Dam Construction at Vischer Ferry

Construction of the dam across the Mohawk River at Vischer Ferry started during the construction season of 1907.  By the end of the following construction season a coffer dam had been constructed between the south side of the river to Goat Island and construction of this segment of the dam was well under way.
Construction in the south segment of the dam in 1908..
Note that the horizontal top of the berm and towpath of the Enlarged 1842 Erie Canal can be seen below the tree line on the north side of the river in the right background.    This photograph must have been taken from the top of the upstream head wall of lock 7 as shown in the back ground of the following photograph. North wall of Lock 7 under construction in Oct 1908. Photograph from the Mycon Collection
Construction of the north wall of Lock 7 is taking shape in this October 1908 photograph. In the foreground we can see form work for the down stream gate pocket under construction. The forms for the upstream gate pocket have not been removed. In the background to the left we see a couple of buildings of a large complex of shops and construction support buildings. In the right background one can see three barges on the 1842 Enlarged Erie Canal just above the coffer dam.
Construction of the early Power house.
Construction of Lock 7 is and the dam is functionally complete in this October 1911 photograph. Progress on the construction of the early power house slices through the 1842 Enlarged Erie Canal. The towpath of the canal is seen in the foreground. This construction promptly brought an end to any remaining Erie Canal traffic that used draft animals as propulsion. All traffic in 1911 was using steam power.
An interesting footnote to this construction is added a century later. During the flooding that occurred after Hurricanes Irene and Lee the earth dam between Lock 7 and the bank of the Mohawk on the opposite side of the river had to be reinforced on an emergency basis when seepage was noted undermining that small portion of the dam. Thousands of yards of fill was brought in and placed on the toe of this earthen portion of the dam. Had this part of the dam failed the downstream flooding in Vischer Ferry all the way to Crescent would have been much worse. With this emergency fill Lock 7 was again functional by December of the same year.


XmasHappy Holidays to the Volunteers that make the Mohawk Towpath Byway what it is today and to all of those who live, work and play within the Byway corridor.

May we all have a prosperous, exciting and rewarding
Happy New Year!

We will be celebrating our tenth year as one of America’s Byways® in 2015. Join in our festivities starting with a Family Moonlight Ski on the evening of January 1, 2015. If snow conditions do not permit we will try again on January 29, 2015.

Giving Tuesday

On Thursday we gave thanks.  Friday we had some good deals.  Saturday highlighted small businesses.  Monday was the day for cyber deals.  Here it is Tuesday, a time to give back.

This is a great day to renew your membership in the Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Byway.  Or better yet give a membership to someone who loves their community, the outdoor experience, their heritage.  This is a time to make a donation to the Byway Coalition* in memory of a departed friend or family member.  This donation will be tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.

Help us to develop the story of the Byway and the Canal.  One of our goals is to spread the word of the richness of our area – not only it’s history, but it’s recreational offerings throughout the Byway – including the Mohawk River.  We need input to develop projects that insure the future of this important resource. - Susan Lasker

Also spread the word about the Annual Meeting of the Friends of the Byway set for 7 PM next Tuesday, December 9, at the historic Grooms Tavern.  Refreshments will be served.


* The easiest way to donate to the Byway is to drop a check in the mail to Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway, P O Box 90, Clifton Park, N Y  12065.

Lock 7 Dam Overlook

View from OverlookStand at the Lock 7 Dam overlook at the foot of Sugar Hill Road.  Can you visualize what this view must have looked like to native peoples?  You would see Goat Island in the middle with rapids cascading down shale bedrock on either side of the island.  Many of our present day town roads follow old trails used by native peoples.  There is reason to believe that Riverview Road follows one of these pre-European historic trails west and Sugar Hill Road follows another north.

Glacial ice and meltwater played a major role in the geologic and landform development of the Mohawk Valley.  Prior to the last glaciation, the Mohawk drained south from Schenectady and joined the Hudson River near Coeymans, NY. Following glaciation, this route was buried by glacial sediments and a much larger ‘Iromohawk’ river drained through the valley. For a period of a few hundred years, while the St. Lawrence Lowland was blocked with ice, the Iromohawk conveyed the drainage of the Great Lakes and the meltwater of the eastern Laurentide ice sheet through the valley.  The Iromohawk cut wide channels across the Hudson-Mohawk Lowland, deposited cobble-sized gravels in many locations east of Little Falls, and eroded bedrock between Rexford and Cohoes, forming the route the modern river follows today.  - The Mohawk River Action Agenda, NYSDEC, 2012

Under Chapter 532, Laws of 1922, the Superintendent of Public Works was authorized to develop the potential water power at the Barge Canal dams located at Crescent and Vischer Ferry. All Contract work at both plants was completed in 1925. The equipment at each plant includes two 2800 Kw, 0.8 power factor, 3 phase, 60 cycle, 2300 volt, 90 rpm vertical generators, each directly connected with a 4.000 hp, reaction-type, Francis turbine. The generators were furnished by General Electric. Both power plants were officially conveyed to the Power Authority of the State of New York on 13 March 1984 by the New York State Department of Transportation. In 1987 the Power Authority added 6,000 kilowatts of capacity to each plant, more than doubling their capacity. The additional electricity replaced about 3,200,000 gallons of oil annually. The vertical turbines were purchased from Voith Hydro of York, Pennsylvania. Both the Crescent and Vischer Ferry dams and powerhouses were rehabilitated at this time.

Friends Clean Up

Cleared Farmer's Bridge South Abutment  - photo by Paul Olund

Cleared Farmer’s Bridge South Abutment – photo by Paul Olund

The Friends had a very successful and fun work detail on the Byway on Saturday, November 8. This was a great first step in the project to improve recreational access to the Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve one of the key assets on the Mohawk Towpath Byway. Eight volunteers spent over two dozen hours clearing brush from the historic farmers bridge abutment just east of Clutes Dry Dock. This will make it easier for the design team to obtain access to the site to begin detailed design of a replacement bridge.

 I was only able to help out for an hour and a half. But I was totally amazed at just how much work got done between 9am and 10:30 when I left. There was a huge pile of cut brush and limbs at the north side abutment and I think Paul, et al were just getting warmed-up!

I can’t wait to get back down there and see what it all looks like. Maybe we can plan another one in the spring.

- Bill Gutelius

Clearing for a short trail from the end of Ferry Drive for a car top boat launch into the Mohawk River.

Clearing for a car top boat launch into the Mohawk River.  Stony Creek enters the Mohawk in the closest cove.  Kayak and canoe access will be in the foreground.  Photo by Paul Olund.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the Preserve another crew was clearing an access from the end of Ferry Drive for a car top boat launch into the Mohawk River.  A crew of five volunteers devoted 11 hours to this portion of the project.

These two efforts made a significant contribution and an early start to a project to improve recreational access on the Mohawk Towpath Byway.  The volunteer effort becomes a part of the local match for a Federal Highway Administration Byway Grant administered by the New York State Scenic Byways Program at NYSDOT.

Bike the Byway

The best way to see the Byway is at a slower pace.  No matter what time of the year, you always see something that you would not normally see through the windshield.

One such opportunity occurred recently with the Bike the Byway event.  This year it was a short casual ride focusing on the eastern end of the Byway.  Seven riders led by Jerry Burr with John Scherer providing historic interpretation and Carol Burr providing culinary support made a memorable experience with beautiful weather conditions.

Bike the Byway crew at Cohoes Falls.

Bike the Byway crew at Cohoes Falls.

Key stops on the ride included the fight of locks, the harbor and Peebles Island in Waterford; historic Van Schaik Mansion and the Falls in Cohoes; and the Church Hill Historic District in Halfmoon.

I think Carol Burr’s recipe for oatmeal cookies should have it’s own page in the Mohawk Towpath Byway cookbook.  She says they are easy.  “Start with a mix, but add an extra cup of oatmeal, cranberries, and white chocolate chips.”  I think her secret is a bit of cinnamon and cloves to make them so special for the Byway.

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National Trails Day Ride

On Sunday, June 8, you are invited on a very casual bike ride along the Mohawk Towpath Byway and the Trails in the Vischer Ferry Preserve.  Meet at the Vischer Ferry Fire House at 360 Riverview Road and make sure your bicycle is in top shape.  This ride will include stops at several scenic and historic points of interest such as old Erie Canal features. Historian John Scherer will provide commentary. Rain at start cancels ride. For more information call Clifton Park Town Hall at 371-6667Check the online listing the day before the ride to see if there have been any changes or cancellations.  Cell 518-225-1041 on the weekend.

“This ride is not only a fun and informative way to celebrate National Trails Day, but historically it has included some of the best home backed treats available on the Byway,” reports Eric Hamilton.

Fresh Ideas

A Shenendehowa High School graphic arts class wrapped up their fascinating and exciting experience learning about the Erie Canal and the historic waterway west. They submitted their ideas for a new logo for the Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Byway today. The Friends have nearly two dozen fresh ideas to choose from that reflect diverse, yet passionate understanding of the Byway.  Image – photographs by Sallie Way and Eric Hamilton.

We will all have a tough time picking out a new logo from all of the fantastic ideas.  The suggestions by the Shenendehowa High School students can be viewed in an on-line slide show. The selection process will involve the whole Friends community.  Stay tuned for more on this in the near future.

Flash Mob

This weekend is an active one for all of us on the Mohawk Towpath Byway.  There are many local festivals, local events and local businesses are putting their best face forward.  Mother Nature is starting to put on her annual show as the seasons change.

We also have many visitors to the Byway as evidenced by the number of cell phone calls to our audio tour.  The Friends tried something new as well.  The Clifton Park kiosks have, over the last three years, developed a grimy coating that made it harder to see the detail in the presented images.Flash mob Friends styleEnter the Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Byway and the kiosk panels look brand new with a wash and wax job.  Thanks goes to Maryanne Mackey, Sue Lasker, Barb Hamilton, Ann Gutleius, Bill and Will Gutelius, and Eric Hamilton.  The results pictured above, speaks for itself.  And any bigger mob we would have been getting in each others way?