The Erie Canal opened on October 26, 1825, providing overland water transportation between the East Coast and the Great Lakes region. Under construction for eight years, the project was the vision of New York Governor DeWitt Clinton. He convinced the New York state legislature to commit seven million dollars to the construction of a 363-mile ditch, forty feet wide and four feet deep. The canal flowed from Buffalo on the east coast of Lake Erie, through the mountains near the Mohawk Valley west of Troy, and terminated at the upper Hudson River at Albany. A tremendous success, the waterway accelerated settlement of the upper Midwest including the founding of hundreds of towns such as Clinton, in DeWitt County, Illinois.
Completion of the Erie Canal also stimulated the growth of New York City. Canal boats facilitated exchange of manufactured goods from the city with agricultural products from the Midwest. A 1903 actuality film from the Thomas Edison film company, Panorama Water Front and Brooklyn Bridge from East River, begins with footage of canal boats from the Erie Canal demonstrating the canal's continuing commercial importance to the port of New York at the turn of the century.
In fact, the Erie Canal remained vital well into the twentieth century. The New York State Barge Canal, completed between 1903 and 1918, incorporated the canal into a larger system of waterways that included extensions to Lake Ontario, Lake Champlain, Lake Cayuga, and Lake Seneca. Commercial use of the Barge Canal had declined by the 1980s. Since then, it has become a popular venue for pleasure boaters.