The immense water power of the falls on the Genesee River is what turned Rochester from a frontier outpost to a buzzing young community. But it was the Erie Canal that transformed Rochester into "The Young Lion of the West."
Completed in 1825 after a Herculean eight-year effort anchored by tens of thousands of laborers working with hand tools, the Erie Canal opened not only western New York--but the entire midwest and western United States--to settlement, agriculture, and industry. Running 363 miles, the canal connected the Atlantic Ocean and its burgeoning cities and ports to the Great Lakes system.
After a century of service--punctuated by widenings to accommodate larger and larger vessels --the canal ceased to course through the heart of downtown Rochester; the amazing aqueduct over the Genesee River became the Rochester subway bed and then the Broad Street road bridge. The New York State Barge Canal was routed along the south border of the city, where it now crosses the Genesee River in Genesee Valley Park in a fascinating four-way water intersection.
Click here to see our Erie Canal Gallery
And click here to access the Rochester Images database-- search for Erie Canal and see some remarkable historical photos
Today, the canal remains one of the great engineering marvels in world history, and is a four-season recreational and historical treasure. The Canalway Trail--which runs from Albany to Buffalo--intersects with the outstanding Genesee Riverway Trail, which bisects the city, running from Genesee Valley Park to Lake Ontario. (The Canalway Trail and Genesee Riverway Trail also connects to the Genesee Valley Greenway!)
The Erie Canal has changed in many ways, but in many ways it has also stayed the same! Be sure to get connected with one of the great connectors in world history! It's right here in Rochester.