New experiences in store at Yankee Hill Lock

New York Power Authority President and CEO Gil Quiniones unveils new hassle-free campsites at Yankee Hill Lock on Tuesday. At left is Upstate Kayak Rentals owner Diana Larkin.
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New York Power Authority President and CEO Gil Quiniones unveils new hassle-free campsites at Yankee Hill Lock on Tuesday. At left is Upstate Kayak Rentals owner Diana Larkin.

Travelers seeking to get back to nature this summer can look to the state Canal Corporation for their accommodations and travel itineraries with the launch of new canalside camping experiences.

The New York Power Authority and state Canal Corporation have partnered with Tentrr to prepare fully outfitted campsites at four unique locations along the state Canal System.

The campsites are located at Yankee Hill Lock in the town of Florida, Oak Island in Waterloo, the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in Galen and Lock E-29 in Palmyra-Macedon.

“New Yorkers and tourists across the state will be offered unique camping facilities allowing guests to curate their own experience with all the necessary tools and amenities,” NYPA President and CEO Gil Quiniones said from Yankee Hill Lock on Tuesday.

Each of the sites feature turnkey camping facilities for hassle-free comfort while exploring the Erie Canal. Canvas tents are already pitched at each location atop a raised wooden platform for dry accommodations. Inside, campers can spend the night on a queen size memory foam mattress.

Individual campgrounds also feature solar powered sun showers, picnic tables and Adirondack chairs for soaking up the sights. Quiniones said the initiative will provide campers from across the state and beyond “exceptional” experiences along the canal.

“With friends, families and loved ones they will be able to immediately explore the rich surrounding areas without the hassle of maintaining their own campsite,” he added.

The campsites are available by advanced reservation online. Overnight stays at the various locations start at $139 depending on the size of the site.

The four campsites are also located near “On the Canal” excursion sites announced earlier this month, where visitors in July and August can traverse the state Canal System by kayak and Empire State Trail by bike for free with all equipment provided.

This year’s programs are part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Reimagine the Canals Initiative and build off of the “staycation” initiative launched by the state last year to safely meet travel demand amid the pandemic by providing free outdoor excursions along the historic waterway highlighting to residents the recreational asset in their own backyards.

Tentrr CEO Anand Subramanian said providing hassle-free campsites in unique locations makes the outdoor experience more accessible and boosts tourism in local communities.

“A lot of our campers are actually from the cities and now we have a reason for them to leave the cities and mingle with communities surrounding the cities, giving everyone an opportunity to explore the outdoors as well as bringing economic development to local communities,” Subramanian said.

Upstate Kayak Rentals owner Diana Larkin anticipates the programs will be popular based on the success of last year’s “staycation” program.

Larkin co-hosted a free kayak and bike excursion in Schenectady last summer with the CDPHP bikeshare program run by the CDTA. That tour saw visitors traveling along the canal from Mohawk Harbor to the Rexford Bridge. Available bookings were quickly filled up, leading Larkin to extend the travel dates from three days a week to five days a week.

This year, Upstate Kayak Rentals will host an excursion starting at the Port Jackson Boat Launch on Amsterdam’s south side where visitors can travel by bike three miles on the Empire State Trail to the historic Yankee Hill Lock. Once there, travelers will exchange rides and paddle out on the Mohawk River by kayak, passing through Lock E-11 to return to the boat launch.

“We’re looking forward to another great year,” Larkin said.

Canal Corporation Director Brian Stratton pointed to the Yankee Hill excursion and campsite in particular as offering a unique canal experience.

“Uniquely situated between the original Erie Canal from the 1860s and today’s New York State Barge Canal, Yankee Hill offers a one of a kind experience,” Stratton said. “Yankee Hill offers a little bit of everything. History, adventure, comfort and all within a vibrant landscape.”

Quiniones plans to experience the accommodations first-hand, sharing that he has already booked a reservation at Yankee Hill for his family this summer.

For more information about the canalside campsites and to book a reservation, visit tentrr.com/pages/new-york-canals. For more information about the free “On the Canals” excursions available across the state and to book an outing, visit canals.ny.gov/onthecanals/.

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