The Erie Canal -- Lauded as the most important engineering feat of its day, the Erie Canal, completed in 1825, created an international highway from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. Shipping costs of flour and other raw materials and manufactured goods were reduced by as much as 90%. The canal stretched 360 miles from the Niagara River and Lake Erie in the west to the Hudson River in the east. It turned Rochester into a boomtown and was instrumental in transforming New York City into a major port, in the process opening up parts of the West for commercial expansion.
The canal diminished in importance as railroads quickly began to crisscross the country, but it is being rediscovered as a tourism waterway. In addition to boating and cruises on the canal, the New York State Erie Canal Heritage trail follows the original towpath along the canal and is ideal for walking, biking, and skiing in winter. Anyone interested in following the canal, by either boat or car, and seeing sights along it should request a copy of Canal Connections from any of the country tourism offices. See also www.canals.state.ny.us.