Erie Canal Cruising Guide

The Erie Canal is the longest canal section in the New York State Canal System. Beginning at Waterford, NY, the Erie Canal runs generally west following the Mohawk River, Lake Oneida, and the Oneida River to Three Rivers Junction where the Oswego Canal intersects. The Erie Canal then continues along the Seneca River to its junction with the Cayuga-Seneca Canal at Kipp Island and then on through mostly manmade land cuts to its convergence with the Niagara River at Tonawanda, NY and finally Buffalo, NY and Lake Erie via the Black Rock Canal.

Navigation Season

The navigation season for the Erie Canal is the same as for the rest of the New York State Canal System: early May through November from 0700 to 2200 daily. However, prior to Memorial Day and after Labor Day these hours are typically restricted to 0700 to 1700 daily.


The Erie Canal stretches approximately 279 NM (321.1 SM or 516.7 KM) from lock #E-2 in Waterford, NY to lock #E-35 in Lockport, NY. From lock #E-35 on to the junction with the Niagara River is an additional 15 NM (17.3 SM or 27.8 KM), then 12 NM (13.8 SM or 22.2 KM) to the Black Rock Lock and finally 4 NM (4.6 SM or 7.4 KM) to Buffalo, NY. This is a total distance of 310 NM (356.7 SM or 574.1 KM) from the Hudson River to Lake Erie.

Aids to Navigation

Red markers are kept to starboard west bound the entire length of the Erie Canal.

NOAA Chart #14786 provides coverage of the Erie Canal system with the exception of a small section of the western end between Lyons, NY and Tonawanda, NY for which no chart coverage exists.

The individual charts can be viewed below:

Chart Pages for the Erie Canal
Erie Canal - Waterford to 3 Rivers Jct. Erie Canal - 3 Rivers Jct. to Tonawanda
14786-E40 14786-E26 14786-E14 14786-E07
14786-E39 14786-E25 14786-E13 14786-E06
14786-E38 14786-E24 14786-E12 14786-E05
14786-E37 14786-E23 14786-E11 14786-E04
14786-E36 14786-E22 14786-E10 14786-E03
14786-E35 14786-E21 14786-E09 14786-E02
14786-E34 14786-E20 14786-E08 14786-E01
14786-E33 14786-E19    
14786-E32 14786-E18    
14786-E31 14786-E17    
14786-E30 14786-E16    
14786-E29 14786-E15    
14786-E28 14786-E14    

Available for download, Erie Canal Lock Chamber Waypoint’s. These are in .PDF file format and zipped to reduce download time. This file is available for your personal and private use.


There are 34 locks on the Erie Canal. All Lock chambers are the same as the rest of the NYSCS; 328 feet long and 45 feet wide.

Photos of each lock can be viewed here:

Lock E2 Lock E14 Lock E26
Lock E3 Lock E15 Lock E27
Lock E4 Lock E16 Lock E28A
Lock E5 Lock E17 Lock E28B
Lock E6 Lock E18 Lock E29
Lock E7 Lock E19 Lock E30
Lock E8 Lock E20 Lock E32
Lock E9 Lock E21 Lock E33
Lock E10 Lock E22 Lock E34
Lock E11 Lock E23 Lock E35
Lock E12 Lock E24  
Lock E13 Lock E25  

A complete listing of the Erie Canal Locks with distances, lifts, and estimated transit times can be viewed at the Erie Canal Lock & Transit Page. Available for download.

Channel Depths

From Waterford, NY to Three Rivers Junction, project channel depths are 14 feet with 13 feet over the lock sills. Three Rivers Junction to Tonawanda, NY you have 12 feet in the channel and over the lock sills.

Bridge Clearances

Minimum bridge clearance from Waterford to Three Rivers Junction is 21’ 4" at normal pool level and 19’ 2" at maximum pool level.

Minimum bridge clearance from Three Rivers Junction to the Niagara River is 15’ 7" at normal pool level and 14’ 8" at maximum pool level.

For a complete listing of Erie Canal bridges, guard gates, and utility crossings along with their clearances, visit the Erie Canal Bridge Clearances Page. These tables are available for download.


All lockmasters maintain a watch on VHF channel 13.

Speed Limits

The speed limits for the Erie Canal except in the vicinity of the locks and unless otherwise posted is as Follows:

Transit Times

As a general guide, Albany to Oswego, NY will require about 3 days and Albany to Buffalo about 5 to 6 days depending on your speed.

Distances between major ports along the Erie Canal can be found on our Erie Canal - Distances Page. The distances table shown is useful in planning overnight stops while transiting the canal and is available for download.

Notice to Mariners

The latest navigational information can be found at Canal System Notice to Mariners. Anyone planning to transit the canal system should check these notices for last minute information on closures and restrictions.

All tables mentioned above including: Lock Chamber Waypoints, Lock & Transit Table, Bridge Clearances, and Distances between Ports can be downloaded as a single file. Erie Canal Passage Pack - Download

New York State Canal Menu

Introduction to the NYSCS

Federal Lock at Troy, NY

^ Scroll to Top