German Flatts Canal

The German Flatts Canal was a short canal along the Mohawk River which directly bypassed two sets of rapids, Wolf Rapids and Knock 'em Stiff Rapids, and with an associated dam eased navigation over another rapid. The canal was the third major undertaking of the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company, and utilized lessons learned during the construction of the Little Falls Canal and Rome Canal.


The German Flatts Canal showing the bypassed rapids, canal, locks and dam.
The German Flatts Canal showing the bypassed rapids, canal, locks and dam.

Surveys of the proposed canal called for a 1.25 mile canal consisting of a single lift lock of 12 feet. Futhermore a guard lock was to be built on the western end of the canal to protect the canal during times of high water. Lastly, a set of rapids was located just west of the proposed guard lock - Mohawk River junction. A dam would raise the pool at the rapids, and also ensure that the canal would have sufficient water flow.

The canal was to 24 feet wide at the surface, 4 feet deep and 12 feet wide. Learning from building of the Little Falls and Rome Canals and the availability of resources, the decision was made to make the locks of stone. This means that these locks were the first in the state to be build originally of stone and thus the remains today of the guard lock are the oldest stone locks in the state.

In 1797 the canal bed was dug and in the following year the locks and dam were built finished.

German Flatts Canal in use

The German Flatts Canal was in use for just over 20 years, and its 20 years were mostly uneventful due to being built well during its inception. The stone locks held up very well and were not ever replaced, something that cannot be said of the other canals of the day (The Rome and Little Falls Canals were built first of wood, then brick and finally stone at much waste to the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company.

The Erie Canal eventually replaced the need for the German Flatts Canal, and they ran nearly together in the general area of the western half of the canal. Infact the Guard Lock and the Erie Canal Lock 41 are only a stones throw from one another, with some remains from both still present.

The German Flatts Canal Today

Another round of canal improvements came with the 1903 Barge Canal Act and the area near the German Flatts Canal as once agian altered. This time though, the route was not crossed, rather the Barge Canal was routed to the south. This route did fill in the area where the old dam was located though. Also, the lift lock has gone the way of erosion or human destruction and no traces have been found. Therfore the only remains visible is the dry canal bed where it was not aligned with the Erie Canal and the tops of a few rocks of the Guard Lock. There are numerous remains of the Erie Canal in the area, including Lock 41, the dry canal bed and bridge abutments. © 2006-2013. All Rights Reserved. With assistance from Uptick Analytics.