The New York State Canal System has announced its opening day for the 524 miles of waterways. Recreational boaters can take a leisurely cruise free of charge -- there are no tolls or fees in 2022. With everything else costing and arm and a leg, that's a breath of fresh air.

All parts of the canal system will open Friday, May 20th at 7 a.m. The canal system offers 80 public boat ramps at various locations along its path.

Photo by Ryan Thorpe on Unsplash
Photo by Ryan Thorpe on Unsplash

When it was first constructed, the canal system opened up the United States in new and exciting ways. Connecting Lake Erie in Buffalo to the Hudson River in Albany via a 363-mile manmade waterway once seemed like a pipe dream. Before its construction, cities like Philadelphia and Baltimore were bigger and more powerful than New York. But within five years of the canal, New York became number one. And suffice to say, the canal put cities like Utica, Syracuse and Rochester on the map.

While it may not be moving much freight in the 21st century, the canal system is still rich with history. And much of the 100+ year-old technology that operates the canal's locks are still in use today. If you've never seen one in operation, it's worth checking out: boats sail into a chamber that's closed on both ends with giant metal doors. If a boat is reaching a higher elevation, water from the higher-up waterway slowly fills the chamber, raising the boat to the appropriate level. Water will drain from the chamber if the boat is going lower. It takes 15 or 20 minutes for a boat to pass through a lock.

Those interested in recreational usage of the canal system should check out the lock schedule at this link.

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