More than 500 paddlers will fill the Old Erie Canal with colorful kayaks, canoes and SUPs on Saturday, June 15, to kick off the Canalway Challenge in Central New York. Starting from various launch sites within the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park, participants will enjoy a scenic paddle along the historic Erie Canal, then converge on the Chittenango Landing at 2 p.m. for the bash and drone photo. Proceeds benefit Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum. Register for the Boat Float online or by calling 315.687.3801.

The Canalway Challenge is a new initiative from the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor that invites people to trace history while tracking miles walking, running, cycling or paddling on the New York State Canal System and Canalway Trail. The free program includes a range of mileage options–15 miles, 90 miles, 180 miles, and 360 miles—so that people at all fitness levels can choose a mileage goal that suits their ability and participate.

The Boat Float Bash will take place at The Boatyard at Chittenango Landing within the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park, operated by Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum (CLCBM), immediately adjacent to the Old Erie Canal waterway, following the Boat Float. There will be food trucks, music, blacksmith demonstrations, family activities, and more.  A drone camera will capture the annual aerial photo of the paddlers and participants. All registered paddlers participating receive a copy of the new Old Erie Canal Paddle Guide, an official sticker, and special gifts from the US Coast Guard.

“It is exciting to see people of all ages come out to fill the canal with colorful kayaks and canoes,” says Jamie Kowalczk, member of the Old Erie Canal Community Working Group putting on the event. “Paddlers may see several sunken canal boats, pass over working aqueducts, and view the restored dry docks at Chittenango Landing.”

The new pedestrian/bicycle bridge is open as well, connecting the canal trail to the Chittenango Village creek walk. “Chittenango School district has organized a family walk to the canal bridge, that coincides with the paddlers, to kick off the Canalway Challenge, for people to walk, run, cycle or paddle on the canal,” said Joe Treglia, executive director of the CLCBM.

The event has a $10 donation registration to participate. It takes place on the historic Erie Canal waterway within the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park. There are four locations to start from so paddlers can self-select the mileage of their paddle.  No matter which of the locations participants choose to launch from, all paddlers should end at the Boat Float Bash at 2pm in time for the drone photo.

There is an option to pay for a shuttle bus that will take you from Chittenango back to your launch site. Boats can be dropped off at the launch sites so that vehicles can be left at the Canal Museum. Staff will monitor boats placed at the launch sites.

At each of the first four launch locations participants will be greeted by a Canal Ambassador who will accompany them on the paddle.

Launch locations and starting times include:

  • Launch Site 1: Cedar Bay Park launch in DeWitt.  Meet at 8 am. Total Distance to Boat Float Bash 9.4 miles.
  • Launch Site 2: Manlius Center Rd launch.  Meet at 10 am. Total Distance to Boat Float Bash 7.2 miles
  • Launch Site 3: Pool’s Brook Park launch.   Meet at noon. Total distance to Boat Float Bash 3.2 miles
  • Launch Site 4: Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum launch right at the site of the Boat Float Bash.  Meet at noon. Out and back paddle.
  • Launch Site 5: Recognition Park in Chittenango. Meet at noon. Total distance to Boat Float Bash .5 miles

All paddlers end at 2 pm at Chittenango Landing for aerial photo and activities at the Boat Float Bash More detailed directions to the launch and parking locations can be found at

Participants need to bring their own kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddleboard as well as PFD.  Kayak rentals are available from Oswego Expeditions (315-561-0223), Morse Kayak Rentals (315-655-2400) in Cazenovia, Chittenango Landing and others. Participants are responsible for return transportation; there is an option to pay for a shuttle bus.

Pre-registration is recommended, although you may register the day of the event. The registration donation is $10 and can be done online at

After over 500 paddlers participated in the 2018 Boat Float & Bash, we expect even greater numbers for the 2019 international event. 

By martha

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