Out …of the Car!

Most drivers can negotiate the Byway in less than an hour. But to really discover the stories of the Byway we need to get out of the car. This is the challenge that brought me into the Byway community and made me a Byway enthusiast.

One of the most heavily used bike routes in Saratoga County includes Riverview Road in Clifton Park. When traveling at 10 to 20 miles an hour one sees much more detail and are more aware of your surroundings than in a car. There’s also a greater appeal to stop take a photograph, investigate a historic detail, or experience an unfolding natural phenomena.

PeeblesIslandPerhaps one of the best kept secrets in the Capital District is Peebles Island State Park in Waterford. There are miles of trails that pass through forests, wetlands, high cliffs overlooking rapids, even desert like areas with emergent vegetation all on an island where the Mohawk feeds into the Hudson River. There is also the Visitor Center for the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor in the the historic textile bleach works not far from the defenses built under the direction of Thaddeus Kosciuszko in 1776.

There are several self guided tours in the City of Cohoes which interpret the city’s textile industrial past or unlock the 1842 enlarged Erie Canal as it traversed the City. These tours even link to the original Erie Canal or Clinton’s Ditch as it was often called, built in the early nineteenth century. There are similar self guided tours in Schenectady two of which use a cell phone platform to provide interpretation as you walk through the historic neighborhoods.

Stop 6 SignThe Byway’s own self guided tour is designed to get visitors out of their vehicles at historic or other points of interest along the Byway corridor. With smart phone technology the user can compare what he is seeing today with historic photographs displayed on the devise.

Perhaps the biggest attraction to get visitors out of the car are our many family owned and unique businesses. From the Waterford Clock Works, to Riverview Orchards, to the General Store in Vischer Ferry, and the New York Folklore Society and other shops on Jay Street Each of these offer unique items, many lovingly handcrafted. If you know of other unique businesses within the Byway corridor please leave a comment below.

Sure you can do the Byway in less than an hour, but take your time.  Discover our stories and build an experience that is memorable and something you can share with others.

Create Ways to Travel Between Communities Without a Car

At first this seems like a classic paradox.  First of all, the National and State Byways Programs were established by the laws that authorize the Federal Highway Administration including funding for state highways.  It seems, at times, that the focus of the highway program is to move the greatest number of vehicles in the safest, most efficient way between any point in the country.  The contradiction arises when transportation planners try to create routes that are taken for pleasure as if to separate that traffic from those who have to be somewhere at a specific time or for a specific purpose, the highway versus the byway.

When in a travel mode, when on a leisurely vacation, we want an alternative to the usual and the mundane.  Taking a route less traveled is the appeal. Take this reasoning further and one starts looking for alternatives to the personal vehicle, into walking, cycling, even boating.

Mohawk Hudson Bikeway

Cyclists pause at the historic Niskayuna Station in Lions Park on the Mohawk Hudson Bikeway

One of our area’s most used hiking and cycling resources is the Mohawk Hudson Bikeway that connects downtown Schenectady, Niskayuna, through Colonie, to Cohoes.  This trail effectively connects each of the communities on the south side of the Mohawk River.  Another interesting trail is the foot trail along the old Champlain Canal towpath connecting Cohoes and Waterford, right into Waterford Harbor.

The towns of Clifton Park and Halfmoon will be reconstructing the Towpath Trail connecting Vischer Ferry with the historic community of Crescent best negotiated on foot or a trail bicycle.

Islands South of Crescent Park, Halfmoon

Kayaking the Mohawk River between Crescent and Dunsbach Ferry.

Perhaps one of the more memorable ways to get between communities is on the water.  At water level the journey takes longer than on a bicycle, but this is the way to understand this facet of our history and travel before railways or the current Interstate Highway System.  This journey is highly recommended whether one tries it in shorter segments in a kayak, on a major commercial water watercraft, or something in between like a pleasure boat or touring vessel.

Leave a comment below describing your favorite or most memorable mode of travel between our communities.

How Many Tourists are Too Many

As a young couple I remember staying at a seaside guest house where my wife and I shared a bathroom with another boarder whom we never met. We did befriend the establishment’s owner, whom I will call Flo, and her carpenter husband. The two were most impressed with our respect for their property and we were overwhelmed with their openness to letting people into their impressive historic home.

