Travel Back In Time Along the Canals of Washington County

The canals of Washington County, New York were marvels of engineering for their time! From the early 1800’s until the late 1920s, these canals were a common method of transporting both people & goods. Now, they provide a wide variety of recreational opportunities for curious visitors & history buffs alike.

Did you know? 2023 marks both the 200th birthday of the Champlain Canal and the 35th Anniversary of the Feeder Canal Alliance!

To celebrate, we’re highlighting some of the area’s best ways to experience our historic canals. Whether you prefer hiking, paddling or driving as you explore our man-made waterways, you’ll discover incredible scenery, charming towns & living history everywhere you look.

If you’re planning a trip to Washington County, you’ll want to add one of these neat stops to your itinerary! And remember, if you’re interested in learning more about the history of the canals of Washington County, visit one of the many museums & historical societies in the area.


About the Alliance:

The Feeder Canal Alliance is a not-for-profit organization created to preserve, promote and maintain the historic Glens Falls Feeder Canal, the last remaining original canal in New York State. Their work has helped transform the canal system into a scenic recreational destination, great for those of all interests.

Read on to learn more about the many canals of Washington County, including the Champlain Canal, the Feeder Canal and more!


The Feeder Canal & Towpath Trail

Photo from the Feeder Canal Alliance


Breathtaking scenery in both directions! That’s what you’ll find on the Glens Falls Feeder Canal Towpath, which runs from the Feeder Dam in Queensbury to Mullen Park in Fort Edward.

This park & bike trail is a great place to get outdoors & enjoy the unique historic setting of Washington County’s canals & related infrastructure. Be sure to check out their number of interesting events throughout the year.

Or, adventure by paddle board, kayak or canoe! Launch at Feeder Dam in Queensbury and meander your way down to Martindale Boat Basin on Martindale Avenue in Hudson Falls. There, you can leave a second car to save you the return trip “upstream.”

Along the route are several landmarks of note, including:

The Five Combination Locks

The Five Combination Locks are a surviving testament to American engineering, and has well-earned its spot on both State and National Registers of Historical Places.

To increase the efficiency of the canal, this series of 5 locks was installed, each 100 feet long & 15 feet wide. All together, they lifted or lowered a boat traveling the canal by about 55 feet within an hour and 15 minutes! For insight into how this was done, stop by & check out the detailed signage at this park on Burgoyne Ave. in Hudson Falls, NY.


The Feeder Canal Coal Silos

Photo from the Feeder Canal Alliance, of one of the Coal Silos’ Open House events


These historic canal-side coal silos from the early 1900’s were once part of the Griffin Lumber Co. They used to hoist coal to the silos from barges in the canal using a horse-powered pulley system. Now, these well-known landmarks have been converted into the Howard Raymond Field School classroom for education, community events & programs of all kinds.

Plan a visit during one of their periodic Open Houses to learn all about canal life & commerce in the 1800’s! Fascinating dioramas, authentic canal memorabilia, expert insight & informative imagery help bring the area’s past to life.

Check out these neat local landmarks at 72 Maple St., Hudson Falls, New York.


Champlain Canal Water Trail – Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

In Fort Edward, The Feeder Canal merges with the Champlain Canal, a larger waterway connecting the Hudson River to Lake Champlain. Completed in 1823, the Champlain Barge Canal is now an incredibly popular area for hiking, biking, fishing and more.

Washington County’s segment of the Champlain Canal travels from the lake’s southern end in Whitehall down to the Hudson River, along some of the county’s most charmingly historic towns, including Fort Edward and Fort Ann.

It is popular with many recreational boaters who travel New York State’s Canal System and the Lakes to Locks Passage. Plus, since the full length of the trail parallels the Erie Canalway National Heritage Water Trail as well as the Empire State Trail, more thru-hikers and bikers discover this enchanting area each year!

If you’re planning on paddling the Champlain Canal yourself, the best place to launch in Washington County is the Fort Ann Landing Kayak Launch Docks.


