Walk with Me - Volunteer Schoharie Crossing photographer & contributor to MVTTL takes you on a walk along the trail

Walk with Me

by Jenny Galough

Volunteer Schoharie Crossing photographer and contributor to Mohawk Valley Through the Lens takes you on a walk along the trail

Often times, when thinking about Schoharie Crossing you either think about the Aqueduct, Empire Lock, Yankee Hill Lock or the Erie Canal as a whole. When I head out, I head straight for the Towpath Trail starting at Yankee Hill which scenically connects the two locks. It is roughly 2 miles to get to Empire when leaving from Yankee Hill. The Towpath travels right in between the Mohawk River and the Erie Canal.  While Schoharie Crossing  has preservation and the beautiful Schoharie Creek at its doorstep, the nature trails and historical context spanning from Ft. Hunter to Amsterdam keep me coming back to explore.

Let’s Go for a Walk
Traveling west, you will have the river to your right and the canal to your left. The Towpath is a grass covered, fairly level trail. It is very easy to walk, just be sure to watch for fallen sticks as you would on any tree lined path. The first .40 of a mile goes very quickly, once at this spot you will notice a clearing in the trees off to the right where you can see down to the Mohawk River, and Pepper Island across the way. Here is where I take a minute to just stop and stare at the water; just enjoying the scenery and my surroundings.  Moving on, you will notice a slight curve in the path which makes it feel almost enchanted. The trees are dense and in the late summer the greenery layers up for a whole different feel.  You should definitely plan a summer visit.

The First Mile
As the trail curves back you will notice the old Wemp Homestead across the canal, off to your left. There is very large symmetrical home which sits on the southern canal bank. In front of you, a sign with some great information about the Enlarged Erie Canal and its relevance to successful traffic demands in the mid-1830s. You will have to visit the marker to learn more! You are half way to Empire Lock at this point.

Moving on!   
Just ahead about 1.5 miles in, there will be an amazing moss covered, fallen tree on the left side of the trail. It spans across the whole Canal and undisturbed nature has just improved it over time. 
This too is ever changing throughout the seasons. If you aren’t looking for it you may miss it, but that’s OK, you can find it on your way back. With the final half mile before Empire Lock approaching, notice the quarry on your left.  I have a tendency to stop here as well, I listen, look and wonder. Some thoughts that come to mind are: the importance of that quarry and how it was used to build the canal walls, as well as, how the canal looks now compared to how it may have looked in the 1800s. All of these thoughts play into how truly significant the original canal was for the transportation of goods.

Empire Lock
Wow! With so much to look at and take in- that 2 miles went quickly. Straight ahead you will come into Empire. First you might notice how grand it is! That’s because it’s enlarged, 110’x90’ compared to the original 90’x15’.  Notice the side by side lock chambers which allowed boats going in opposite directions to utilize the lock at the same time. The enhanced canal also allowed for larger barges to take advantage of the Erie Canal.

Let’s Head Back

Just because we are going back the same way we came doesn’t mean we won’t find something new to explore.  Now headed east, it’s a whole new direction and perspective.  And, look at that- half mile on the right, there is the handy work of a resident canal beaver. What an exciting discovery! The little guy chewed threw a whole tree and it now rests at a 90 degree angle. You again will pass the quarry, this time on your right, if you look through the clearing over the canal you will notice a ledge, up there is where the Canalway Trail is, you are travelling parallel to the bike path. The nature and wildlife never ceases to amaze me on the Towpath, tomorrow, there could be something totally new and different to look at!

Almost Done!
Trekking back the last mile, I enjoy the Mohawk River views, listen to the train heading westbound along the North side of the river, the birds chirping and the pesky squirrel off to my right down in the canal.  I think about everything that I have just taken in; the towpath, its relevance, my location, and how vital this canal is to New York as a whole.  In total, we will have travelled about 4 miles, it took us just over an hour and a half to complete, with a couple of short stops along the way. There are a lot of great reasons to get outside and explore what is right in our own backyard. Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site lends the perfect opportunity for nature, historic preservation, waterways and overall health and fitness. I hope you will plan a visit to the Towpath and maybe pack yourself a picnic to enjoy at Yankee Hill Picnic area for when you get back!!


Did you enjoy Jenny's work? Check out her post on the old Wemp Barn by clicking HERE!


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