Thursday, July 12, 2012

Cycling the Erie Canal - Day 5

Day 5 –Syracuse to Rome (49.2 miles)
It was my turn to shuttle the car today. Luckily, the first 8 miles and most of the last 23 miles (Canastota @26 mi. to Rome @49 mi.) of today’s ride were on roads, so I drove to the middle of the days ride at the Chittenango Landing Boat Museum and was able to get 34 miles of canal path riding into my legs on the hybrid, and also cover all highlights of the day.

Dry dock at the Chittenango Landing Boating Museum
The Chittenango Landing Boat Museum is a site along the old canal just recently rediscovered and excavated. It was originally built in 1855 as a place where cargo boats could be constructed or repaired. There are dry dock areas (3 bays of 100 feet by 26 feet) where the boats were repaired and the Museum now has a reconstructed sawmill and blacksmith shop as well as full sized replicas of canal boats as used in the original “Clinton’s Ditch” 4 foot deep canal completed in 1825 (70 ton boats), and the enlarged 7 foot deep canal completed in 1862 (240 ton boats).

Chittenango Landing Boating Museum
From the Boat Museum as my base, I cycled back to the beginning of the canal path section at the day’s 8 mile mark, and then went forward with Gary and Harold to Canastota at mile 26. The town of Canastota had a really neat small museum featuring a great deal of history of the area dating back to construction of the original canal. As with most towns along the way, the canal went right through the middle of the town with lift bridges used to get traffic over the top of the canal.  Between 1905 and 1918, the New York Barge Canal was completed. This greatly rerouted and enlarged the canal, tying it in with the Mohawk River and bypassing many of the towns. Boats still called on towns like Canastota on the old canal into the 1920’s but after that, low spans and culverts terminated use of the old canal for good. At times now, we will be cycling along an old canal section and it will abruptly terminate where a newer road or freeway is.

Canastota Canal Town Museum
Tonight, we are camping at Fort Stanwix National Monument. Does our Federal Government actually allow camping at a National Monument site? I guess they do. After setting up camp, we had a nice tour of Fort Stanwix where (believe it or not) Rangers actually kept the place open for us from the normal 5PM closing time all the way to 8PM.  Ft. Stanwix was originally a British Fort built in 1758 for protection against the French and their American Indian allies.  It was abandoned after the French and Indian War ended in 1763. Later in 1776, our Continental Congress ordered General George Washington to rebuild the fort as protection against the British and their Indian allies. The British unsuccessfully laid siege to the fort for 21 days in August 1777 until American reinforcements arrived. The Monument did a real nice job reconstructing the Fort in the late 1970’s to show it as it existed in the 1770’s.

Fort Stanwix National Monument

Tonight we had dinner on our own at a Chinese restaurant just walking distance from the National Monument.

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