The Erie Canal will forever stand as a symbol of the ingenuity and ambition of Americans – when Mother Nature wouldn’t provide a waterway linking the Atlantic Coast to the West, we just built one ourselves. Nearly 200 years since the opening of this engineering marvel, Buffalo – the city most directly impacted by it – is feeling its power once again.
In the decades following the opening of the canal in 1825, Buffalo’s position at the western terminus of the canal transformed it into one of America’s most important cites – the “Gateway to the West.” The endless traffic of Great Lakes ships, canal boats and railcars directly influenced the city’s growth and prosperity, establishing it as a center of transshipment and heavy industry for more than a century afterwards.
Today, the growing Canalside district pays homage to that heritage, while hosting hundreds of events, from high-profile summer concerts to free outdoor yoga to idyllic winter ice skating.
And that’s far from the only way the canal impacted Western New York. A short trip north to the Town of Lockport will provide another glimpse into the brilliant engineering minds that made the canal possible. The town is named for the intricate system of five “locks” – Lockportians call them the “Flight of Five” – designed to help boats calmly navigate a 49 foot drop in elevation. Today, you can take canal boat tours – both above and underground! – that let you see these wonders up close.
If you’re interested in experiencing a quintessentially American piece of history, in a city where you’ll always know your neighbor and you’ll always know your pal, we suggest you stop by.