Mid-Lakes Canal Cruises Offer Idyllic Way to Explore Upstate New York

Mid-Lakes Canal Cruises Offer Idyllic Way to Explore Upstate New York

Summertime, and the living is easy.

That’s particularly true if you’re cruising the New York State Canal System at about 7 mph on the Emita II.

Mid-Lakes Navigation offers all-day, two- and three-day cruises aboard the Emita II, a double-decked tour boat that accommodates up to 42 passengers. Tours depart from Syracuse, Oswego, Amsterdam, Buffalo and Macedon.

Doug Wilson, of Macedon, recently took the daylong cruise from Syracuse to Oswego along the Oswego Canal, which runs 23.7 miles and connects Oswego to the Erie Canal at Three Rivers, where the Seneca, Oneida and Oswego rivers converge. The cruise passes through seven locks and includes a side trip to the H. Lee White Marine Museum in Oswego.

Wilson started taking Mid-Lakes Navigation canal cruises in 1994, and found them so relaxing that he has taken close to a dozen since. His original goal was to traverse all four canals—the Eastern Erie Canal, the Western Erie Canal, the Oswego Canal and the Cayuga-Seneca Canal. Once he did that, he began to retake the cruises in reverse.

“The different sections of the canal system offer very different experiences,” he says, noting that the eastern section, which runs along the Mohawk River, is his favorite.

“Along the eastern section, the river gets wider the further east you go, so there are massive dam structures at each lock,” he says. “The central section passes through some small towns and undeveloped areas—the edges of the canal there are often irregular. The western section, which is man-made, is uniform in width. It passes through 11 canal towns and has a 60-mile stretch with no locks, but 15 lift bridges that must be raised to allow boats to pass.

“If you haven’t done them all, you haven’t gotten the full experience.”

The Emita’s captain is Dan Wiles, now in his 31st year at the helm. Wiles notes that almost 30 percent of his passengers have sailed previously with Mid-Lakes.

“With the wide-open spaces, the wildlife and the scale of the canal system, these cruises are a lot more picturesque than first-time passengers expect,” he says. “It keeps them coming back for more.

“The biggest charge I get is from hearing passengers say this was the best vacation of their life, and so much more than they expected.”

Mid-Lakes Navigation was founded in 1968 by Dan’s father, Peter Wiles Sr., and remains a family business. In addition to the one- to three-day canal cruises, Mid-Lakes offers self-skippered canalboat charters, and sightseeing, dinner, jazz, brunch and lunch cruises on both the Erie Canal and Skaneateles Lake.

For more information on Mid-Lakes Navigation cruises, which run through early October, go to http://www.midlakesnav.com or call 315-685-8500 or 1-800-545-4318.