Pre-Columbian transportation routes followed the water. The only water level route through the Appalachian Mountains was the Mohawk River.
Aboard the paddle wheeled Caldwell Bell we were able to experience the water way west first hand. This was a unique way to see the Mohawk Towpath Byway corridor. We boarded at the State Dock on Terminal Road just east of the Route 9 bridge. We cruised west from the site of the longest aqueduct on the historic Erie Canal; under the I-87 Northway Bridge; through the area of the historic “Wat Hoix Gap” as the early Dutch settlers called the area where the boundary of Clifton Park meets Halfmoon and Colonie. The expansive Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve on one side of the River balances the Colonie – Niskayuna Bike Path on the south side. The historic Niskayuna train station at Lions Park is easy to pick out. The popular recreation destination on the Bikeway with restrooms nearby serves as a good starting, stopping or rest stop along the Bikeway. The flow over the lock 7 dam was minimal due to the unusually dry weather. Quite a number of passengers had not been through a lock so the 34 foot Lock E7 provided a real treat. We learned about the “young engineers cut” on the Erie Canal and saw much of the gorge that forms the Niskayuna and Clifton Park waterfront and the Rexford crossing before turning around and returning to our starting point.
Many thanks to Ray Koloski for organizing and arranging the memorable cruise, historian John Scherer for providing the commentary, Henrietta O’Grady for arranging the sandwiches, and Captain Bob Foster, Champlain Canal Tour Boats for providing the boat and crew while the craft was in the area.
Ray is already talking about doing it again next summer, so check the Mohawk Towpath Byway calendar often as you plan activities next summer.