Operations & Public Projects

The NYS Canal System is operated and maintained by the NYS Canal Corporation. Keeping it safe, resilient and ready for your visit are the goals of our Operations & Maintenance team.

The Canal System is 524-miles of navigable waterways including the Erie, Champlain, Oswego and Cayuga-Seneca canals. It also operates and maintains about 150 miles of the Canalway Trail that in its entirety spans 365 miles of hiking and biking paths between Buffalo and Albany, and from Albany to Whitehall. The Canalway Trail is part of the Empire State Trail, the nation’s longest multiuse in-state recreational trail network.
NYS Canal Corporation crews work diligently to perform maintenance on Lock E-2 in Waterford. In the image, workers lower a heavy counterweight as part of the maintenance process, ensuring smooth operations of the lock. Additionally, they lift an 11,000-pound valve into a tunnel, crucial for controlling the flow of water into and out of the lock chamber.

Canals infrastructure

More than a basic network of waterways, the New York State Canals are segmented and managed by a series of locks, lift bridges, guard gates, and movable dams that control water flow and vessel traffic. What follows is an overview of the various structures you might see during your visit.


Enclosures that allow for water level control and must be navigated in specific ways by mariners and paddlers.
A canal Lock is pictured with snow on the rocks next to the Lock. A walkway with yellow railing is on both sides of the Lock and a walkway goes over the entrance of the Lock. Construction workers wearing yellow gear are in the background along with a few vehicles in the parking lot.

Taintor Gates

Vertically moving flood gates with curved surfaces used to control or divert the flow of water.
Up close image of a taintor gate which is a vertically moving flood gate that is used to control or divert the flow of water

Lift Bridges

Movable bridges running perpendicular to the canal, allowing road traffic to cross over and water traffic to pass under while bridges are raised.
Medina lift bridge going over the Erie Canal near the Village of Medina in Orleans County

Guard Gates

Emergency gates used to isolate a damaged section of waterway in case of a canal wall break. 
Cayuga Seneca Lock CS1 guard gate open

Movable Dams

Dams that can be raised or lowered depending on canal flow conditions and navigation needs. 
Moveable Dam on the Erie Canal at Lock E12. Blue skies and green metal bridge. Skies are reflected on the water.

Power Houses

Power Houses are distinctive white buildings found at most locks where, when the NYS Barge Canal opening in the early 20th century, electricity was generated on site to power the lock gates and valves.
Erie Canal Lock E20 Power House building

Operations & Maintenance Work

boat on the canal

The Work We Do

Many of us enjoy the Canal waterways and trails for recreation during the warm weather. Yet, the men and women of the NYS Canal Corporation work year round—in weather from freezing to scorching to damp to windy—caring for our facilities so they are safe, resilient and ready for your visit.

earthen embankment

Earthen Embankment Integrity Program

Through the construction of dam walls made up of naturally occurring "earthen material", the Canal Corporation seeks to restore, maintain, and manage select stretches of the canal that are more than 200 years old.


Environmental Stewardship

Environmental Stewardship is woven into every project the NYS Canal Corporation takes on and is the responsibility of every Canal Corporation employee.

An invasive fish called the round goby is being held in someone's hand. The fish is about four inches long, green with dark speckles and a dark spot on its top fin.

Invasive Species

Invasive species can out-compete native plant, animal and fish species disrupting ecosystems and damaging local economies dependent or recreation.

Kayaking on Mohawk Harbor, Schenectady, NY - Enjoy a serene paddle along the Erie Canal and Mohawk River in Schenectady, NY.

On the Canals

Learn about thrilling adventures and more On the Canals!