Canal Fest

Canal Fest at the Mabee Farm Historic site was a hoot!

Harvesting winter wheat. Note the riders on the Canalway Trek in the background.
Thanks to Mary MacDonald (pictured) and Nancy Papish for the help telling the Byway’s stories. This is an excellent opportunity to reach an audience interested in experiences offered along the Mohawk Towpath Byway.
Canal Fest included an opportunity to take a short excursion in a bateau. Three centuries ago these small craft were the way to navigate the shallow waters of the Mohawk River. There were many shops in Schenectady that would build you one for your trip west.

The festivities also included live music, kayaking, food, craft beer, and wine, craft vendors, heirloom gardens, free Stewart’s ice cream, and family-friendly tours of the historic Mabee house, summer kitchen, smithy, and restored Dutch barn. The museum was also open for those that have not seen the most recent additions.

And the hoot? A wildlife rehabilitation was also exhibiting with some of the more people friendly animals and birds including two species of owls and several raptors that have been rescued from life threatening situations.

All together these made a memorable, family-friendly experience.

Itinerary Published



During June, July and August American Road Magazine has a Mohawk Towpath Byway itinerary posted on their website. Our itinerary is the only one they have published in the northeastern U S, so it is near the top of the page.

Check it out!

American Road Magazine has a quarterly magazine that highlights the unique and sometimes unusual features along America’s roadways. Their audience is that portion of the traveling public who seek unique experiences along their journeys on the back roads and byways.

Hits to the Mohawk Towpath Byway website, our calls to our self guided tours, Facebook page likes, and brochure requests all peak during the summer travel season. It will be interesting to see if this American Road posting will provide an additional boost to these metrics.

Water Trail Guidebook

My copy of the New York State Canalway Water Trail Guidebook arrived!

I could not resist reading word-for-word the sections I am most familiar with. Seeing these beloved sections of the Water Trail described in such detail by someone else’s eye is inspiring. The print makes for an easy read and the three color maps are uncluttered, but of sufficient detail.

The superb black and white photographs accompanying the text are included to help tell the history of the area and entice the reader to take their own photographic memories.

The spirally bound document is not small enough to fit in a back pocket reminiscent of the Long Trail Guidebook I treasured in my youth, but it is much easier to read and use planning my next outing. Packaged with the guide is a set of four neatly folded full color maps that will fit in your pocket. These can be refolded to the section of the water trail that you are navigating. They’re water and tear resistant and have all the details you need once on your planned water adventure.

What a treasure. I can visualize the Guide proudly displayed on my coffee table in twenty years, well worn and dog eared, open to a favorite section of the water trail that I would like to explore again.

I recommend you get a copy of the complimentary Guidebook from the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and let’s start planning a Paddle the Byway event this summer! How is that for a Canalway Challenge?

Canalway Challenge


The next meeting of the Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Byway will be at the historic Grooms Tavern in Rexford on Tuesday April 9 at 7 PM. Our Guest Speaker will be Jean Mackay from the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. Her topic will be the new initiative “Canalway Challenge”. The public is invited and encouraged to attend.

Canalway Challenge: tracking history, tracking miles.

This is a challenge to discover the recreational and historic resources of the Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor. Conquer 15 miles at a time on foot, bicycle, kayak and remember the line, “…15 miles on the Erie Canal.”

Join us as we learn about this challenge; how to register; how to start; how to earn a patch; how to get others involved. Refreshments will be served.

We will have additional agenda items.

2018 Annual Report


While wrapping up reports and other administrative requirements of the Byway and the two organizations that are the backbone of our community

  • The Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway, and
  • The Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway Coalition

…we have developed a 2018 Annual Report that you can view here. It was prepared for municipal officials within the Byway corridor, as a thank you to our volunteers for a successful year, and as a tool to help tell the story of the Byway to the general public. If you do not receive your copy of the 2018 Annual Report by mid February send a request for a copy.

This is a collage of a number of successes we had on the Mohawk Towpath Byway this year.

Were you a part of it? If you were thank you for the help. If you were not please act now to make your place on the Mohawk Towpath Byway in 2019! Join the friends of the Byway while the year is young. Click here!

