Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sal's retired, but the Erie Canal still hauls freight.

I've got a mule, and her name is Sal,
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal.
She's a good ol' worker an' a good ol' pal,
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal.
We've hauled some barges in our day,
Filled with lumber, coal, and hay,
And we know every inch of the way
From Albany to Buffalo.

(Lyrics courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Social Studies - "A More Perfect Union")

Last year I posted a piece about Red Hook, Brooklyn, in which I explained how the Erie Basin, an artificial harbor there, got its name from its use in the nineteenth century as a transshipment point for grain from the Midwest that had been carried by barge from the Great Lakes, across the Erie Canal, then down the Hudson to Brooklyn, where it was loaded onto oceangoing ships for far away destinations. I had assumed (yes, I know the derivation) that railroads and trucks had long ago put an end to any carriage of goods on the New York State canal system, and that these historic waterways were now used only by pleasure craft, including the tourist boat on which my wife, daughter and I made our way through the locks at Lockport, New York (see photo below, as the gates of Lock 34 open and the World's Widest Bridge looms ahead) the summer before last.

So, I was delighted to find this NPR piece, which shows that there is still cargo traffic on the canal system, and that it is increasing. Note: I've updated this link to replace one from 2007 that had expired.

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