Champlain Canal Guide: Albany to Troy
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This chapter focuses on the Champlain Canal from Albany to Troy (albeit this region is not technically part of the canal).
The Lower Hudson River is a long estuary approximately 150 miles long and is named after Henry Hudson, an Englishman sailing for the Dutch East India Company, who explored it in 1609 as far north as Halfmoon, before turning around due to rapids. At that time the river was named the North River, and near New York City the river is often referred to by this traditional name.
The Hudson River was an important part of the western highway during the early 19th century. Tons of goods traveled from the west along the Erie Canal or south down the Champlain Canal to the Hudson River where it was brought to market in New York City.
We start our tour of the Hudson River at Albany. The first stop along the Hudson River is Albany Yacht Club.
Albany Yacht Club
Just south of the Dunn Memorial Bridge, the USS Slater and the city of Albany on the eastern shore is the Albany Yacht Club, one of America's oldest yacht clubs, first organized in 1873. Albany Yacht Club is the only marina in the Albany area of the Hudson River allowing transients overnight.
The club is located on the Rensselaer (east) side of the river, a bit too far of a walk to downtown Albany, but for those looking for an extended stay in the area, it is a short bike or taxi ride away. Within walking distance are a grocery store, pharmacy, deli, diner, liquor store, laundromat, post office, bank, and medical services.
A short cab ride will take you to innumerable restaurants, shopping malls, specialty shops and entertainment facilities on both sides of the river, as well as to the Albany International Airport and the Amtrak rail station. The club is just minutes from downtown Albany, the Empire State Plaza, and the Cultural Education Center.
The club offers gas, diesel, pump-out facilities ($5.00), showers, cable television, wifi internet, bagged ice ($1.25) and canal permits for the New York State Canal System. Most Friday nights one the club host Friday night dinners. Transient rates are $1.50/foot per night with a 25 cent/foot discount for BoatUS members (with proof). Power is an extra $4.95 for 30-amp service and $7.95 for 50-amp service per night.
Albany is the capitol of New York State and original eastern entrance to the Erie Canal. Likewise Albany, and its now sprawling suburbs, are a major attraction along the Hudson River route north to Lake Champlain. The area boast many historic sites, parks, restaurants, stores, and transportation venues.
For the northbound boater the first glimpses of Albany are quite unimpressive. The Hudson River narrows considerably and both shores are lined with loading docks, warehouses and commercial shipping equipment. This is the Port of Albany and marks the northern end of nearly all Hudson River shipping. The port handles many types of cargo, but mainly supplies the entire region with fuel oils. Other commodities included scrap metal, coal and wind turbines.
Once past the shipping port, the city comes into view. On the west side you pass the USS Slater (518-431-1943). USS Slater (DE-766) is a Cannon-class destroyer escort that served in the United States Navy and later in the Hellenic (Greek) Navy. The ship was named for Frank O. Slater of Alabama, a sailor killed on the USS San Francisco during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for gallantry in action. The USS Slater is now a museum ship, the only one of its kind afloat in the United States. You can visit the boat and take an hour-long guided tour, Wednesday to Sundays from 10-4. Adults are $7, kids 6-14 $5, Seniors (65+) $6 and children 5 and under are free.
Looking past the USS Slater, downtown Albany comes into view. The downtown area is rich in architecture, spanning three centuries of New York State. After going under the Dunn Memorial Bridge, the Erastus Corning Riverfront Preserve is along the western shore. This linear park is the home to many summer concerts and is the southern end of a larger linear park system that stretches along the river north to just below the Troy Lock and Dam. There is a set of free docks here, providing a central access point to explore the downtown area of the city. Docking is limited to two hours, and no overnight docking is allowed and be sure to lock your boat and on-board items.
The walk to Albany's downtown starts by walking pedestrian bridge over the highway. From here there are many routes to take, but most turn left on Broadway, then right on State Street. This area is where the capitol building and other historic and interesting building are. Along the route there are numerous restaurants and shops.
If you want some local guidance at the numerous things to see and do, stop the Albany Heritage Area Visitors Center (518-434-0405). It is located at 25 Quackenbush Square, which can be reached by taking a right once over the footbridge and following Broadway (stay on the east side of Broadway) until the intersection with Clinton Ave. Staying on the east side of Broadway, cross Clinton Ave. On this corner is the Quackenbush House, which dates back to 1730, and is the oldest structure in the city. Behind the Quackenbush House is the Visitor's center, accessible by the courtyard on the far side of the building. Inside there is more information for more things to do then you possibly have time for.
The Corning Preserve area was once the original entrance to the Erie Canal (1825-1917). For nearly 100 years, where the boat ramps is located, mule drawn boats would enter the first lock only feet from the river, and then start the long journey west to Buffalo. Historical markers and informational boards throughout the area provide a historical perspective of Albany's rich past.
