Champlain Canal Guide: Fort Edward to Whitehall

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The northern Champlain Canal region departs from the Hudson River and utilizes a mostly artificial channel to Whitehall. Fort Edward, named for a fort used during the French and Indian War, is a common overnight location for those transiting the Champlain Canal.

Hudson River Dredging Project

The Hudson River Dredging Project is a massive environmental cleanup effort to remove polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from the Hudson River deposited by a former General Electric (GE) plant located upstream. This superfund project is intended to remove years of built-up PCB-laden sediment. GE is handling the cleanup under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency oversight and the effort is expected to last through 2016.

From a boater's prospective this means that there is a significant amount of vessel traffic here. Fortunately after a massive dredge operation in 2009, the 2010 navigational season is supposed to be dredge-free. There will still be activity here though, core samples, monitoring, and other related work will be conducted. Thus boaters should be kept up-to-date on the latest Notices to Mariners provided by the NYS Canal Corporation. For the most up-to-date information, call 1-800-4CANAL4 and press option 3.

Fort Edward

Fort Edward Yacht Basin
Docking Free (48 hrs)
Services Power
Water
Restrooms
Showers (coin)

Upon approaching Fort Edward, Lock C7 becomes visible on the eastern shore. Directly adjacent to the lock is a narrow channel leading to the Fort Edward Yacht Basin and the main channel of the Hudson River is to the left (not navigable).

Fort Edward is where travelers of yesteryear would depart the Hudson River and head through the woods to meet up with Wood Creek and eventually Lake Champlain. Its name comes from the fort that once protected this passageway during the development of the country. Across the town there are many different historic sites to explore, and many have free floating docks.

Fort Edward Yacht Basin

The town terminal wall, called the Fort Edward Yacht Basin, that provides free docks with power (15/30 amp), water, bathrooms and (coin) showers. Boater's choosing to enter the channel to the Fort Edward Yacht Basin, historically had to be very careful of channel markers and their depth. Historically, because of the PCBs located in the sediment, the basin was not dredged and spoiling made it a challenge to access. Fortunately dredging done during the 2009 year has opened the basin up considerably, and it is currently much less an issue. Nevertheless, it is wise to be mindful.

A short walk from the wall brings you downtown where there are shops, restaurants, a small hardware store, library, Catholic church, and a Stewart's (convenience store) that serves ice cream. Roger's Island contains a welcome center and recreated fort that is worth a visit. It can be reached by foot via the bridge adjacent to Stewart's or docking to its own floating dock (see Cruising Guide Charts).

Lock 7

Lock C7
Phone (518) 747-4614
Lift 10

Leaving the Fort Edward Yacht Basin takes one back along the same channel, again being mindful of depth and channel markers. If continuing through Lock C7, call before leaving to ensure that the lock will be ready when you arrive. While it is tempting to just turn the corner around the lock, give the lock plenty of space, as you do not know if a vessel is exiting, or if the lock is dumping water creating strong currents which may cause loss of control of your vessel.

Lock C7 marks where the Champlain Canal parts ways with the Hudson River and travels in an largely artificial channel to Whitehall. Once on the high side of Lock C7, a Canal Corporation maintenance site is on the north shore. Proceed at no-wake speed until clearing the cement wall. After passing under the State Route 4 bridge, a floating dock comes into view on the north shore. This is another public dock (no services) provided for access to historic sites and a nearby park. This makes a nice stop to stretch legs. Nearby is the old junction lock, which connected the current Champlain Canal with the old Champlain Canal when industry was still using the former canal in the first part of the 20th century.

Fort Edward Junction Lock

With the construction of the modern Champlain Barge Canal there was a need to allow boats to still make use of the old Champlain Canal that ran through the heart of Fort Edward and allow access to the Glens Falls Feeder Canal. To do this a junction lock was constructed that would allow boats to raise up to the height of the existing canal (the new canal was lower) and then continue on the old Champlain Canal until its junction with the Glens Falls Feeder Canal.

This lock is located in town on the north east side of the intersection of Argyle Street and Broadway (Route 4).

