Open Historical Map/Projects/Waterways

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Mapping historic waterways, most commonly canals.

United States

New York State Canal System

New York State in the United States has a number of historic canal systems. The best known is the Erie Canal, finished in 1824 and reconstructed & moved substantially twice. Of similar importance but less fame is the Champlain Canal, built at the same time as the original Erie Canal. There are various subsidiary canals associated with the Erie and Champlain canals. The modern canals are well documented in OpenStreetMap.

The route of the first Champlain Canal is present in OHM. The northern section is primarily derived from a modern USGS Topo as the features are still fairly identifiable. The section in Fort Edward is based on the 1830 survey map, as it contains details of the cutoff to the Hudson River that was used in the early years of the canal. The route of the canal in the area of Waterford and Cohoes is based on various period maps including Sanborn Fire Insurance maps from the LOC collection.

The Erie Canal was initially completed in 1824. It was then expanded (wider, deeper, with doubled locks and in some places relocated) over the course of a number of decades. The Enlarged Canal was declared complete in 1862 although some sections had not yet been completed. Also, keep in mind that some elements of the enlargement process started before the state officially started the project to expand canal capacity.

The map is a work in progress. It has been modeled from its Albany NY terminus north to Cohoes, NY, and for the Enlarged Canal, slightly beyond to the aqueduct over the Mohawk River, through Schenectady, and and perhaps 50% of the path to the area around Fort Hunter. 1834 survey maps were used in parts of Albany and Waterford. Modern features such as Erie Boulevard in north Albany, Canal Street in Menands, and Erie Boulevard in Schenectady are known to be related to the route. The ruins of several locks are clearly visible in modern aerial imagery. The Sanborn Insurance Maps of Cohoes clearly show the route the enlarged canal took through town, and part of the route the original canal. The complete original route through Cohoes and along the south bank of the Mohawk is entirely clear and research is ongoing. A surprisingly large amount of the canal route is still clearly traceable in the 1952 USGS aerial image pass.

Resources & References