It’s called, most appropriately, the Troy Federal Lock, and it is the first lock on the northwestern route of the Erie Canal that eventually takes you across New York State to Lake Ontario. Technically speaking, it’s also the first lock you come to on the northward journey up the Champlain Canal to Lake Champlain and on to the St. Lawrence Seaway. Pretty important place, I’d say.
Why the Dam and Lock Were Built
The Troy Federal Lock and Dam were built between 1913 and 1915 and opened in 1916 by the government, as the Hudson River is part of the Federal Navigable Waterway system. The planning for the project began as early as 1903, when blueprints were drawn up. Many of the laborers used worked on the Panama Canal.
According to Bill Petronis, Troy Lock & Dam chief with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, “The original plan was to generate hydropower, but the federal government decided not to do that, so Henry Ford built a hydro plant in the early 1920s for his operation across the river from us in Green Island. Our dam is for navigation and to raise the upstream pool elevation so boats can pass thought the lock.” (Times Union, 30 Sept. 2009.)
Building these structures was a massive project, involving dredging the river to allow for heavier boats, and stopping the flow of the Hudson in order to build up the wide L-shaped dam that spans the river, allowing water to drop down an angled 15 foot waterfall. The western side of the dam leads to a spillway and power station, now run by the Green Island Power Authority, while the eastern side of the river; the Troy side, holds the lock.
The State’s Erie Canal lock system begins with Lock E2 in Waterford. There is no Lock E (for Erie) 1. Technically that’s the Troy Lock, aka Lock 1. The Champlain Canal technically starts in Waterford, above the lock, so the Waterford Lock on the Champlain system is called Champlain Lock 1, as it has been since 1817. Okay, now that that is clear…
The Troy Lock is quite long and hugs the eastern side of the river smack in the middle of North Central. It’s a single chamber lock that is 520 feet long, 45 feet wide and 17 feet deep. During its normal operating depths, it lifts boats up or lowers them down 14 feet.
Technically speaking, the Hudson River from New York City up to the Troy Dam is an estuary, which is defined as a tidal inlet; a transitional body of water that joins a fresh water river with the sea. Salt water actually flows in the Hudson up to about the Tappan Zee Bridge, and during drought, the salt line has reached as far north as Poughkeepsie.
The tides run past Albany and past downtown Troy up to the dam. We have two high and two low tides a day in the river south of the dam. Obviously, the water above the dam is no longer tidal, and does its best to run south to the sea, which is called an ebb flow.
The Troy lock is located along the river beginning near Smith Street and continuing up to almost 101st Street. In addition to the lock walls themselves, the installation also has some out buildings at the end of Bond Street and the lock is manned in a control building on the river. Most of the upper part of the lock is behind the Fallon Houses.
It really gives one a great sense of appreciation of the engineering skills our forefathers had. Skills and principles that have not changed in hundreds of years, really, but have just been upgraded with modern materials and electricity.
One has to cross the bridge to Green Island in order to see anything of the lock and dam. You can see it all in its majesty as you cross the Green Island Bridge, and then if you make a right on Cannon Street in Green Island and drive down to the park that is across from the lock. It’s a really lovely park with a fantastic view of the Hudson. Why don’t we have that? It’s the TROY Lock and Dam!
Postscripts – The Erie Canal, and the role of Waterford, as well as Troy, in its history is fascinating. I also love Waterford, in general, and will have to write about it here at some point. More than once. The Ford power plant on Green Island is a fantastic story in itself, too. And then there’s Peeple’s Island! So much to write about on our relatively small stretch of the Hudson!
Here's a great aerial view of the area taken by drone. Pretty cool!: