Posted on May 26, 2006

It was the busiest lock on the Erie Canal. In its heyday around 1880, it served 47,000 vessels a season – one boat every four minutes – on the Empire State's most famous waterway.

Today, Lock 23 in Rotterdam is not well known with the exception of bikers and walkers who might give it a glance as they pass along an overgrown section of the Mohawk Bikepath.

On Saturday, a group of students, faculty and staff from Union College will clear brush and small trees from 9:30 a.m. to noon.

The project will reveal Lock 23 as a marvel of engineering, its meticulous stonework nearly as neat as it was century ago. The lock was important historically as a busy transfer point for the overland route to Albany, which avoided waiting at locks in Cohoes and Waterford. Due to high volume, Lock 23 was expanded to a double lock. The lock doors are gone, but an observer can get a sense of what it was like as boats passed through.

Prof. Andrew Morris

Students and faculty from Union's civil engineering department led by Prof. Andrew Wolfe rehabilitated the lock over a four year period ending in 2003. That work included rebuilding the wooden pier on the west end of the lock, and installing a replica of a locktender's hut, the yellow and brown building on the site.

“I hope that this is a step in a longer term program of preserving and promoting this historic structure,” said Andrew Morris, assistant professor of history, who is organizing the event.

Directions to Lock 23:

From I-890 west toward Amsterdam, take exit 2B toward Rice Road.

Follow the exit about one-tenth of a mile to Schermerhorn Road on the left.

On your right, across from Schermerhorn Road,  there will be an unmarked road with a mailbox. Park just beyond this point and walk a short distance to the lock on the right.