really loved the whimsical statues of birds scattered along the trail and raced to touch every one of them, as they were all within reach, and all had been made to blend in with the surrounding trees.

The view of the Hudson River is all along the trail, and it is breathtaking. The trail has several places where you can stop and take in the view, and it is hard to describe how peaceful it is to see the river rolling along.

Another feature of the trail is interpretive kiosks, or Tour-Mate Eco Boxes that are activated by cranking them, which delighted my granddaughter and provided her father and me with a workout as well! These boxes tell the history of the “four lives” of the Lakes to Locks passage.

The trail ends in one direction at Dix Bridge, which has a history of its own. Although currently being renovated, the Dix Bridge formally joins Saratoga and Washington Counties within the Hudson Crossing Park. Once re-opened, it will serve as the keystone of the Park - bridging communities and inviting bicyclists, pedestrians, snowmobilers, and skiers to cross the Hudson River. It will serve as the local crossing for the Canalway Trail.

The site itself has great historic significance. This was a well-traveled crossroad for the Native Americans. If you were to stand in the center of the bridge and look to the north you would see the cuts in the river-bank where General John Burgoyne's troops came to this place and crossed the Hudson on "Bateaux" 30' long flat-bottomed, flat-sided, double-ended crafts. More than 6000 people traversed this area in the fall of 1777 and the crossing came to be known as Burgoyne's "Bridge of Boats". (http://www.hudsoncrossingpark.org/virtualtour/dixbridge.html).

The other end of the trail ends at a canoe and kayak launch located just below the C5 Lock.

Besides the trail, the other fun thing to do at the C5 Lock is watch the boats go through the lock. It is truly awe-inspiring to see the boats navigate through the lock and really seems to bring to life the history of the New York Canalway system. You can almost hear voices echoing from the past singing “Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal.”

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