A Boatride on the Sam Patch is the Best Way to see the Erie Canal

We couldn’t go to a Canal Boat Museum, walk along the canal and visit the Erie Canal Museum without continuing our exploration with a boat ride on the canal itself. But by late October, the time of our trip, many of the boat tours had limited their operating hours to weekends only or were even closed for the season. But not the Sam Patch, a replica canal packet boat.

Going through a lock is one of the unique experiences of traveling along the canal. The 90-minute cruise aboard the Sam Patch promised us a trip through one of the canal locks — Lock E32. It was kind of amazing — for more than 100 years, canal boats had been going through that lock. It took about 15 minutes for the water to fill to allow us to continue past the lock headed west. We continued along the canal another half mile before turning around and heading back to the lock, this time to be lowered to the level of the canal to head back to Pittford.

Once we reached Pittford, we kept going, heading further past the town. We noted that a number of the homes had small docks floating along the side of the canal, often with kayaks stowed on top or nearby (that made me envious). We passed some very lovely homes. It was a fun part of the tour.

Although the canal is still used for cargo and industrial purposes, the biggest use of the canal is now recreational, including tourist canal boat roads like the Sam Patch. During the boat tour, the deckhand regaled us with “a lively narrative” of Erie Canal history, facts and anecdotes. It was very entertaining, as well as informative.

I wasn’t prepared for the beauty of the canal — even on a rainy, stormy day — and its surrounding environment. Although it was getting late in the season for herons and eagles, during warmer months, it’s likely you’ll spot one or the other, or both. and other bird life, while our deckhands thrill you with a lively narrative of facts and anecdotes

The Erie Canal stretches east–west through upstate New York, creating at the time of its building a navigable water route from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. Completed in 1825, it was the second-longest canal in the world and spurred the development and economy of many major cities of New York, including New York City, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo and numerous smaller villages and towns as well as the United States as a whole.

Maybe one of the coolest things is that the Sam Patch is operated by Corn Hill Waterfront and Navigation Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting the community and visitors to Rochester’s historic waterways through authentic guided boat experiences and educational programs.

There are many different ways to see the Erie Canal — we walked a brief length of it, we boated along it and we learned about it and life on the canal through visits to two cool museums (the Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum and the Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse). But we’ve hardly made a dent in seeing the canal and I’m eager to explore it on the eastern side of New York. Stay tuned!

Getting there: 12 Schoen Place, Pittsford, NY
Hours: From May through October, Wednesday through Monday; see website for specifics on tour hours and availability.
Website: Sam Patch Erie Canal Boat Tours