New Year


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The enlarged 1842 Erie Canal with the recently reconstructed Towpath Trail to the right.
The enlarged 1842 Erie Canal with the recently reconstructed Towpath Trail to the right.

Welcome to a new year on the Mohawk Towpath Byway. The Byway is open today along with all of the recreational opportunities. The Byway from Schenectady to Cohoes and Waterford uses all public roads and all the public outdoor recreation facilities are open, but, as always, dress appropriately against the wind driven squalls. The ice skates and skate sailing will have to wait for colder temperatures.

We look forward to good participation at the upcoming meeting of the Friends of the Byway on Tuesday, January 8 at the Historic Grooms Tavern in Rexford. Before the meeting give some thought to what you would like to see the Friends do this year to make a difference for Byway residents and visitors.

One proposal is to reconstruct the footbridge deck on the Original Erie Canal Towpath just west of the Water Authority access road. The bridge abutments have shifted slightly with ice action over the years, but the stringers are still in good shape to serve many additional years of service.

Is there another project that you are passionate about? Bring your ideas to the meeting on Tuesday evening January 8.

Byway Achievements


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A discussion around the table at the annual meeting of the Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Byway came up with surprising results.  The question was, “What were the greatest achievements on the Byway this year?”


First up, Ruth related the story that at the Duathlon registration when her husband met an individual recovering from a similar medical condition as his.  “The two of them are helping each other through recovery.”

Paul said, “I became more familiar with the features within the Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve.”  He also added that fellow volunteer Chris had used a personal GPS devise to map trails in the Preserve and proceeded to color blaze the individual trails to match the mapping.

 “Volunteers Chris and Joanne have painted a mural on the other side of the Whipple bridge aerial photo,” added Sue. “Their mural names and color codes the trails. Additionally Chris created directional signs at entrances to the nature preserve and at trail intersections complete with trail names and distances. Most of the trails have color coded discs on trees.”

Eric is proud of the Story Telling Summit that the Friends of the Byway helped host in late spring.  We had folks attend from as far away as the mid west U S. It was the consensus around the table that we should do something similar next year.

Mary reported that she had given a tour of the Byway to a group of 7 or 8 hikers.  They all enjoyed the experience and hope to repeat it, perhaps in another area of the Byway.

Nancy shared a story that as she and Tracy were marshaling participants at the Duathlon, Tracy pointed out a coyote crossing a distant field.  Nancy continued her post, but later saw the coyote return across the ridge.

Maryanne shared a story of a visit to a historic building and had paused at the top of the stairs.  While she was there she felt a push toward the stairs as if  by a mischievous child, but no one was around.  That story was added to the folklore of the historic property which had, at one time, housed an orphanage.

Lara successfully completed the Duathlon, and has always been impressed by the enthusiasm of the volunteers who host the event.  She is looking forward to competing again next year.

During Farm Fest weekend Larry helped a visitor discover nearby Clutes Dry Dock by accessing the Byway tour on the visitor’s cell phone.  The visitor was compelled to check out other features along the Byway corridor during the weekend.  The self guided tour feature makes it easy to discover the Byway at your own pace and on your own time.

These individual observations illustrate the diverse interests on the Byway and the collection of resources that make the Mohawk Towpath Byway such a unique place to live, to visit and to share with the outside world.  What stands out in your mind as a special resource along the waterway west?  

New Post

Birding Trail

John Loz and Eric Hamilton install an IBA sign to the introductory stop on the Birding Trail in the Vischer Ferry Preserve. – photo by Maryanne Mackey.

Actually there are four new posts just off the Mohawk Towpath Byway within the Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve.  They mark spots on the new birding trail added to our self guided tour of features along the Byway.  This is a joint project, long in planning, between the Audubon Society of the Capital Region and the Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Byway.

The tour points out four different habitats within the preserve each different types of bird species.  These habitats are described as open water habitat (in the background of the accompanying photo); cattail marsh; river and river edge habitat; and forest and shrub habitat.

“The Vischer Ferry Preserve was named an Important Bird Area in 1997 by Audubon New York and Bird Life International,” explains John Loz.  “This partnership between the birding community and the Byway community is most significant.”

