The Erie Canal was a major key to westward expansion in the United States, presenting a much better way to get goods from the East Coast to the Midwest and agricultural products and mined resources back again. Nearly 30 years after it was proposed, construction of 34 locks began in 1817. At a time when there were no railroads or good roads, water was the only efficient shipping method. The Canal lowered transportation costs by 95% and as one would imagine, commerce went gangbusters. In the Canal’s peak year, 33,000 commercial shipments were towed by mules on boats that skimmed the water. The Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway is a series of local, county and state highways that follow the historic route of the Erie Canal between Schenectady and Waterford in upstate New York. As you travel the Byway, you’ll learn the story of the Mohawk River, Erie Canal, the waterway west and the part communities played in the westward expansion of the country. To make the story come alive, the Byway developed an audio tour that reveals the special places along the Mohawk Towpath. You can access the tour by dialing 518-649-9990 on your cell phone.
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