Erie Canal- Upper NY

Good day. I am looking for any insight on padding a bit of the Erie Canal in early June, starting somewhere close to Media, NY and ending in Lockport, NY. I have done much reading and am confident in the trip and am expecting it to be quite mellow.

Does anyone have any experience in getting through the locks and wanted to confirm the basics of the plan to make sure I wasn’t missing something.

Also, if anyone wants to join, we can discuss that as well.


You don’t have to reserve or pay anything to paddle through a lock, but you do need to contact the lock operator obviously. You can find phone numbers for each lock here:

Most boaters who use the locks call the lock operator on VHF radio, so if you have one, bring it.

I grew up in Western NY and I’m familiar with the stretch of the canal you picked from riding a bicycle on the towpath. It will definitely be mellow. Lockport has a working lock, a tour through an old lock (you can even go underground), an Erie canal museum, and places to eat. But otherwise, there’s really nothing to see on that route besides bridges and a couple of flood gates.

Perhaps I’m biased because I grew up there, but I think the Rochester section of the canal is more interesting. There’s two locks in succession between the Genesee River and Pittsford, and lots of parks and landings from Genesee Valley Park east to Fairport.

Here’s a site about paddling the canal that came up on a quick Google search:

Thank you Red and this was a bit of insight on what I’m looking for and what we were planning on doing. We are big paddler/peddlers, so the canal trail is perfect. I’ll have to look at the ins and outs for that stretch near Rochester and see about that. Do you happen to know any faster water in case we have time? we’ll have a 10 ft and 14 ft and are relatively experienced paddlers coming from Michigan.

Cattaraugus Creek/Zoar Valley is a popular paddling destination, but I haven’t been there myself. It’s about an hour due South of Buffalo. Here’s an outfitter:

There’s also multiple places you can paddle the Genesee River. Here’s a map:

Letchworth State Park is 17 miles of Genesee river over three waterfalls and through a deep gorge which opens up into some spectacular views. The park is large, historic, and well kept. The paddling is nothing to write home about, because it’s mild and you can only run about 5 miles starting just below the lower falls before you have to pull out. There’s another 10 miles of scenic river you can’t paddle because there’s no way out. But the scenery is worth a day trip. And there’s a lot of stuff to do besides paddling. My wife and daughter took a hot air balloon ride from the park, departing over middle falls. Here’s a rafting company that operates out of the park:

In Rochester, you can paddle the Genesee river from its mouth at Ontario Beach Park up to the lower falls, passing through Turning Point Park, into the gorge, past the zoo and old Kodak sites, and to the old power station at the falls. I think it’s about 11 miles in and back, and when you finish, you’re right at the beach.

About an hour further East of Rochester along the canal is the Howland Island Wildlife Management Area. I’ve never been there, but it’s popular with paddlers:

If you like exploring lakes, Hemlock and Canadice are like wilderness. If you like birding, you could try Braddock Bay on Lake Ontario.

Amazing. It has turned from a “hey, it’d be cool to float some locks”, to a “ok, how much time do I need and when can I come back?”!

Thanks for the amazing suggestions and will definitely scope these out!

I also am considering the trip only West to east and I contacted and bought the very thorough booklets and waterproof maps (I think I spent $15-20) through the site listed. Tons of info so very worth it. For me it may happen late summer early fall and in some bits and pieces until I finish. Doesn’t hurt to have dream goals!!!

there is a lock in lockport, however, going from Medina to lockport you wont go thru the lock. if you do go thru the lock, i believe the next place to get out is way up in north tonawanda. Medina has a kayak launch and so does wide waters at lockport. there are several boat launches between. i live less than a mile from the canal near middleport.
If you do decide to do this, check my profile and see if my email is visible. i am willing to help you in any way i can while you are in the area. maybe even do a bit of paddling with you.
glenwood lake in Medina is our goto place. we leisurely paddle around and just sit and soak up the locale. there is a waterfall at the far end of the lake. DO NOT go into the whirlpool by the falls. people get caught up in it. it happened when we were there once. and an interesting thing is the canal is about 40’ above you when you are at the falls. I’ll see what pics i have of the area

here is a pic of the falls. look for the paddle sticking up to the right. It’s one of the people caught in the whirlpool to the right of the falls. They usually crash into the rocks then clumsily mussel their boats over the rocks to get out.
then look upper right in gap of trees. there is a railing and it is along the canal. the river flow UNDER the canal there.

this is one of the inlets on glenwood

lockport launch

There used to be water access at The Ship Bar & Grill in Pendleton, which is at the intersection of the canal with Tonawanda creek. That place has been around forever and used to cater to boaters. I took a look on Google maps and I see the old landing on Tonawanda creek. It doesn’t look like it’s used anymore, but it might be enough get a kayak in or out with permission:

I just remembered that Glenwood Lake is on Oak Orchard Creek. Below the outflow of Glenwood Lake, the creek remains narrow for several miles before opening into Lake Alice. It isn’t whitewater, but the creek is still narrow there, so the water is moving and you might catch some mild rapids after a storm. A local outfitter has posted a map here:

There’s also a 5 mile section of the creek through the marshland in the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge open for paddling:

But I’m still pulling for the Rochester area.

I forgot to mention earlier that you can also paddle the stretch of Genesee river connected to the canal system which the rowers use. If you head north towards downtown from Genesee Valley Park in Rochester, I think you can go as far as the Susan B Anthony bridge. Corn Hill Landing is next to the bridge and it has a boat launch and places to eat. There is a control dam just beyond that. The river is quite wide there and it might not be the most interesting paddle, but this picture makes it look inviting at dusk:

A few miles to the south of Genesee Valley Park, the river is joined by the meandering Black Creek. There is a launch there.

However, I still think paddling the lower Genesee through the gorge to the lower falls is more interesting, and I just found out that a new kayak/canoe launch was put in 3 years ago at the marina off Petten Street. It’s about 1km upriver from the boat launch I’m familiar with, and keeps you out of most of the boat traffic headed to Lake Ontario. You can also put in at Turning Point park. Here’s some links:

The double-lock in Lockport and the museum there are interesting, but if you decide to do locks 32 & 33 instead, there is a bonus. I just found out that somebody created a small whitewater park out of the lock 32 spillway in Pittsford:

It seems challenging when looking at the locks, but it is manageable. When I moved to New York my first paddle on the Erie Canal was on the last day before the locks closed for the winter. My wife, young children and I paddled our aluminum canoe in and locked through several locks.

The LockMasters are real pros, so pay attention to their communications. Make sure your VHF has good batteries; contact the LockMaster on VHF 13 well ahead of your arrival, so as to avoid locking through with heavy traffic. Keep some rags and work gloves handy for tending lines and standing off.

Keep your center of gravity low, wear your PFD, and keep throwable life rings near at hand.

Thank you for the shots of the launch and direct environment. In checking a bit more of the times and distances and talking with my travel companion, we may just launch at Wildwaters Marina, paddle down through the locks and then back up to Wildwaters as the in and out. It looks like there is very little current to battle against to make it without biking back to the launch.

For anyone looking for beautiful and relaxing trip ideas on the other side of NY, Saranac Lake (in the Adirondacks) is promoting five easy and nearby routes. Each one can be done in 1/2 day or less. I’ve done all except the one on the Saranac River. The absence of motor boats helps create a the sense of serenity that’s hard to beat!

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