Lock 8

Lock C8
Phone (518) 747-5520
Lift 11

Continuing on to Lock C8 is an uneventful two miles, beside passing the newly created dredging plant which processes the contaminated sediment removed from the Hudson River. This begins the very scenic stretch of the Champlain Canal. Trees and farms fields line this stretch to Whitehall; its not uncommon to see cattle drinking right out of the canal. Overnighting at Locks 8 to 11 provide very quiet surroundings, much unlike any other stretch of the New York Canal System, though they have no power, water or other services.

Lock 9

Lock C6
Phone (518) 747-6021
Lift 16

Lock C9, located in the town of Smith's Basin and six miles from Lock C8, is the first lowering lock for northbound boats, lowering boats 16 feet from the canal high point of 140 feet above sea level. It is very similar to the other locks on this stretch of the canal; it is in the quiet country side which makes it a nice place to stop and enjoy some solitude. There is docking on both the upper and lower side of the lock, with picnic tables located on the upper side. The lower side has a very nice wooden dock with old fashion street lights.

Note that there is no Lock C10; Lock C11 is north-east by nine miles.

Siphon Spillway

People stopping for a break at Lock C9 should take a walk to the south east side of the lock. Of note here is a unique spillway that was developed specifically for use on the canal system. During times of heavy rain the canal waters rise quickly. To combat large fluctuations in water levels, the canal uses spillways, similar to dams, to allow this excess waters to divert safely from the canal. At lock 9, there was not enough space to fit a conventional spillway, so a new spillway design was developed.

Utilizing about one-third to one-fifth the space, this spillway carries water through internal passageways utilizing the siphon principle. With clever design, these four independent siphons start and stop automatically depending on the height of the water. A conventional overflow overtop of the dam permits floating debris to bypass the lock.

Boaters should say clear from the lock, it may appear that there is little flow nearby, but a majority of the flow remains unnoticed as it is through the underwater passageways.

Fort Ann

Fort Ann is located halfway between Fort Edward and Whitehall on the artificial section of the canal. There is a small floating dock located near the Clay Hill Road Bridge (C-23) that is available for walking into town (no services). There is a Cumberland Farms (convenience store) just north of the dock by a block and three former Champlain Canal Locks located nearby the docks as well. This area is being redeveloped into a park and the locks have been cleared for easy viewing. This makes a worthwhile spot to stretch your legs and get basic supplies as the supplies in Whitehall are a long walk away.

Lock 10...or lack thereof

There is no Lock 10 along the Champlain Canal (similarly there is no Erie Canal Lock 31 or Oswego Canal Lock 4). Original blueprints created for the Champlain Canal were varied such that the lock was no longer necessary. To do this, the other nearby locks were adjusted to provide the necessary lift.

Rather than renumber the lock numbers on the blueprints, which were hand drawn, the lock number was simply omitted. It would also have been confusing to renumber the locks because the canal was built in small sections. Renumbering locks 11 and 12 after many documents had used these numbers could have possibly created confusion and perhaps a major building error.

Lock 11

Lock C11
Phone (518) 639-8964
Lift 12

Lock C11 is another secluded lock for those who appreciate a quiet night. It is the final stop before Whitehall, Lock 12 and Lake Champlain. The lock is nine miles north of Lock C9. Lock C12 (and Lake Champlain) is only 7 miles away.

Whitehall

Whitehall Harbor
Docking Free (48 hrs)
Services Power
Water

Whitehall is at the junction between the Champlain Canal and Lake Champlain and is considered the birthplace of the American Navy. It is the last stop before the canal ends and the lake begins. It offers numerous marine facilities and restaurants. This is the last time to dock for free until you reach some of the northern parts of Lake Champlain. For sailors, once through Lock 12 it's time to put up your masts, and then wait until the lake opens wide enough to safely sail.

