This coming Tuesday marks the 186th birthday of the Erie Canal.
The Erie Canal officially opened on October 26, 1825. It runs east-west for roughly 363 miles between Albany, New York (at the Hudson River) and Buffalo, New York (at Lake Erie). It completes a navigable waterway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes.
The canal contains 36 locks and encompasses a total elevation differential of 565 ft.
The canal fostered a population surge in western New York state, opened regions farther west to settlement, and helped New York City become the chief U.S. port. It was enlarged between 1834 and 1862. In 1918, the enlarged canal was replaced by the larger New York State Barge Canal.
Today, it is part of the New York State Canal System. It is considered of national significance according to Wikipedia as "the most successful and influential human-built waterway and one of the most important works of civil engineering and construction in North America."
The canal is used mainly for recreational watercraft, but has seen an upswing in commercial traffic since 2008. It remains a piece of American folk history, immortalized in the song "Erie Canal."