Navigation Information

Explore vital information about water depths, navigation and rules on the New York State Canal System to enhance your boating experience.
In the industrial charm of a Waterford canal lock, two cabin cruisers patiently await passage. The foreground vessel's captain peers into the distance, binoculars in hand, while the companion boat's captain stands on deck.

Navigation Information with Water Depths

A detailed map highlighting the interconnected waterway system of New York, including the Western Erie Canal, Oswego Canal, Eastern Erie Canal, Champlain Canal, and the Cayuga-Seneca Canal. Major rivers like the Genesee and Hudson are noted, alongside important landmarks such as Utica Harbor and Onondaga Lake.
Hudson River (Albany to Waterford)
Champlain Canal (Waterford to Whitehall)
Eastern Erie Canal (Waterford to Three Rivers)
Oswego Canal (Three Rivers to Oswego)
Central Erie Canal (Three Rivers to Montezuma)
Cayuga-Seneca Canal (Montezuma to Cayuga)
Western Erie Canal (Montezuma to Tonawanda)

How to Lock Through The Canals

Step 1: Approaching the Lock

On approach, hail the Lock Operator on Marine Channel 13, call using your mobile phone, use the On the Canals Boater App (where available) or by sounding three blasts on your horn to signal that you are approaching and require service. A red light indicates that the lock is not ready. Maintain a safe distance and stand by for a green light. Before entering the lock, ensure that fenders are properly positioned. 
A person stands on a yacht as it navigates through a canal lock under a partly cloudy sky. The lock, identified as number 16, has its gates closed, and a small control booth is visible nearby. The surrounding area is lush with greenery, and flags fly above the lock. The scene is bright and serene, capturing a moment of boat travel through a canal system.

Step 2: Entering the Lock

A green light means that you are clear to proceed ahead. Enter the lock slowly and maintain line of approach. Once inside the lock chamber, station your vessel alongside the lock wall as directed by the Lock Operator.
A yacht gently enters the open gate of Lock E16 on the Erie Canal, under a bright sunny sky, surrounded by lush greenery.

Step 3: Inside the Lock Chamber

During the lockage, keep the bow and stern of your vessel close to the wall by looping line either to available holding apparatuses (pipes or cables, where available) or by holding the lines provided (except non-Canal-owned lock at Troy Federal, which only has pipes and cables). Do not tie lines. Serious injury can result from using your hands or feet to fend a moving boat off of a wall. Use a boat hook, paddle or oar. Do not wrap lines around hands or feet as lines may tighten and cause injury.
A yacht securely moored inside the lock chamber of Lock E17 on the Erie Canal, with crew members standing on deck under a clear blue sky, flanked by lush green foliage.

Step 4: Exiting the Lock

When the lock gates have fully open, take in your lines and shove off away from the wall. Proceed slowly out of the lock chamber. Maintain “lock limit” speed before increase to cruising speed. 
A yacht slowly exits the gate of Lock E16 on the Erie Canal, gliding past a stone and metal gate structure under a clear blue sky, surrounded by lush foliage.


Vessels may moor at Canal Corporation docks or terminals up to 48 hours during a calendar month. Mooring at these facilities is free, with services such as electric, water and pumpouts available for a fee. Vessels looking to moor longer than 48 hours must apply for a permit. These permits are typically reserved for commercial or non-recreational vehicles, barring extenuating circumstances. 
The image shows a canal with several boats docked along the sides. People are gathered on the walkways beside the canal, and there are tents set up, indicating a festival or event taking place. The water is calm and reflects the surrounding trees and buildings. This scene is from the Seneca Falls Canalfest event.

Lock Through Videos

View a time lapse video of Ascending in a Lock

View a time lapse video of Descending in a Lock

Navigational Aids and Rules

Aids to Navigation

Aids to Navigation on the New York State Canal System conform to the U.S. Coast Guard lateral system of buoyage (red right return). Note that buoyage reverses from red on starboard (right) to red on port (left), north of Champlain Canal Lock 12 at Whitehall, and on the entire length of the Oswego Canal.

Failures and displacements of navigational aids may occur. Please report discrepancies in navigational aids to the Canal Incident Call Center 24/7 at 833-538-1042.

