Due to the quarantine for the pandemic, people otherwise employed have been getting out of their houses and walking for exercise. The 600 acre Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve has been a popular destination on warm sunny days. In fact, the parking areas at the Van Vranken Road and Ferry Drive entrances have been packed.
I have counted as many as forty cars parked at the main entrance along Riverview and Van Vranken Roads and the parking area at the end of Ferry Drive has been full with cars parked along the road more than half way to Riverview Road.
I have been receiving many emails and phone calls from folks walking and bicycling in the Preserve with questions about some of the historic sites they are viewing. Due to this influx of interest, the Guide to the Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve has been scanned and posted on the Clifton Park Town Web Site, and is now more accessible to the public.
The Preserve, along with the hamlet of Vischer Ferry is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Within the Preserve are the remains of the Erie Canal, considered as the Eighth Wonder of the World. Three embodiments of the Erie Canal can be viewed; the original 1825 Clinton’s Ditch that was dug through this area in 1822; the enlarged Erie expanded in this area in 1842; and the Erie Barge Canal that opened in the canalized Mohawk River in 1915.
Lock 19, an example of a double chamber canal lock on the enlarged canal is one of several canal sites to be seen. Walking along the towpath for either the 1825 or enlarged 1842 canals you can discover the foundations of farmer’s bridges, early canal side homes, an Erie Canal dry dock where boats were built and repaired. You can also see a dam as well as Lock 7 of the Erie Barge Canal.
If you walk due south from the main entrance you can explore the site of Clifton Park’s first settlement along the Mohawk River that became known as Fort’s Ferry due to the ferry that crossed the river at this point.
The main entrance to the Preserve on Riverview Road at the end of Van Vranken Road features an 1869 cast iron Whipple truss bridge. It was originally erected over the Erie Canal at Fultonville, Montgomery County and is typical of bridges that once crossed the canal throughout New York State.
When the Erie Canal closed about 1917, the bridge was moved to the Cayuduta Creek in Fonda where it served as a private farm bridge. In 1997, Union College under the leadership of Professor Frank Griggs dismantled the bridge, restored it, and in partnership with the Town of Clifton Park erected it at its present location where a similar bridge once stood. The bridge was designed and built by Squire Whipple (1804-1887), a Union College graduate, class of 1830.
Please check out Cliftonpark.org to see the complete guide to the Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve. It will also provide information on wildlife and plants. If you are a fan of turtles, now is the time to see them. They are everywhere! The Preserve is certainly one of Clifton Park’s gems, and it is nice to see so many people enjoying its natural and historical surroundings.