The Skenesborough Museum, located at the free terminal wall, is a must stop for anyone interested in the history of the formation of the United States, early travel, early wars and the building of the canals. There is much history to be learned as well as many artifacts to see; its a great way to spend a few hours. Also the Skeene Manor, located atop the hill across from the terminal wall, is now owned by a preservation group and does tours and meals. For more information, see the desk in the museum or lock master.

Whitehall Terminal Wall

The Whitehall Terminal wall is located on the south side of Lock 12, and is part of a larger canal side park. Note: the free power (and water?) that was once provided is no longer available. Reportedly there are bathrooms and showers located in the adjacent fire house / city hall (unconfirmed).

Lock 12

Lock C12
Phone (518) 499-1700
Lift 15.3

Lock C12 is located right in the heart of old Whitehall, seven miles from Lock C11. This unique lock is in the center of the historic part of town and makes for a nice place to walk to. There is a bridge crossing the canal/river over the lock which gives a unique prospective of boats locking through.

The lock lowers boats 15.3 feet from the Champlain Canal into Lake Champlain. The lock master can be reached by phone at (518) 499-1700. Southbound boaters are required to use the east wall because the lock only fills from the east side, this single sided fill is due to building constraints discussed shortly. Northbound boaters can make use of either wall.

Wood creek enters Lake Champlain here in Whitehall. Historically this is the location of the final lock on the Champlain Canal. As such, local mills and other buildings were built in the area utilizing creek's water supply. When the canal was enlarged to today's size, the existing mills, buildings and residences in Whitehall ideally would remain intact, while also allowing the proper depth of pool of water to be created. This required the location of a lock at this location, but it would be significantly wider than the old lock. This wider lock impedes the natural flow of water. To combat this, an innovative spillway was used.

Siphon Spillway

Developed specifically for use on the canal system, which was the first known use of such a spillway, it uses internal siphons to allow large amounts of water to flow past the dam without a large horizontal distance. Utilizing about one-third to one-fifth the space, this spillway carries water through internal passageways and over it in the conventional sense. Six internal and independent passageways use the siphon principle. With clever design, these siphons start and stop automatically depending on the height of the water. A conventional overflow is also used here. This provides a location for floating debris to bypass the lock. This passage is not sufficient in size alone to bypass waters in times of high water.

This spillway is located perpendicular to the flow of the creek, opposite the lock. It can be best viewed from the bridge above. The siphon outlets are by design below the water line. The main inlet is also submerged under water during the year. But if the water flow low, like found during late summer the upper air inlet holes which are designed to break the siphon may be visible. In such a case you can be assured that the siphon is not working at its full potential. Boaters need not worry about its currents as it is located away from navigable waters.

Mills and power-generating stations

This area where the river meets the lake historically has provided a location for lumber mills and boating building operations. The lumber mills and boat building companies are long gone, but adjacent to the siphon spillway is the remains of an old mill. The mill was converted into a hydroelectric station and today provides electricity utilizing the excess flow from the river.

Lock 12 Marina

Located just north of Lock 12, Lock 12 Marina (518-499-2049) has created a business model around the transient boat up to 65 feet in length. The marina offers the usual transient services ($1.50/foot/night): power (30A), water, gas (volume/BoatUS discounts), diesel (volume/BoatUS discounts), pump-out, marine store, and restaurant. In addition to these basic services, the marina also offers free internet wi-fi, mast stepping services, hotel rooms with AC and private baths within the Finch and Chubb Inn (owned by same management).

Whitehall Marina

Also located just north of Lock 12 is Whitehall Marina (518-499-9700). This marina is also serves the transient boater with overnight docking at $1.50/foot, power (30A/50A), Wi-Fi, a restaurant, marine store, pump-out, water, gas, and a boat ramp. Whitehall Marina is also a boat repair shop and can fix most anything.

Liberty Eatery

Liberty Eatery, 16 N. Williams Street, Whitehall, NY 12887, (518) 499-0301. Amenities include electricity, water, and restaurant.

Lake Champlain

After leaving Lock C12 and Whitehall, you are officially on Lake Champlain, though the lower third of the lake feels more like a river than a lake. Channel markers change shape here and should be observed closely until into the wider waters of the north.


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