50. Genesee Valley Canal Historic Site


Genesee Valley Canal Historic Site – located off NYS Route 436 at the intersection of Oakland Road in the town of Portage. Here the Genesee Valley Greenway and Trail 7 (part of Letchworth State Park) converges and offer a moderately easy trail along a short stretch offering up close views of an extremely complex engineering feat. Canal Locks 54 – 60, constructed of stone and wood timbers, were built to raise boats to compensate for the steep elevation. Lock 60 marks eastern end of Deep Cut and was the last lock on Canal for nine miles. For a longer walk the trail continues westward to on the east side of the Genesee River along the edge of the gorge eventually ending at the abutment where the aqueduct was constructed to carry the canal across the Genesee River into Portageville.

Construction of the Genesee Valley Canal started in Rochester in 1837, reaching Mt. Morris by 1840. A junction to Sonyea opened in 1841 and then a branch was built to Dansville, completing 52 miles. Extending the canal through to Nunda and Portage was most challenging as workers battled the area’s most rugged terrain along the Genesee River gorge. The total rise in elevation to be overcome by this hand--dug ditch was over 900 feet and eventually had to cross the Genesee River on an aqueduct 40 feet high. After years of delays, 17 locks between Nunda and Portageville (Wyoming Co.) were completed in 1851.

When the last segment connecting to the Alleghany River was finally finished in 1862, railroad transportation outpaced canals, forcing the Genesee Valley Canal to close by 1878. Railroads rapidly became the primary mode of transportation as they crisscrossed the entire county. Although the Genesee Valley Canal was short-lived, the lasting effect expanded job opportunities for thousands of new immigrants, opened markets for the area’s abundant goods, and overall enriched the quality of life for residents.