The Erie Canal: One of the greatest landmarks of civil engineering in the United States and the world. Built in 1825, the canal is 584 kilometers long, extending from Albany, the capital of New York to Buffalo at the mouth of Lake Erie and at the border to Canada. It was built with a purpose: to expand the settlement in the new world, provide commerce to the state of New York and a travel to its neighbor to the north. Countless bridges, locks and aquaducts spanned the canal before it was replaced by an even wider, more efficent New York Barge Canal in 1918. Even then, when the original Erie Canal was made obsolete, many of the structures remained in place, waiting for residents to take note of them and reuse them someday.
The Nine Mile Creek Aquaduct, located near Camilus, is one of the prized structures that one should see while visiting New York. The aquaduct was built over the creek in 1841 when the Erie Canal was enlarged to provide more traffic. It features a five-span limestone arch bridge while the decking of the bridge featured wooden decking that was strong enough to hold several thousand cubic feet of water, carrying the boats safely over the creek. It was one of the first aquaducts built to carry water and marine traffic in the US.
Sadly, when the State Barge Canal was opened in 1918, the original Erie Canal was abandoned, and with that, all the locks, bridges and aquaducts were either left abandoned, partially removed to allow nature to take its course, or were relocated to the newer canal. The Camilus Canal had its wooden decking removed, but the arch spans remained abandoned for over 90 years.
Fortunately, a group of citizens recognized the importance of this aquaduct and went ahead with the reconstruction project. Apart from making repairs on the arches, they rebuilt the wooden decking of the bridge, using glulam, a series of wooden beams which were held together with glue, and they refilled it with water. It was rededicated in 2009 and today, the aquaduct is still in use, as part of the Erie Canal that is used for recreational purposes and designated as a national heritage site by the National Park Service (it was recognized in 2004). You will find that listed on the National Register, along with the other artefacts that belong to the once prestigious canal that was a contributing force to the expansion of the United States. According to historians, this is the only remaining aquaduct in the country that is in full operation. You will find this aquaduct along a two-mile stretch connecting Sim’s Museum and Warner’s Park at the eastern edge of the original Erie Canal. According to Marc Scotti at the New York State Department of Transportation, a boat tour along the canal is available with dining possibilities, even though one will have to consider planning ahead when visiting the region. There one will have the opportunity to see a work of art that took a group of residents, financial support and a lot of technical know-how and dedication to restore.
Author’s note: There will be more articles on the bridges along the Erie Canal and the northeast region in the future. This is just a taste of what you can see when driving through the region. The bridge has been nominated for this year’s Ammann Awards under Bridge of the Year, together with five other historic bridges.