What is a Canal?

Engraving of an Erie Canal Lock, courtesy of the Canal Society of New York State.

The term "canal" is used throughout this report as appropriately signifying "an artificial waterway for navigation," but it should not be confused with the concept of a canal as a slack water channel with flow controlled at both ends by locks or gates.

The image above shows a typical lock on the Erie Canal, complete with wooden gates to regulate the entrance and exit of water and boats. Locks of this type have been built in New York State for over two hundred years, although they have grown in size and complexity over time.