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SUBMITTED by John R. Groves, Erie's Restoration Interests Everyone, Inc. (28-Oct-2009)

Pilgrimport Loop, Touching the Soul of the Erie Canal

Largely still intact or at best still recognizable is the original 1825 Erie Canal prism known as the Pilgrimport Loop. The term “loop” refers to the necessary bypass of drumlins in the Canal's path. The early Erie Canal was the longest because transiting across Upstate New York required threading the canal around such geological features.

Map modified by Mark De Cracker showing the Pilgrimport Loop (Clinton's Ditch from Lyons to Galen)

Wayne County is fortunate to have such a large and readily restorable part of our beloved Canal. As seen in Mark De Cracker’s images, most of the prism is generally free of trees. As you continue eastward, this isn’t the case, as large willows have infiltrated the prism. However, the nearly 2 mile stretch is the only intact part of the early Canal available in New York that has the potential of restoration.

The original Canal was four feet deep and 40 feet across, small by any standard. Yet within this incredibly small “artificial river” America as we know it today was built. Before the Erie Canal, virtually nothing travelled into our vast Midwestern, western frontiers. Through this Pilgrimport section began nation building. Without the Erie Canal, such dreams of our founding fathers would have been either mitigated or not possible at all.

In October of 1825, DeWitt Clinton and his entourage passed through. From the Seneca Chief, Dewitt Clinton announced and celebrated the opening of the greatest civil works project of the time. Often referred to as the 8th Wonder of the World! Any visitor visiting the Pilgrimport Loop today can be within a few feet of that momentous event, had they been there in 1825. They could have literally talked to DeWitt Clinton in an ordinary voice, even possibly shook his hand, such is the history of this place.

Wayne County has treasure abounding within, as seen in the remaining historical infrastructure of our Canal. Within the counties limits are the world’s oldest and remaining cast and wrought iron bridge at the Macedon / Palmyra Canal Park. The Aldrich Change Bridge, is the last and most important remaining truss bridge restored through the efforts of volunteer, public, and private support. In Newark is Lockville and combine of locks lifting the canal over thirty feet. This major lift was necessary in the beginning with Clinton’s Ditch and the Enlarged Erie Canal. Today volunteers are struggling to restore this treasure by clearing overgrowth and exploring to recover an “original” 1825 lock. When completed it will represent all eras of our wonderful Canal--that is three major eras--including Lock 28B, with its very restorable “powerhouse”. Lastly and certainly not least, is the Poorhouse Lock E-56 initiative, where the possibility of “rewatering” can create a very unique venue for visitors to see an actual working lock. Visitors from everywhere will travel to Wayne County, schools systems will offer pilgrimages just to see first hand actual structures of our early canal and present.

The Pilgrimport Loop testifies to our ability to interpret within a few miles substantial interpretive features of the Erie Canal heritage. Few counties can do this as well.

Pilgrimport is a very unique gift to the people of upstate New York. To ignore its salvation is simply madness. The economic advantages are legion. Advantages from tourism, educational opportunities, Canal-related theater, and of course making Wayne County a better place to live and raise families.

Those living nearby should take a moment and drive the Pilgrimport Loop and while doing so imagine mules and canal boats transiting east and west, building our nation. Imagine hearing the foot steps of mules on the towpath and voices of men, woman, even children working to build America. Such a gift, we have to ability to share with everyone.

Photos of the Pilgimport Loop are available on Wayne County Life's Facebook Page:


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