A string of beautiful parks do honor to the great canal
The Erie Canal, originally built between 1817 and 1825, connected Albany to Buffalo, NY by water. It was a huge engineering feat, with over 50 locks to enable the navigation of about 600 vertical feet over 380 miles. It was such a success that it was widened over the years and some sections re-routed, causing some original sections to be abandoned. Today it is part of the Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor and sections of it are still navigable. Other sections, including the area I visited in Central New York, have been turned into lovely parks along the canal, where free trails are maintained for biking and walking, and ice skating in the winter. As the trails are along the original towpaths, they are flat and wide. Wildlife thrives in these corridors, as there is a mixture of riparian and woodland habitat. This area in the central part of the canal corridor is often referred to as the oak-hickory forest.
I walked a number of sections from DeWitt to Manlius. There are parking lots every few miles, so I could park and walk a different section every morning or afternoon. It was great to see so many people out enjoying the paths, and I enjoyed seeing so much wildlife. The fish were jumping, the birds were singing and there were only a few bugs in early June, making it an ideal time to visit.
On the last day I visited the canal, I found two Baltimore Oriole nests. One was very active with both parents feeding the chicks. At least one chick periodically climbed out of the swaying nest before returning to its safe home. Caterpillars were a favorite food, but I enjoyed it when the mom brought back jelly from a backyard feeder!
Other highlights were seeing an osprey with fish, male red-winged blackbirds doing a display on last year’s cattails, and woodpeckers climbing up the trees looking for a meal. The late spring flowers added splashes of color along the trail, and a few butterflies fluttered about.
The map right shows the area I walked and the different parking lots. The area I walked is considered Erie Canal East in Onondaga County. It starts at Kinne Road and Butternut Road and goes east; I did most of this section from DeWitt into Manlius. Parking at the Old Erie Canal State Park Parking Area in Fayetteville at the northwest intersection of Cedar Bay Road and North Burdick Street was convenient for walking either east to Manlius or west to DeWitt.
As this was not a photography trip, I had a limited amount of camera gear that was easy to carry for walking. Most of the photos were taken using an 80-400 mm zoom lens on a full-frame D-SLR, and a few photos taken with a 105 mm macro lens. I find the 80-400 mm lens to be an excellent choice when I am walking for some distance, as it is versatile enough for be used for both wildlife and landscape photography, and not too heavy to carry.
The photos in the slide show are arranged by sections as if you were walking from DeWitt to Manlius along the trails. All photos and blog by Barbara Swanson.
Slideshow: Favorites along the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park Trails
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