Making It Work
The Stop Gate
A stop gate divides long stretches of canal into smaller lengths in the event of a break in the
canal. Breaks in the banks of the canal were a common problem on the Erie, and if a break
occurred in a section where there were many miles between locks, enormous amounts of water
would drain away before the break was repaired. Stop gates were closed in emergencies, to
isolate the area where a break occurred, thereby preventing the water in the entire section from
When repairs were finished, the stop gate was opened, water flowed back into the drained
area, and the canal functioned normally again. When closed, this stop gate resembles the angled
roof of a house placed across the canal. When open, this structure collapses to the right and
flattens out across the bottom of the canal.
There were many problems produced by excess water caused primarily by floods. Because
there was no data on precipitation and stream flow to guide the design of culverts, waste weirs,
and dams, much of the engineering was influenced by trial and error.
- 1825 -- Troy dam damaged and Adams Island partly carried away by spring floods.
- 1835 -- Ice swept along by floods badly damaged Schoharie Creek dam.
- 1840 -- State dam, Troy, badly damaged by flood, cost of repairs, $7,728.
- 1843 -- Schoharie Creek dam damaged by flood, 100 ft. swept away.
- 1856 -- Break at Squaw Island, Black Rock harbor; high water caused by gales overflows
banks; damages $12,000.
- 1859 -- 50,000 cubic yards of embankment, slope walls and part of culvert swept away near
- 1866 -- Break 5 miles west of Schenectady; 300 ft. towing-path bank swept into Mohawk
River; cost of repairs, $20,000; navigation suspended 9 days March 16, 17, 18, most disastrous
flood ever known in Oswego, Seneca, Chemung, Chenango and Genesee valleys; badly damages
- 1873 -- Canals of the middle division swept by a devastating flood. Feeder dam at Port
Byron carried away.
- 1869 -- Worst floods ever known on the canals; on the 4th and 5th, five and one-half inches
of rain fell; damages immense; navigation suspended for weeks. Lock No. 49 widened, cost
- 1899 -- Break in berme bank, Spencerport, destroys waste-weir 12 and culvert 47; repaired
in seven days with full head of water. Disastrous break in tow-path, Forestport feeder, near
breaks of 1897 and 1898; caused maliciously; repaired, 17 days; cost of repairing three breaks,
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