If you would like to get to a distant location, there are dozens of taxi companies serving Albany. The most reliable method to get a taxi is to walk to the Greyhound Bus Station located nearby. Rather than taking the footbridge, walk south along the river to the Broadway underpass (halfway to the Dunn Memorial Bridge). While under the highway and railroad bridges, look straight ahead. There are two buildings across the street, you will go through the courtyard between them to reach the station.
After going under the highway bridges cross Broadway and head through the courtyard on the right side of Two E-comm Square. The Greyhound Station is located straight ahead and with a line of taxicabs out front.
Hudson River: Between Albany and Troy
Passing Albany and the Corning Preserve is a railroad bridge. The railroad bridge is a swinging bridge, but has 25' clearance at MHW. Most canal traffic, knowing that you need to fit under other much lower, should have dropped their masts and other height restricting items before now. The bridge does swing for necessary commercial traffic though.
The route to Troy is mostly undeveloped, except for the interstate beyond the trees along the western shore. This area, though narrow, is a popular fishing spot, so be prepared for many small local boaters. As one travels north, the scenic river fades away and you enter the city of Troy.
Troy is a city on the eastern shore of the Hudson River north of Albany. This city was once was very prosperous and is home to Uncle Sam of the famous "I Want You for U.S. Army" posters. Samuel Wilson (1766-1854), nicknamed Uncle Sam, was an inspector of army supplies here. The U.S. stamped on supplies was referred to as "Uncle Sam" by the workmen, but it is likely the U.S. stood for United Sates.
Troy's downtown is undergoing a comeback and hosts numerous small restaurants and pubs. The Troy Town Dock provides convenient access to downtown. It also makes a good stop to prepare your vessel for the canal. The downtown area is full of old buildings, antique shops, pottery shops, and other interesting stores that are worth stopping in for a look around. Saturday's Farmer’s market is a great way to gather fresh food direct from local farms.
Today the manufacturing jobs have disappeared, but Troy is home to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Russell Sage College, Hudson Valley Community College and the Emma Willard School. These schools bring in people from around the world and add to the character of Troy.
Troy Town Dock and Marina
Located in the heart of Downtown Troy is Troy Town Dock and Marina. The marina offers boaters free internet, pump out, 30/50 AMP power, restrooms, showers, and courtesy rides to grocery stores, the airport, the train station and bus station. The marina can accommodate boats up to 200 feet in length.
Troy Federal Lock
|Troy Federal Lock|
Located at the head of tidal waters is the Troy Federal Lock and Dam. This is the first lock encountered by all northbound boats destined to the Erie and Champlain Canals. This lock, unlike those on the Erie and Champlain Canals is owned and operated by the Federal Government, as it lies in federal tidal waters. For those that have not locked through before, should take a minute to read locking procedures.
The Federal Lock is slightly larger than the locks on the Champlain Canal and was opened in 1916 as one of the first modern locks along the present day canal system. It contains a single chamber that is 520 feet long, 45 feet wide and 17 feet deep. At normal operating depths, it lifts boats 14 feet, but the tidal change here is about four feet between high and low tide. Unlike the locks on the New York State Canal System, this lock contains no hanging ropes. All boaters must use the vertical poles and wires that are spaced about 25 feet apart. This can be a challenge for smaller vessels, especially if it is your first locking. Be sure to have dock lines ready.
If you arrive before the lock opens or there is going to be an extended wait, there are walls located on both the northern and southern end of the lock for temporary mooring.
Interestingly, the Troy Federal Lock was designed as Lock 1 of the Erie Canal, but due to its location within federal waters and as a cost savings measure the state requested the Federal Government build and operate the lock. The federal government obliged and rather than renumber the locks already designed and under construction, the Erie Canal's first lock was left as Lock 2 in Waterford.
For those traveling northbound, once through the lock, it is another 3 miles before reaching the Erie Canal and Champlain Canal junction at Waterford.
Van Schaick Island Marina
Just north of the Federal Lock, on the eastern shore, is Van Schaick Island Marina (518-327-2681). This marina, now part of a condominium community, has gas, diesel and a pump-out. Other services are unknown.
Troy Motor Boat and Canoe Club
Located across the river on the Hudson River from Peebles Island and the Waterford Terminal Wall, this marina provides electric, pump-out, restrooms, showers, water, trash disposal, gas, and diesel. (518-235-9697)
123rd Street Boat Launch, Lansingburgh
Located across the Hudson River from the Waterford Terminal Wall and two blocks north of the Troy Motor Boat and Canoe Club is the 123rd Street Boat Launch. This boat ramp is a favorite for fishing boats and kayakers, as well as offering river access for land-based fishing.
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