Cover Stories

Exploring the Waterways of New York State

10 Places You Need to Check Out

By Sandra Scott

New York state is blessed with waterways which allow access to all parts of the state.

Throughout the years the waterways were used by Native Americans as they hunted and traded, then came the explorers, namely Henry Hudson.

Hudson was followed by ship after ship loaded with settlers. They settled along the waterways creating towns, village, and cities. They built dams to harness the waterpower and then canals to ship their products.

Today those waterways are still used but no longer bustling as they previously were but the scenery and history along the way make for fascinating travel.

Many businesses offer a variety of options including scenic, dinner and sunset cruises. It is not necessary to own a boat to enjoy the beauty of New York state by water — there are plenty of companies offering tours.

1 — Erie Canal

The Erie Canal system is 365 miles long and spans Albany to Buffalo. There are boat tours on several sections of the Erie Canal but the best way is on a traditional packet boat multiday rental from MidLakes Navigation. The canal is free and there are lock tenders to aid in locking through. Along the way there are tie-up areas, some with electricity and other amenities. There are also many day tours to choose from.

2 — Circle the Island

Most people know Manhattan is an island but the best way to appreciate the entire island and its waterways is on Circle Cruise all the way around Manhattan Island. The guided boat tour takes in every angle of New York City’s iconic waterfront with unobstructed views of the Manhattan skyline, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty. The 2.5 hour cruise passes by all five of New York’s boroughs.

3 — Hudson River

There are several places to take a boat trip on the Hudson, including Kingston, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, Peekskill and Albany. The Evening Star, from Peekskill, is a former US Coast Guard Buoy Tender converted to a 36-passenger tour boat. The Evening Star gives folks an opportunity to witness the spectacular beauty of the land and the rich history woven in and out of the Hudson Highlands.

 4 — The Ultimate

Blount Small Ship Adventures offer a couple of two-week cruises that include the Hudson River and portions of the Erie Canal. One option travels between New York City and Quebec. It includes the Oswego Canal, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River along with the locking through the St. Lawrence Seaway. There are many stops along the way.

5 — Raquette Lake

There are several boat tours on lakes in the Adirondacks. Check out the scenic cruise aboard the W. W. Durant on Raquette Lake. The boat’s namesake, William W. Durant, was the designer and developer of the camps in the Adirondacks now referred to as the Adirondack Camp Style or Great Camp Style. The lakes became the preferred getaway for the wealthy in the late 1800s, including the Vanderbilts and Carnegies. The “camps” were actually rustic mansions surrounded by the forest. Learn about the lake and how the scene has changed over the years on 90-minute sightseeing cruise.

 6 — Niagara River

The most popular way to experience the Niagara River is on the Maid of the Mist which offers up-close and personal views of Niagara Falls. Be prepared to get wet. For an adrenalin rush experience the Whirlpool Jet Boat Ride. Out of Buffalo there is a 90-minute afternoon river cruise where one can learn about the waterways that turned Buffalo into one of the biggest and richest cities in the world.

7 — Finger Lakes

The Finger Lakes are beautiful but most people only see them from the shores or the roads running along these scenic lakes. To get the full effect of the Finger Lakes you have to get on the water itself. Several of the Finger Lakes have boat tours including Seneca, Canandaigua. Skaneateles and Cayuga. One unique trip on Skaneateles Lake is aboard the mail boat.

8 — Lake George

The Lake George Steamship Company offers a variety of seasonal cruises but the most interesting is the six-hour complete tour of the lake on the Mohican. The Mohican, built in 1908, has been offering tours for over 100 years. The fully narrated cruise offers views and information about the mountains, islands, historic mansion, and the lakes current ecological balance.

9 — St. Lawrence River

The New York section of the St. Lawrence River is home to the famed 1000 Islands. There are several companies offering tours of the area including Uncle Sam Boat Tours. Some tours include stops are Boldt and Singer Castles plus a cruise by Millionaire’s Row. The “Night Heron” out of Clayton is a glass bottom boat. The narration on the nearly three hour tour focuses on the ecology of the river. The Antique Boat Museum in Clayton offers a 45-minute ride in 30-foot triple cockpit Hacker Craft.

10 — River Rafting

Looking for an adrenaline rush? If so, check out whitewater rafting on the Black River, Moose River, or the Hudson River. May and June rafting offers the biggest thrills as that is when the rivers run the fastest. Between the rapids there are spells of tranquility for rafters to catch their breath and enjoy the unspoiled splendor of the area. There is also lazy river tubing on the Black River. One company offers an overnight rafting adventure on the Sacandaga River.