The Erie Canal was completed in this area in 1825 connecting the Niagara River in Buffalo to the Hudson River in Albany. The 362 mile canal lowered transportation costs 95%, became the main corridor for moving goods from the Great Lakes to New York City, and was responsible for the populating of the Western New York frontier. In 1918, the canal was modernized and widened into the Erie Barge Canal allowing the use of much larger vessels. The canal continued to be the primary cargo route in WNY (competing successfully against the railroads) until it succumbed to the combined assault of the railroads and highway trucking in 1951. Today the canal is primarily used by pleasure boaters and tour operators.
The location I chose for my panorama is the dual "Flight of Five" locks that lower the canal down the 60 foot drop where it crosses the Niagara Escarpment. Interestingly, the city that grew up around them was named after the location; "Lock Port" or now, "Lockport". The original locks were hand operated and had west (up) and east (down) sides that could be operated at the same time. A 1918 modernization widened and deepened the south channel, reduced the number of locks to two, and installed electrically operated gates and water level controls. The original north side lock gates were removed and the channel is used as a spillway to provide fresh water flow down the canal. The original gate mounting hardware is still in place and a restoration project has been funded to restore the original gates to operating condition. The 1918 locks are still in operation.
For more information on the Erie Canal, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erie_Canal