On our second visit Flo started to share with us stories of some of her worst customers. One of the stories Flo told was she rented one of her choice rooms, just beyond the living room to a middle aged gentleman. The room had her favorite rosewood octagon, key wound mantle clock that chimed the hour. Sometime during the night the guest had tried to silence the clock with blankets and pillows. This was an affront to Flo who “threw the bum out” with instructions to never return. To Flo this was one tourist too many.

Each of us has a threshold for how many guests is too much. The rule I am comfortable with is respect my special places as though they are your own. This is the basis for, “If you carry it in, carry it out.” “Leave nothing behind but your footprints.” This is the foundation of good stewardship.

Falls View Park

Falls View Park

One of the early tenants of the Mohawk Towpath Byway Coalition is to balance the changes and developments along the Byway corridor with the need to preserve our natural and historic resources. Encouraging the constructive use of our resource will provide the economic engine to fund efforts to preserve for generations to come. Perhaps the most rewarding outcome is to have visitors embrace the preservation effort with the same enthusiasm as many of our local residents. That’s sustainability in the broadest meaning of the word.

With the depth and authenticity of our stories, variety of our recreational resources, and appeal to a broad demographic, visitors will come, and, more importantly, return.

Spring Brings Fishing

Spring brings fishing to the Byway.  I don’t have the patience to be a fisher, but many find relaxation, a challenge, a way to commune with nature, and some find a link to the past where life was a struggle for subsistence.

Here are some of the places I have seen people: male, female, young and old fishing. Some of the big trophy results include Bass, Muskies, and Catfish, but there are plenty of small ones to make it a thrill for youth and first timers.

Fishing near Vischer Ferry.   - photo by Myla Kramer

Fishing near Vischer Ferry. – photo by Myla Kramer

 

Please remember to respect your natural environment:  if you carry it in, carry it out.  Leave nothing but footprints in the sand.

Waterford Flight Centennial

One Hundred years ago the Waterford Flight was dedicated.  The flight of five locks from Waterford Harbor to Crescent raises vessels over 165 feet in 1.5 miles to travel around Cohoes Falls.  This is the largest change in elevation in the shortest navigational distance anywhere in the world.  The fight was originally dedicated on May 15, 1915.

Dedication of the Waterford Flight of Locks May 15, 1915

This Friday, May 15 we will celebrate this centennial.  The flotilla of the Grand Erie and tug Urger will leave the Waterford Harbor at 10:30 am and travel to Lock 2. When lifted in first level the dignitaries on board will disembark, the colors will be presented, the National Anthem will be played and addresses of welcome and commemoration will be given. The celebration will continue with a trip through Lock 3 and a tour of the Waterford Dry Dock and State Maintenance Facility.  Saturday the Annual Canal Fest with pick up the centennial celebration from 9 am – 6 pm.  Some of the highlights include an educational walk on the towpath with historian Russ VanDervoort at 10 am titled “Waterford’s Original Connection to the Erie Canal” At 11:15 Brad Utter, Sr. Historian at the NYS Museum will present a talk on “The Waterford Flight: A Lasting Impact” At 1:30 Duncan Hay of Erie Canalway Heritage Corridor will make a presentation on the canal system and at 2:45 Russ VanDervoort will be presenting a talk on ” The Politics of the Flight” All presentations are at the Waterford Visitor’s Center, are free of charge and in recognition of the 100th Anniversary of the Opening of the Waterford Flight.  A complete schedule of activities are available on the Village website.

I hope you can join the festivities!

Dry Docks

Empire Dry Dock and home of W. J. Wheeler

– from Paul Russell’s collection.

During the months that the Erie Canal was frozen in (December through March) life in our communities was busy.  Carpenters and craftsman would be feverishly repairing or building new wooden canal boats and barges during the short daylight hours for the coming navigation season.  Along the canal route between Cohoes and Schenectady there were more than 20 dry docks where these activities would be centered.  You can find some of the remnants of these dry docks at Crescent, Clutes (the eastern end of the Vischer Ferry Preserve), and one on either side of Ferry Drive in the Village of Vischer Ferry.  There is also one on the south side of the wide waters along the Cohoes Crescent Road.  This wide waters now forms a marsh and wet lands between the Crescent Dam and the Colonie Landfill.