Schoharie Crossing Historic Site
Schoharie Crossing Historic Site is located at the junction of the Mohawk River and the Schoharie Creek in Fort Hunter. The Historic site is actually not one site, but the collective total of many former canal related remains and a modern visitors center. Specifically remains from the following important structure can be found:
- The only known lift lock dating to the original canal
- A guard lock also dating to the original canal
- Enlarged Erie Canal Lock 28, Lock 29 and Lock 30
- The Schoharie Aqueduct built for the Enlarged Erie Canal.
- Former dams within the creek.
The Visitor Center pulls all these sites together and the nearby modern Erie Canal Lock 12.
The First Crossing
Upon construction of the original Erie Canal, the canal directly crossed the Schoharie Creek. In order to provide a more hospitable environment, a dam was constructed to create a slack water pool that was both deeper and slower moving than the existing creek. During the first few years, mules would board the canal barge and be winched across the river. In 1829 a bridge was constructed and allowed the mules to walk across as normal.
Due to the nature of Schoharie Creek, the dam was breached and rebuilt many times. Boats that dared to enter the creek during high waters risked being swept downstream, and many did just that. To alleviate the risk for the bustling canal, during the enlargement of the original canal a aqueduct was constructed to safely carry boats across the river even in times of high water.
A Second Try: The Schoharie Creek Aqueduct
The need for a safer, faster and flood-proof crossing was evident, and with the success of the canal undeniable at the time, engineers constructed an aqueduct to carry boats high above the creek. The aqueduct was constructed during the years 1839-1841 and consisted of 14 arches. The aqueduct opened in 1845 and was a welcomed improvement to the Erie Canal.
The aqueduct was rehabilitated in 1855 and again in 1873 with the rebuilding of the wooden canal bed.
In 1960 the aqueduct was named a National Historic Landmark, but the condition of it has degraded since it went into disuse. The construction of the modern Erie Canal utilizing the Mohawk River made the aqueduct located here obsolete. Further, to ensure sufficient flow of the stream during flooding and ice flows, seven of the arches were dismantled and removed from the site. Since that time three more arches have fallen during the years 1940 and 1998. Efforts to stabilize the remaining arches has been undertaken, including adding rock-filled baskets to prevent the undercutting of the foundations.
A Final Note
Sadly, Schoharie Creek swept many canal boats over the dam during the original slack water routing. Fortunately the aqueduct carried many across the river safely. But now that the canal indirectly uses the river boats and the Canal Corporation are constantly dealing with changing currents and water levels.
Coming full circle with times of old, on April 5, 1987 the stream's torrent undercut the bridge support to the New York State Thruway (Interstate 90), and lead to the collapse of several sections of the bridge and resulted in the death of ten people. This event resulted in higher standards for bridges and particularly bridge inspections.
|Enlarged Erie Canal|
|Eastern Canal||Lock 28 • Lock 29 • Lock 30 • Original Erie Canal Lock 20 • Original Erie Canal Guard Lock • Schoharie Crossing Historic Site • Schoharie Aqueduct • Lock 33 • Lock 34 • Lock 36|
|Central Canal||Old Erie Canal State Historic Park|