Mark and Heather Rutherford from Sydney, Australia, recently visited a portion of the Western Erie Canal on their boat Bushranger. When they purchased their boat, a Marine Trader 38’ Trawler, from a former Great Looper and began planning for their 6500-mile Great Loop Expedition, they had never heard of Wayne County, much less Lyons, NY.
They knew for sure that they would be forced to make the long loop in segments. Why? International laws allow them to stay in America only five months at a time!
Now, five years after beginning the Great Loop, Mark and Heather are hoping to finish the final segment of the loop, or, as the sailors say, “They are hoping to cross their wake” before the current five-month period ends.
Mark and Heather planned to cruise on Lake Ontario but wanted to experience a portion of the famous Western Erie. They also hoped to experience the “feel” of the original Erie Canal. What better place than Wayne County, especially Newark and Lyons.
They visited Western Erie history in two locations: Newark and Lyons. They docked in Newark and then walked to Lock 28B. There they were given a tour of the facilities. Then they walked to the remains of the Enlarged Erie, Locks E 58 and E 59.
After arriving in Lyons, they were given the now-famous “Erie Canal Land Tour.” Mark and Heather followed the 3-mile open Clinton’s Ditch from North Canal Street to Lock Berlin. Along the way, they photographed themselves sitting on a driveway- bridge over the canal, and then passed the original Hotchkiss peppermint fields, the Pilgrimport Store, the Lock Berlin post office and barn, and visited the remains of Lock 65 from the first Erie Canal.
They left Lock Berlin and headed back to Lyons. They followed the route of the second or Enlarged Erie Canal. Along the way, they visited and marveled at the craftsmanship of Lock E 54, noted the proximity of the CSX Mainline Railroad, and visited the former dockage on the Enlarged Erie. The dock was used for transporting beets to the Empire Sugar Beet Factory, once identified by the New York Times in 1900 as the most modern factory on the canal! The area is now part of the NYS Empire Trail.
The tour ended behind the former American Legion Building, atop the former canals and mule trail. Indeed, Mark and Heather had now “felt and experienced yesteryear on the Early Erie Canals: the walking distance, the isolation, the probable loneliness, the engineering, stone cutting, and the longevity of pride and craftsmanship.
According to Mark and Heather, “A tour like this gives you an incredible insight into the labor and sacrifices of those who came before us. This is truly History Alive! It almost seems that we have taken an old-time canal journey together!
A journey in time - together - with Mark and Heather from Australia- International Camaraderie!