Good Question: Why are water levels on the Erie Canal still high in the boating off-season?

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — If you spend time at the Erie Canal, you might be wondering what’s with the high water levels despite it being well into the boating off-season?

This is a question we’ve gotten in the past. Why is the water still high on the Erie Canal, even into December?

In past years, crews would drain the canal all at once in preparation for the winter months. Nancy wrote to us saying: “I noticed that the Erie Canal has not been emptied this year like in the past. Any explanation for this?”

A couple of years ago, New York State launched its Reimagining the Canals Campaign to support tourism and fishing in Monroe, Orleans, and Niagara counties.

Since the launch of that campaign, the canal corporation has been keeping water levels higher in some parts of the canal to improve fishing conditions. Instead of draining all the water at once, water is now drained periodically into Lake Ontario.

The state’s Canal Corporation website says the goal is to “create a longer season and even better angling conditions.” The idea is, more water, more fish.

The New York State Canal Corporation tells me at this point, we should be at or near the reduced winter levels by now. The canal will be filled again in April ahead of opening day in mid-May.

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