Navigational Charts

The Canal Corporation recommends that boaters carry the latest edition of navigation charts on board - Chart #14786. Charts may be downloaded from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) or through NOAA Certified Printers, and at some local bookstores, marinas and boat chandleries. Charts may also be downloaded from the rightmost column of the Navigation Information with Water Depths pages above. There are no NOAA charts available between mile 222 and 337 of the Erie Canal (including the Genesee River). Symbols, abbreviations and terms used on paper and electronic navigational charts can be found on U.S. Chart No. 1 and supplemental information difficult to portray in a nautical chart in Coast Pilot 6.

Rules, Regulations, Registration

All mariners must to adhere to the U.S.C.G. Inland Navigation Rules.

Recreational mariners should be aware that there are minor differences between state and federal boating regulations, the more stringent of which apply. Boater Safety Courses are listed on the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation website.

No sewage may be discharged into the New York State Canal System. Additionally, no grey water may be discharged into Lake Champlain.

All mechanically propelled vessels - regardless of size or fuel type - operating on the waters of New York State must display numbers showing valid registration in the principal state or country of use, or, if in transfer, be able to produce U.S. Coast Guard documentation. Human powered vessels are exempt from registration requirements as well as Lock & Lift Bridge fees.

All vessel operators and visitors are advised to exercise extreme caution and stay well clear of all dams!

No Discharge Zone

The entire New York State Canal System is a "no discharge zone." Boats are banned from discharging sewage into the canals and must instead dispose of sewage at specially designated pump-out stations.

Discharges of sewage from boats can contain harmful levels of pathogens and chemicals such as formaldehyde, phenols, and chlorine, which have a negative impact on water quality, pose a risk to people's health, and impair marine life. View more information on marine sanitation devices and pump out stations.

Sailboat Mast Stepping

The minimum clearances of overhead structures (bridges, guard gates, and utilities) range from 15.5' to 21' for different sections along the canal; so sailboats need to de-mast prior to entering the system. Sailors looking to cruise within the canal system, as opposed to transiting through, may not want their masts and rigging with them (in order to conserve deck space), and so may leave them at select facilities. Below is a list of marinas that perform mast stepping, and additionally which ones store masts.

Listings of commercial and municipal enterprises are a courtesy to our audiences and provided for information purposes only. Identification or reference to any particular enterprise does not constitute or imply its endorsement, favoring or recommendation by the Canal Corporation. Contact enterprises directly for their most accurate information.

Hudson River – East end of Erie Canal / South end of Champlain Canal

Lake Champlain – North end of Champlain Canal

  • Chipman Point Marina, Orwell, VT (802) 558-4574, Mast storage.

Lake Ontario – North end of Oswego Canal

Cayuga Lake – Cayuga-Seneca Canal

  • Johnson Boat Yard, Ithaca, NY (607) 272-5191

Seneca Lake – Cayuga-Seneca Canal

Lake Erie – West end of Erie Canal


Masters of foreign flag vessels must report arrivals immediately to U.S. Customs at the first U.S. port of entry. Boaters entering Canadian waters must contact a reporting station at their first opportunity.

Detailed instructions can be found on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Canada Border Services Agency websites or by calling:

  • U.S. Customs: (800) 827-2851
  • Canadian Customs: (888) 266-7277
A dynamic scene at the Waterford canal, where three boats navigate through a narrow lock under an imposing steel bridge. The leading boat's crew appears engaged and ready for the lock passage, with two members at the bow, one gesturing towards the lock's exit. Water cascades down from the lock's side, adding a sense of movement to the moment captured.
A boat is cruising along a calm river, surrounded by lush green trees on both sides. The water is smooth, reflecting the sunlight, and there are patches of green vegetation floating on the surface. In the background, a mountainous landscape adds to the scenic view.

Bridge Heights and Canal Speed Limits

Navigate safely on the New York State Canals by respecting speed limits and ensuring your vessel fits under bridges with proper clearances. View our detailed speed limits, safe boating practices, and bridge height information.

An aerial view captures a vibrant array of kayaks clustered near the lock on the Erie Canal, painting a lively waterborne mosaic. The canal's dark waters contrast with the bright colors of the kayaks and the lush greenery of the banks, illustrating the joy of recreational paddling on this historic waterway.

Listings for Locks, Lift Bridges, Guard Gates & More

A serene day on the canal is depicted with workers aboard a vibrant blue and yellow maintenance barge, diligently tending to the waterway's upkeep. In the background, lush green trees line the banks, while a leisurely white cabin cruiser boat glides by, reflecting the perfect blend of work and play that characterizes the canal's environment.

Commercial Shipping and Towing

Explore commercial shipping and towing on the New York State Canal System.