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Home » Locks CS-2/3 At Seneca Falls, NY

Locks CS-2/3 At Seneca Falls, NY

The Cayuga-Seneca Canal used to be an important commercial waterway, supplying the power for the factories and the transportation of raw materials and finished goods to and from the factories which sprang up all along the Cayuga-Seneca Canal System (click here). Its hay days were from 1821-1862. Even thought it has been modernized and taken over by New York State, its main purpose today is to serve as a waterway for the enjoyment of those who are fortunate to live along the canal and for the many thousands of pleasure boaters who make their way along the canal in the summer months.

The two locks at Seneca Falls are indeed impressive, providing a lift of 49 feet from the Seneca River to the east to Van Cliff Lake at Seneca Falls to the west. The locks themselves are 300 feet long (a football field in length), 43.5 feet wide (why 43.5 feet?), and providing a 12 foot draft for a passing boat or barge.

Watching a boat pass through the locks is a great laboratory lesson in physics as several principles of physics are illustrated at the locks: Archimedes Principle explains why a boat floats (A body is buoyed up with the same force as the weight of the water it displaces) and that two bodies of water when connected will seek the same level. As the boat enters the lock, the gate behind the boat closes and the Lock Master then allows the water trapped in the adjoining lock to flow into the first lock, thereby raising the boat until the water in the two locks is at the same height.

The next gate can then be opened and the boat passes into the second lock. The process is then repeated: close the gates behind the boat, open the valves which allow the water from Van Cleef Lake to flow into the second lock, and watch the boat rise up to the level of Van Cleef Lake. The last step is to open the gate and allow the boat to pass onto Van Cleef Lake which is some 49 feet above the Seneca River. Very cool stuff!

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