Towpath Trail Update

towpathtrailConstruction continues on the Towpath Trail.  Clearing a grubbing of the entire length (shown above in red) will be completed shortly.    The contractor is trying to move a barge into Weger’s Pond outlet on which a pile driver can be mounted.  The piles are necessary as a foundation for the 140 foot bridge across the outlet.  The bridge will arrive in 20 foot sections.  The fabricated bridge will be lifted in place by two “small” cranes at either end of the trail.

This dump truck backed over a half mile into the woods to get a load of debris!

This view at left was taken from atop the farmer’s bridge abutment to the east of Clutes Dry Dock. You can see that the trail is wide enough for a good size excavator as well as the construction sized dump truck.  The truck backed over a half mile into the woods to get a load of debris.

This week the Preserve is closed to all but duck hunters, so work on the eastern Halfmoon end of the trail will be the focus.

Work on the 10 foot wide stone dust trail is expected to be complete by the end of the year.  Its is truly exciting to see the progress.  This will be a wonderful recreational recourse for the Byway corridor.

Towpath Trail

Early advocates of the Mohawk Towpath Byway envisioned a reconstructed Towpath through the Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve into the Town of Halfmoon.  The eastern end of the trail will connect to Canal Road, rise a slope in a northerly direction just west of the abutment of the I-87 Northway southbound right of way and drop in elevation to meet the historic 1842 Erie Canal towpath and then proceed westerly across the outlet of Weger’s Pond,  pass on the south side of the Canal in the vicinity of Clutes Dry Dock, and emerge on the Water Authority Access Road in the Preserve.


The Towpath Trail with the 1842 enlarged Erie Canal beyond the trees to the left.

The two Towns began the project in very early spring by cutting larger trees along what will be a 10 foot wide trail.  The trees had to be removed before the end of March when endangered species start their return for the nesting season.  This is in one of the remotest parts of the two towns.

Construction crews are now just east of Clutes Dry Dock near the power lines with a chipper and saws clearing for better access and more refined trail work.

It is hard to imagine this being part of the major route through the Appalachian Mountains almost 200 years ago.  By 1842 more than 100 canal boats a day would pass through this part of the Erie Canal, propelled by draft animals, mostly mules on this south berm of the Erie Canal.  By December we will all be able to hike the reconstructed trail from the Preserve through to Canal Road then east along the Crescent Park Trail to the Route 9 Bridge at Crescent.


Catbird Seat


Photo by John Briggs

An interesting sound as we recreate within the Mohawk Towpath Byway corridor is the song of the Catbird.  Audubon publications say that the bird got its name because it sounds like an cat’s, “Meow.”  It’s a unique sound in trees and low brush, and, usually, has two very distinct syllables, like “me-ow”.  If it were a cat making that sound it would certainly be in distress, and from a bird, I first wondered if there were something wrong with it’s voice mechanism.  The sound is so gravelly.

The bird is hard to spot because of it’s drab grey or brown coloration.  To find the source of the call, one needs to stop and wait for the bird to move.

What is really curious is, in this area, the Catbird’s call can even take on a sound like, “Er-ie.”  When I have heard a Catbird in other areas of the northeast, I have never heard “Er-ie,” just the distinct, “Me-ow.”

What do you think?  [Other than the fact that I am an Erie Canal fanatic and have “really gone to the birds.” …and further I apologize to former fans of Red Barber.]  Whatever you’re thinking get out and take your observations now.  The Catbird seems to be one of the last species to arrive in the spring and one of the first to migrate to warmer climes when the nesting season is over.

The Byway provides unique experiences, and as I have said many times before, exhibits change daily.


You are invited to the meeting of the Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Byway at 7 PM on Tuesday, August 16 at the historic Grooms Tavern.  It’s located at the intersection of Sugar Hill and Grooms Road.  The parking lot is located behind the Tavern with a driveway a bit further west on Grooms Road.

Generally, the organization meets on the second Tuesday of every other month, but our August meeting had to be postponed because of other conflicts.

Items on the agenda include

  • Planning update on the 14th Annual Mohawk Towpath Byway Duathlon
  • Updates for the Friends Action Plan
  • Discussion and critique of the new Byway website
  • Publishing a kids (or seniors) coloring book
  • A proposal for a gate tenders shed at lock 19 by Shenendehowa Rotary
  • Planning for our Annual Meeting

We will have reports on Byway projects like

  • Towpath Connector Trail
  • The Self guided birding trail

Our next meeting will not be until October 11 so come to this meeting to express your views on how the Byway is run.

Strange Encounters

Those who leave the Mohawk Towpath Byway to find a Pokemon will be shot!

Seriously, there are some interesting stories evolving about these new wave encounters on the Byway.  My closest encounter was to see Maryanne Mackey drawing a Pokemon character while answering questions by visitors to a recent Byway booth set up at the Schenectady County Historical Society’s Canal Fest.BywayStrange

As you visit the Byway what is the strangest story you have heard?

These individual stories are what brings the Mohawk Towpath Byway to life.  Share them with me, with friends, and with your neighbors.  There’s something new on the Byway every day.


The Mohawk Towpath Byway had plenty of visitors today at the Mabee Farm historic site.  All were interested in the recreational opportunities within the Byway’s corridor.  We started off the day with many bikers on the sixth day of the Erie Canal Trek coming from Buffalo and due to end up in the Corning Preserve in the Port of Albany tomorrow.  Our booth was well placed, opposite the kitchen where Schenectady County Historical Society volunteers scooped Stewart’s Ice Cream all day.


