Many events, some free, take place along Erie Canal
By Mary Beth Roach
If you like local history, cycling, kayaking or paddleboarding, you can combine all these interests and paddle or pedal your way along the Erie Canal. Several events between May and September revolve around the famed canal and the communities along this waterway, including “Tuesdays on the Towpath,” the “Boat Float” and “Bash and Tour the Towpath.”
Tuesdays On The Towpath
These rides will run on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month, from May 22 through Sept. 11, according to Derrick Pratt, program director at the Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum. Each ride is eight to 10 miles long, and the host town will usually have several interpretive stops along the way, to tell people about the history of their area or a new project going on, he said.
The free rides are co-hosted by the Chittenango Museum and the Old Erie Canal Community Working Group, with a different partner organization for each ride. For a schedule of the rides, visit www.tourthetowpath.com/tuesdays.
The Boat Float
The Boat Float, on June 16, is a paddle that starts in Dewitt and ends at the Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum, but those wishing for a shorter ride can choose another launch site.
The popularity of this free event, only in its second year, has been a pleasant surprise for organizers.
“Last year we had 101 boats put into the water, which was shocking because we expected about 30,” Pratt said. “We already have 300 boats registered. I think a lot of people don’t realize you can paddle in the canal. And once they’ve found out about it, it’s taken off.”
At the end of the float is the Bash at the Museum, with music, food, and special exhibits.
The float is sponsored by the Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum and the Old Erie Canal Community Working Group, and the bash is sponsored by the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.
For maps and directions for the launch sites and registration forms, visit www.tourthetowpath.com/boat-float.
Tour The Towpath
This 36-mile bike ride along the towpath will take riders from DeWitt to Rome over two days, with an overnight in Canastota.
Last year, the event attracted about 100 riders, among them Sue Macko, of Camillus, and John and Lynda Parsons, of Skanteateles. They are planning to ride again, and bring some more friends to join them.
“The Erie Canal’s just intriguing, and we love riding bikes, so it just seemed like a cool idea,” John Parsons said.
The history of the canal resonated with Macko, an area schoolteacher, and Parsons. “I’ve spent 20-plus years teaching about the Erie Canal. It was fun to be on it,” Macko said. “It was really cool to think about the history of the canal as we’re riding along the canal,” Parsons noted
This year’s ride, on Sept. 15-16, will go through the Chittenango, Canastota, Wampsville, Oneida areas, before wrapping up in Rome at Bellamy Harbor Park.
On the first day, riders will pedal the 18-mile stretch from DeWitt to Canastota, where there will be a camp-out, and then finish the last 18 miles, ending at Bellamy Harbor Park, for a celebration.
Part of the appeal of the ride is its leisurely pace and that there’s so much green space, said Ken Hammond, owner of InStride Sports, which is working with the Madison County Planning Department on the 2018 ride. The organizers also encourage riders to leave the towpath and visit the small towns and shops and attractions along the way.
There is a fee to participate in the tour. More details can be found at www.tourthetour.com.