The drive from Rochester to Albany is quite scenic along Highway 31, which follows the Eire Canal. The Eire Canal is a true engineering marvel: it cuts through hills and connects various cities at different elevations. It has various locks just like any English or Scottish canals, but it is far wider! In fact it would appear as a river to the untrained eye. The canal opened to the public in 1825, linking the waters of Lake Erie in the west to the Hudson River in the east. Watch the video below to see the drive for yourself.

Unfortunately I spent too long at Denny’s in the morning and at the museum afterwards so I didn’t really see much on the way to Albany. It was also very cold and rained on and off. If the weather had been slightly warmer I would have stopped more frequently.

rochester-albany route

The Eire Canal History

According to the Eire Canal website, a canal was necessary to open the country West of the Appalachian Mountains. It was necessary to bring produce to markets in a cost effective and speedy way. In 1808 the state legislature funded a survey for a canal that would connect to Lake Erie. Finally, on July 4, 1817, workers broke ground for the construction of the canal. When completed, it included 18 aqueducts to carry the canal over ravines and rivers and 83 locks with a rise of 568 feet from the Hudson River to Lake Erie.

The canal was seven feet deep and 70 feet wide after an expansion in 1862 and floated boats carried 240 tonnes of freight. A ten foot wide towpath along the bank of the canal enabled horses and/or mules to pull the boats.

The state further expanded the canal in 1903. The resulting Erie Barge Canal was 12 to 14 feet deep, 120-200 feet wide and 338 miles long from Waterford to Tonawanda.

Arriving in Albany

Econo Lodge Colonie Center MallI had lunch in Syracuse at the Destiny shopping center, which is supposed to be the largest in New York State. The food was OK, it was some deep fried chicken shop, similar to KFC. By the time I arrived in Albany it was quite dark and I was very tired so I just checked in to the room at the Econo Lodge Colonie Center Mall. This Econo Lodge was nice at the check-in desk but I woke up twice during the night. The motel is next to the voluntary fire station and they sound the air raid sirens when there is a fire!

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