Bicycling the Erie Canal; pave it and they will come

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The Erie Canal in New York state may have been known as Clinton's Folly when it opened in 1825, but the canalway has turned into a boon for cyclists and those who cater to them.

Nearly 250 miles of canal route towpaths between Buffalo and Albany has been paved for cyclists, who spend between $100 to $300 a day during their visits, according to the state Canal Corporation.

Eventually, the Erie Canalway Trail will be a 524-mile hike and bike route across New York State on the towpaths of the Erie, Oswego, Cayuga-Seneca and Champlain canals.

The state Canal Corporation, a state agency that oversees the canal, has been visiting communities along the Erie Canal route, such as Lockport and Palmyra, to tout its potential as a bicycle tourist destination. According to an AP story posted at WCAX:

“…bicycle and other outdoor tourists come from high-income households, typically spend between 100 and 300 dollars per day, and will travel significant distances to regions offering a good mix of cycling, attractions, and services.”

I guess times have changed since the typical bike tourist diet consisted of instant coffee, PB&J and Rama noodles and they all slept in tents. Face it, we're all getting a little older and a little more used to creature comforts, such as beds.

The long stretches of towpath along the canal offer plenty of scenery. The canal with its boats is always at hand and railroads pass by in certain locations. See the Bicycling the Erie Canal website for more.

Communities along the canal route are hosting the 3rd annual Canalway Trail Celebration on June 3. More than a dozen cities are hosting festivities. Also a 400-mile bike ride — Cycling the Erie Canal — across New York, using the canalway in places, is scheduled July 9-16 this year.

You can check an interactive map of the Erie Canalway Trail system at the Canal Corp. website to see which sections are open for cyclists. Parks and Trails New York publishes the “Cycling the Erie Canal Guidebook” which is available for about $17.

The Canalway Trail System is comprised of four major segments, according to the Canal Corp. website. They are:

The 100-mile Erie Canal Heritage Trail in Western New York; the 36-mile Old Erie Canal State Park Trail in Central New York; the 60-mile Mohawk-Hudson Bikeway in the eastern Capital Region, and the eight-mile Glens Falls Feeder Canal Trail in the foothills of the Adirondacks near Lake George. In addition, there are smaller segments of Canalway Trail.

Remember the Erie Canal song? You can sing it as you pedal.

Low bridge, ev'rybody down!
Low bridge, for we're comin' to a town!
And you'll always know your neighbor,
You'll always know your pal,
if you've ever navigated on the Erie Canal.

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