“It is partnerships like this that broaden the appeal of the Mohawk Towpath Byway to local, regional and international visitors.  It is yet another story to add to the overall Byway experience,” adds Eric Hamilton.

Try it!  Stop at the the main entrance to the Preserve located at the intersection of Riverview Road and Van Vranken Road.  Scan the QR code posted on the wooden kiosk with the area map or key in 518-649-9990 and listen to the narrative for stop 4.  Then walk over the historic Whipple truss that bridges the 1842 enlarged Erie Canal and look for stop 31 on the right (as pictured here).

It’s all right here in our backyard!  Get out and enjoy it as the fall colors reach their peak and the bird migration along the eastern flyway is in full swing.

Action Required!

There is a bill due for markup in the House Transportation and Commerce Committee that would strengthen the National Scenic Byway Program.

HR 5158 would direct the Secretary of Transportation to request nominations for roads to be designated under the national scenic byway program. A as one of America’s Byways® we stand to gain additional partnerships, a broader network of scenic byways across the country, and a broader base to market our Byway with residents, visitors, and even international tourism.

Take a few minutes and click on this link…  it will bring you to a page from which you can generate a letter to your Congressman.  Edit the letter as you see fit and to personalize it to be more effective.  But do it now.

Was it Ben Franklin who commented on “The power of the pen.”  Now is your chance to use the power!

State of the Byway

What is the Mohawk Towpath Byway?

…the road between Waterford/Cohoes and Schenectady that follows the historic route of the Erie Canal.  Traveling the route you uncover the “waterway west” and the role our communities played in the westward expansion and Industrial Revolution.

Whats a Byway?

Bike the Byway with the Mohawk Valley to the west.

Bike the Byway with the Mohawk Valley to the west.

…a public road having special scenic, historic, recreational, cultural, archaeological, and/or natural qualities that have been recognized as such through legislation or some other official declaration.

The Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway Coalition is a not-for-profit with our 10 municipal members and a representative from Schenectady County.  The Coalition oversees the implementation of our corridor management plan.  Not only are we one of the network of roads in New York State’s system of scenic byways, but we are one of America’s Byways® a collection of 150 scenic byways across the U S that tell a unique part of the America’s history and culture.


  • Self Guided Byway Tour of features along the driving route well marked by way-finding signs.
  • A series of Interpretive Kiosks along the Byway corridor.
  • Recreational assets in each of the ten municipalities. 
  • A website and Google Voice 518-406-8610 contact phone number.
  • A cadre of enthusiastic volunteers.


  • Cell Phone operational platform


    Sharing the Byway stories at Canal Festival at Mabee Farm Historic Site.

  • Printing marketing and tourist oriented materials
  • Maintain way-finding signage
  • Sustain a vibrant and fresh web presence
  • Keeping volunteers engaged and rewarded.

What’s going on along the Byway? 

It seems like every weekend there is a local festival or event (see the calendar) or a work party.  There will be events through the fall and winter.  And then spring comes and we celebrate the opening of the Erie Canal for another season with Canal Days in Waterford Harbor.

What projects are you involved with?

One of our top priorities along the Byway is to raise community awareness.  We have such rich history within our communities.  We have some great recreational opportunities, natural history, cultural centers.

Another major project is our scenic conservation initiative.  This revolves around what we want the Byway to look like for our next generation.  Change is inevitable.  There are small changes that occur every day.  It is important that as these changes occur that we do not loose the character of our communities and our sense of place.

The Byway Is Run by Volunteers

How can we help?

Friends of the Byway clean up ready for the summer season.

Friends of the Byway clean up ready for fall events.

  • Roadside and canal cleanup by youth groups, neighborhood associations, fraternal organizations, and businesses.
  • Scout Projects to expand recreational opportunities
  • Improve assess to historic features
  • Hosting local events and festivals

What is the Vision?

We have this vision of being a tourist destination, regional, national and international.  With all the levels of history, unique recreational assets, cultural centers …we have so much to offer in this area that we take it for granted.  As more and more people become aware of what we have, the more we will want to maintain the character of our communities and our heritage. 


Even as federal and state funding are declining the Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway remains a vibrant community of volunteers who have a strong sense of place esteem.  Can we show you around, and share a story or two?