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.

Apple Blossom Festival

The Mohawk Towpath Byway in conjunction with the Rotary Club of Shenendehowa and Riverview Orchards will host a day of family fun at 660 Riverveiw Road, Rexford on Saturday, May 9. There will be nature hikes, cooking demonstrations with local ingredients, local food, a working model of a canal lock, hay rides, childrens games that were a part of our heritage, giant bubble blowing, ice cream eating contest, and much more.  
The Apple Blossom Festival starts at 9 AM and wraps up at 4 PM. 
The event is free and food will be available at reasonable prices.

“Archealogical” Find

Refrigerator on Molly Stark BywayThis image is of a refrigerator door some 76 miles east of us on the Molly Stark Byway in Brattleboro, Vermont. If you look closely you will see a clipping, almost
10 years old, of an article by Glenn Griffith and a color photo of the Sept 22, 2005 presentation at Union Station, Washington DC.

Who says that the Byway story is not getting out there?

By the way, it’s my mother’s refrigerator and the image is by cousin, Marcia Hamilton.

Byway Origins

New York State Transportation Law Article 349-bb defines a “scenic byway” as a transportation route and adjacent area of particular scenic, historic, recreational, cultural or archeological characteristics which is managed to protect such characteristics and to encourage economic development through tourism and recreation. This is the story of the Mohawk Towpath Byway.

“Richard White-Smith proposed a byway as early as 1994, when I first started on the planning process for what became the Mohawk Valley Heritage Corridor,” says Karen Ingelke. White-Smith became a member of the MVHC Commission.

In May 1998 the New York State Department of Transportation called for proposals for new scenic byways. Richard identified and proposed the eastern end of MVH Corridor, specifically Schenectady to Cohoes and Waterford, as a good candidate. Karen Ingelke, the Commission’s Executive Director, suggested the “Mohawk Towpath Trail Scenic Byway” as the name, “Mohawk” to tie it with the River and the Native American influence and “Towpath” to tie in the Erie Canal and that portion of the history when draft animals provided the transportation power. Isabel Prescott, another member of the MVHCC at the time, recalls Richard White-Smith’s enthusiasm for a scenic Byway through the “…agricultural landscape linking the areas if innovation and industry at both ends.” Isabel adds that Karen Ingelke and Richard White-Smith were early advocates and the source of the vision of the Mohawk Towpath Byway.

The Mohawk Valley Heritage Corridor Commission obtained an FHWA Byway Grant to draft a corridor management plan for a byway.

Both Henrietta O’Grady and I sat on the Saratoga County Heritage Trails Committee. She represented the Town of Halfmoon and I represented the Town of Clifton Park. One of the key features of a county wide system of interlinked trails included heavily cycled Riverview Road and the Towpath Trail in the Vischer Ferry Preserve. These bicycle and pedestrian routes overlapped the proposed byway and it’s corridor. My curiosity was peeked by announcement of a public meeting to discuss the byway proposal at the Vischer Ferry Fire House on March 2, 1999. I recall that the major discussion revolved around standardization of signs: way-finding, interpretation, and recreational access signs associated with byway branding. Following the meeting I drafted and Henrietta O’Grady edited a letter of support. That letter firmly placed both Henny and I as members of the early advocacy committee.

“MVHC hosted a bus tour of the byway that included OPRHP folks, some MVHC commissioners, and interested parties along the proposed trail. There was great enthusiasm among the travelers to move forward on a corridor management plan for the byway. Barbara Henderson was the MVHCC staff person assigned to the byway project.  Isabel Prescott and Chris Callaghan were very involved during the planning period,” adds Karen Ingelke.

Barbara Henderson commuted all the way from Oswego to attend monthly advocacy committee meetings.  Her tenacity, attention to detail, and ability to inspire volunteers to contribute details, work together for a common goal, and share over political boundaries assured the project’s success.

Final Presentation to NYSDOT

Barbara Henderson making the final presentation to the NYSDOT Byway Advisory Board.

By late 2001 Barbara had guided the advocacy committee to complete a Corridor Management Plan which was presented to the N Y S Department of Transportation.  The State Byway Advisory Committee, chaired by David H. Fasser accepted the plan and recommended that the Mohawk Towpath Byway become one of a network of New York State Scenic Byways.  Working with the area’s state legislative representatives, the advocacy committee assisted in preparing legislation, sponsored by Senator Hugh Farley and Assemblyman Ron Canestrari, which passed both houses of the State Legislature. The bill was signed into law by Governor George Pataki on July 22, 2003.

For her accomplishment Barbara Henderson was named “Mother of the Byway” by the newly constituted Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway Coalition, Inc.