Get a glimpse into the past at these neat landmarks along the Champlain Canal:

Skenesborough Museum and Heritage Area Visitors Center

Skenesborough Museum, on the banks of the Champlain Canal, one of the canals of Washington County

At the head of Lake Champlain lies Whitehall, the Birthplace of the US Navy. Discover the town’s fascinating history within the walls of The Skenesborough Museum!

The Museum lives within a 1917 canal terminal building, and helps share the story of the area & encourage investigation into the town’s deep roots. Aside from the Museum’s collection of historic artifacts and detailed dioramas, the grounds also features the remains of the sunken U.S.S. Ticonderoga, early firefighting equipment, canal memorabilia and a 1960’s-era D&H caboose rail car.

Stop by to gain further appreciation & context for the ways Washington County helped shape our nation!


Champlain Canal Lock C- 12:

The beginning of the NYS Canal System, the Champlain Canal is one of the two major canals of Washington County.

Near Whitehall’s gorgeous downtown area lies Lock C-12, which lowers boats over 15 feet into Lake Champlain. With a nearby bridge spanning the canal, you can gain a unique perspective into the workings of a modern-day canal lock!

This also lock serves as the gateway to the NYS Canal System, which connects over 500 miles of waterways in the nation’s longest multi-use recreational trail network.


Canal Street Marketplace

Photo from Canal Street Marketplace


Downstream, you’ll find Fort Edward, the governing seat of Washington County. In its center (and a short walk from the Hudson!) lies Canal Street Marketplace. Housed in a renovated 19th century barn, the marketplace now serves as a popular gathering spot for community events, farmers markets, craft fairs and more!

The building is a lovingly preserved piece of Fort Edward history. It had once lived in Fort Ann, but its presence stood in the way of canal expansion. Instead of demolishing it entirely, the building was taken apart & reconstructed in Fort Edward on a former canal wharf. There, it was largely used as storage shed holding lumber, buoys, and canal boats in need of repair for the local wood-shop until the late 1970’s, when it was donated to the town.

Want to experience some unique local festivities? Fort Edward celebrates its closely-entwined relationship with the canals during the town’s annual Locktoberfest event during the autumn harvest season.

Swing by to see what’s going on in Fort Edward & explore the town’s charm! Their variety of adorable shops, delicious restaurants & interesting activities are sure to delight any traveler.


Champlain Canal Lock C-6:

Also worth mentioning, Lock C6 is the northernmost lock on the Hudson River, located in the town of Fort Miller. It was one of the first canal locks built on the modern canal system, yet lifts boats over 16 feet!


The Hudson River Greenway Water Trail

While not a canal itself, the Hudson River Greenway Water Trail follows the Champlain Canal down to the Hudson River as well, though deserves its own special attention! This 256-mile paddler’s dream extends from northern Washington County in the Adirondack Park all the way to Battery Park in Manhattan.

Here are some neat highlights you’ll find along the trail within our county:

Hudson Crossing Park & The Canal Trail

Since the historic Dix Bridge serves as its keystone, The Hudson Crossing Park encompasses both sides of the Washington-Saratoga County border! This area was once a crossroads for Native American travelers and traders traveling the river, as well as a site of importance during the Battle of Saratoga.

Be sure to visit this unique park, built on the Champlain Canal Lock 5. It’s the perfect place to learn about local history while soaking in the beauty of nature! Plus, you’ll love its modern picnic facilities, fishing & birding sites, children’s play garden & miles of scenic trails.


Mildred Denton Wildlife Sanctuary

Gain a different perspective while exploring one of the area’s best places for birding! The Mildred Denton Wildlife Sanctuary borders the Hudson River, and contains stretches of an abandoned canal and an old electric trolley line to intrigue visitors into imagining the past.

New York’s incredible ecological diversity beckons! Explore the preserve’s forests, swamps, thickets & barrens to spot native wildlife in their natural habitat. Or, check out these other amazing locations to see birds in Washington County.


Find more adventure around every turn

No matter which route you choose, adventure awaits on the canals of Washington County! These special historic waterways provide unique opportunities for boating, biking, bird-watching and more.

Explore more fun things to do in Washington County. Worked up an appetite? Check out our delicious dining options!

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