September 13, 2000 - Amsterdam, NY - N 42° 56.906’ W 74° 12.745’
Little Falls proved a very agreeable layover with its 30 amp electricity and free showers. We hiked to grocery and did laundry and I explored while Chris put in a couple days work. Little Falls is tucked away under looming stone and forest hills on each side of the Mohawk. Once a major portage, the first attempt at canal building along the Erie corrider took place here in the 1790s when 5 locks were built around the falls. Today one lock replaces them. It is the highest lift on the canal at 41 feet. The lock's lower gate rises up like a gigantic sluice way door. This lock drops you down quite quickly. You almost feel your are in an elevator with your boat. And you just keep on going-more than 3 stories down into a slime covered chamber. The steel clad walls loom high overhead and dozens of jets of trapped water arch out from them through pin hole leaks. This lock has concrete walls 30 feet thick at the base and the culverts that let water in and out are 9 feet in diameter. Despite the massive volume of water moving around, the descent is very smooth-one big silent flush. Finally at bottom a deep toned boom followed by a drawn out groan that sounds like the world's ending sounds as the 120 ton lift gate rises slowly. As it goes up a 90 ton concrete counterweight descends. You pass under both of them as you exit.
This lock really show cases massive scale American industrial engineering c 1912. After this one, the rest of the locks stepping us down to sea level by 8 to 10 foot intervals were an anti climax. The heavy rains of Tuesday night left us with a notable current perhaps a half knot pushing us along. As we headed east the Adirondack foot hills to the north and the Catskill mountains to the south pressed inward looming over the river and forcing rail, Thru way and canal together. We were so close to the main rail line we could wave to the trains on our left and get a toot back. And to our right semis roared west on the highway a few yards and another world away. We could easily read the road signs-190 miles to New York City, as we chugged along at 6.
The Mohawk is one of the few rivers that breaches the highland barrier that runs form Canada to Georgia and as such has been a major transport corridor for 350 years. Today though unlike the 19th and early 20th century nearly all that traffic is land based. We saw a handful of boats on the canal this weekday and often were the only boat in the lock. We pulled into Amsterdam in late afternoon and settled in at the lock for what looks to be a quiet night. Hopefully we'll push on possibly to sea level waters tomorrow.
Tied up at Lock 11 in Amsterdam