Many thanks to Maryanne Mackey and Mary MacDonald (pictured here) who helped staff the booth, answer questions and distribute materials.



Have a voice in how our community is presented to visitors on the Byway.  You are invited to a meeting of the Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Byway on Tuesday, June 14 at 7 PM at the Clifton Park Halfmoon Library at 475 Moe Road in Clifton Park.  The agenda includes:

  • Creating a birding trail in the Vischer Ferry Preserve
  • Improving a riverwalk trail from Clutes
  • Brainstorming a worthy project to apply for grant money
  • Organizing the 14th Annual Duathlon
  • Planning an Erie Canal Bicentennial Celebration

Come join the fun.  The public is invited!

Apple Blossom Time Trial


Pre-race lineup

The lineup for the pre-race meeting. Nice show of color!

We had a good turn out for the Apple Blossom Time Trial the day before Mother’s Day, 5 female and 10 male.  The event was a part of the Apple Blossom Festival a day long celebration of spring on the Byway.  The Festival is held at the Riverview Orchards.  In addition to events and activities normally available at the Orchard, Shenendehowa Rotary provided picnic fare at reasonable prices and a number of free fun activities for youth and families. The Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Byway cohosted.

The cycling time trial was the activity that wrapped up the day’s events with a 4 pm start.  The course was and out and back on Riverview Road going east from the orchard to a turn around just west of the Clifton Park – Halfmoon Town line.  All on public roads the first 3+ miles are rolling hills followed by almost 3 miles of flat through the hamlet of Vischer Ferry and along the northern border of the Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve.


Position Bib Number Last Name First Name Gender/Age Time



Hackett John M 30-39 




Huiest Robert M 30-39 




Cooke Ron M 70-79




Walling Mark M 20-29 




Rosenberg Edward M 50-59




Forgett Daniel M 30-39 




Brennan Joseph M 50-59 




Koziol Jill F 40-49 




Bologna Catherine F 40-49 




Ciolko Oksana F 60-69 




Koziol Nate M 40-49 




Ellis Robert M 50-59 




Stilson Alicia F 30-39 




Stilson Jason M 30-39




Larned Shana F 30-39 


Obviously those who participated missed the Mastodon 15 k race in Cohoes.  The race director of the Apple Blossom Time Trial has done the 15 k previously and loved the course.  I goes through every park in the City including several stretches of the route of the 1842 Enlarged Erie Canal, the Mohawk Hudson Bikeway, and Cohoes High School Campus.  But the run is not for the faint of heart or those out of shape for a 9.3 mile run.

Our Story

Glenville Traveling Museum

The Canal Fest attracted a wide demographic as seen in this shot of the Glenville Traveling Museum.

The Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway is a membership organization of enthusiasts dedicated to preserving the historic, cultural, natural, recreational, agricultural, and scenic resources within the corridor of the Mohawk Towpath Byway. That’s our story. Or should I say, that’s my “elevator speech.”
Defining our story is the number one priority of the Friends.

…it isn’t just one story, but it is multiple versions of one story that is tailored to the various audiences that will be hearing the story. We may even want to encourage people to select their particular favorite audience, then craft the story so it will resonate with that particular audience,

points out Ray Patterson, one of our charter members, who lives in West Virginia.

Let me add that each of the Friends of the Byway has a number of stories about our communities and our heritage. Most of us can tell one or more personal stories that has developed as they have volunteered for the Byway over the years. Each of us has one or more stories that they remember from family, friends, second person accounts, books, or teachers.

This body of knowledge with hundreds of stories make up the Byway story. This rich heritage is what brings our Byway to life. Whether its a Native People’s story, natural history, colonial history, stories from the Industrial Revolution, Erie Canal stories, local genealogy, or stories of our communities these all are part of the Byway story and need to be preserved. Some of these stories change over time as more research in local history, archeology and geology adds more depth and authenticity.

It is important for us, individually, and as an organization to hold on to these stories and preserve them for future generations.

Visitors to the Byway want to hear (or read) these stories as a part of their Byway experience. When we repeat a Byway story with authenticity we provide the listener with an intimate look at what makes our Mohawk Towpath Byway unique among a network of 150 America’s Byways®.

How Many Tourists is Too Many?

As a young couple I remember staying at a guest house where my wife and I shared a bathroom with another boarder who we never met. We did befriend the establishment’s owner, whom I will call Flo, and her carpenter husband. The two were most impressed with our respect for their property and we were overwhelmed with their openness to letting people into their impressive historic home. 

On our second visit Flo started to share with us stories of some of her worst customers. One of the stories Flo told was she rented one of her choice rooms, just beyond the living room to a middle aged gentleman. The room had her favorite rosewood octagon, key wound mantle clock that chimed the hour. Sometime during the night the guest had tried to silence the clock with blankets and pillows. This was an affront to Flo who “threw the bum out” with instructions to never return. To Flo this was one tourist too many.
Each of us has a threshold for how many guests is too much. The rule I am comfortable with is respect my special places as though they are your own. This is the basis for, “If you carry it in, carry it out.” “Leave nothing behind but your footprints.” This is the foundation of good stewardship.  

One of the founding tenants of the Mohawk Towpath Byway Coalition is to balance the changes and developments along the Byway corridor with the need to preserve our natural and historic resources. Encouraging the constructive use of our resource will provide the economic engine to fund efforts to preserve for generations to come. Perhaps the most rewarding outcome is to have visitors embrace the preservation effort with the same enthusiasm as many of our local residents. That’s sustainability in the broadest meaning of the word.

With the depth and authenticity of our stories, variety of our recreational resources, and appeal to a broad demographic visitors will come, and, more importantly, return.