This is the second of several articles on the interesting stories of the old canals. They are sent to us by Wm. H. Somers, Box 9, Rome, New York.
It happens that the most obliterated canal around here is perhaps the most picturesque in that there is so much of the stone work left. I am talking about the Black River Canal. One thing you can say about this canal is that it went up hill. It started in Rome and went to Lake Ontario by way of Booneville and Watertown. A few miles north of Rome in Boonville Gorge there is one lock right after another. One outstanding feature, in fact is the five lock combine; that is to say, one lock entering directly into the next with one gate serving both locks.
Roads have been the main downfall in preserving this canal. It was there before the roads were and took the most desirable routes for roads. After the canal was closed the road builders either went directly down the canal bed or often took away one bank. That is why you often see half a lock standing by the road. The aquaduct is still standing below Delta Dam. Delta Dam is named for a village which is no more. When they built the Barge Canal, they needed a large supply of water, so they dammed up the Mohawk River just below Delta, and now there is a very deep lake, Lake Lelta, there.
On occasion they drain the lake, but there is not much left to see on the bottom. But there are still traces of a feeder canal.
In Mr. O'Donnell's fine book 'Snubbing Posts' he includes a map of the canal as far as Booneville. One day we went to try to locate all these locks and the other points along the way which are shown in photographs. Baker Falls was quite a cascade in the picture, taken probably fifty years ago. We had never heard of that before, so we went to look for that. It was easy enough to find. And it was quite high, as falls go in this area. But it was dry as a bone. It is just an example of how radically things change in just a few years.
The aquaduct across the Mohawk River just below the village of Delta is still there in fairly good shape, except for some grass growing out of the mason-work. Now it is at the foot of Delta Dam, and fisherman use it as a bridge from which to fish the pool below the dam.
The canal was so successful in its day that the railroad got the idea of putting a line along side of it. The project never materialized, but work was done on a road bed for it, and if you keep a very sharp look out .... the area is pretty well over grown . . . you can see traces of it through Booneville Gorge. They dug a tunnel through one of the hills, but that is really hard to find, since they closed up the ends.
I think that 'Snubbing Posts' makes the Black River Canal seem even more exciting than such books as 'Rome Haul' do the Erie Canal, because there is such a difference in the amount of activity in the Black region since the canal is gone. The Erie Canal was replaced by the N. Y. State Barge Canal, and of course the New York Central main line follows about the same route. But where the Black River Canal went there is not much to take its place, and the towns which were described as being so busy are now quitted country places, many of whose residents commute to the city to work. The other day I ran across an advertisement for boat service from Carthage to New York. Of course, the canal offered service from a lot further than that, but today that service seems incredible.
I have a store located right on the bank of the canal, but I don't see too many boats going by when I look out the window. What I do see is a six lane highway with enough cars zooming by to give the old mules a nervous breakdown. Before they put the new road in, the canal bed at the north end of town was the city dump. It makes us canal buffs shudder just a bit.