“Hudson River and Its Canals” exhibit at Maritime Museum in Kingston

Guests can use the new canal model at the Hudson River Maritime Museum to see how canal locks operated. (Rachel Snydstrup)

The fact that the Delaware & Hudson Canal, bearing mostly coal from Pennsylvania, emptied into the Rondout Creek just a little way upstream from its confluence with the Hudson was the primary reason why Kingston became a thriving commercial hub in the 19th century. 

As the bicentennials of New York State’s three great canal systems draw near (Champlain 1823, Erie 1825, D & H 1828), the Hudson River Maritime Museum is commemorating the creation of bold new transportation corridors through the barriers of the Appalachian mountain chain, back in the days when transportation by water was much cheaper and more efficient than overland travel, with a new exhibit: “The Hudson River and Its Canals: Building the Empire State.” This system of interconnected waterways created new markets, led to the rise of new cities, made New York City one of the world’s largest ports and established this state as a leader in engineering, communications, capital and international trade.


Visitors will have the opportunity to hear the voice of a woman who grew up driving a mule along the D & H Canal from the interior of a canalboat cabin. Children can operate small canalboats through a scale-model canal with mechanical locks and an aqueduct. A large 3-D topographical map showcases how the geography of the state influenced canal routes. Photos show the faces of people and animals who worked the canals, including children who grew up in canalboats and shared the work. Videos illustrate the construction and operation of the canals throughout their history.

“The Hudson River and Its Canals: Building the Empire State” opens this Saturday, April 21 and will run through December 2019. HRMM is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission costs $7 for adults, $5 for seniors (62+) and children (18 & under), with a package rate of $20 for two adults plus children under 18.): $20.00 Admission is free for children under age 4, active-duty military with ID and members of HRMM or the Council of American Maritime Museums.

Want to know more on the subject? On Wednesday, April 25 at 7 p.m., historian Paul Schneider will present a talk titled “‘I presumed that we were all to figure in a future volume of travels…’: 19th-Century Glimpses of New York State’s Canals” at the Riverport Wooden Boat School, located next door to HRMM. Schneider will help guests discover some lesser-known lore of canal travel through such primary sources as travel guides and firsthand accounts. This will be the second lecture in HRMM’s “Follow the River” series. Admission is by a suggested donation of $5.

HRMM is located at 50 Rondout Landing in Kingston. For more info, call (845) 338-0071 or visit www.hrmm.org.