New York State Engineer and Surveyor Erie and Champlain Canals Topographic Survey Maps

Held by the New York State Archives

Overview of the Records


New York State Archives

New York State Education Department

Cultural Education Center

Albany, NY 12230

Arranged by canal, these maps depict lands adjacent to the Erie and Champlain canals during the time of their enlargement and improvement as the Barge Canal. Included are lines for State-owned land; the towpath; a new channel line; potential flood lines; land elevations and water depths; and boundaries of specific work contracts. Some maps show property lines, owners, and parcel numbers; outlines of buildings; existing canal structures and railroad and telegraph lines; and swamps.
circa 40.25 cubic feet (circa 450 aperture cards and 156 maps): col., ink, manuscript, annotated; on sheet 60 x 92 cm.
Inclusive Dates:
[circa 1904-1915]
Series Number:


Arranged by canal and therein numerically.

Scope and Content Note

The series consists of 156 maps of the Erie and Champlain canals at the time of their enlargement and improvement into what was commonly referred to as the Barge Canal. The maps apparently date from after the initial Barge Canal Law of 1903; they are undated except for scattered annotations that were apparently added during the use that followed their creation.

Chapter 147 of the Laws of 1903 spelled out the routes of and improvements to the Erie, Champlain, and Oswego canals, and the State Engineer and Surveyor was responsible for producing an accurate survey and map of lands, structures, and waters that might be appropriated for canal use. The purpose of these maps appears to be to provide an accurate depiction of the land taken up by and surrounding the canal, to determine both private and state ownership of land, and to provide the most accurate survey measurements possible for the canal enlargement and improvements. Much of the information contained on the maps is in the form of figures and accompanying notes resulting from surveys of and around the canal waterways.

The maps generally show the following lines and figures depicting survey measurements, according to standard practices: 1) blue lines (sometimes marked "BL") that represent areas of state owned land; 2) red lines (sometimes marked "RL") that represent the inner line of the towing path from which all measurements in the direction of the length of the canal were taken; 3) green lines (sometimes marked on or near "FL") that apparently represent a new channel line when dotted, and a potential flood line on land when solid; 4) figures in red and black ink representing tie measurements, sometimes with remarks (e.g., "tie measurement using 1905 base lines"). A tie is a survey connection from a point of a known position to a point whose position is desired. A tie is used to determine the position of a supplementary point whose position is desired for mapping or reference purposes, or to close a survey on a previously determined point; 5) contour lines, land elevations, and depths of bodies of water; and 6) lines showing where specific work contracts were bounded.

In addition, some maps show some or all of the following: property lines and/or parcel numbers, sometimes with the name of owner; outlines of buildings, sometimes with names; location of existing canal structures, and railroad and telegraph lines; swamps, fens, and other natural phenomena; directional symbols; and inked or penciled references to adjoining sheet numbers.

Penciled annotations appear on many of the maps. They were apparently added during use or at times after the maps were first made, and include the following: names of various properties and/or property owners; grade measurements and indications of cultivated land, toe slopes, ditches, cuts, embankments, and quantities of excavated material; preliminary figures of measurements, subsequently inked over; notes [e.g., "Retain (flooded); Release (tillable)"]; and references to other sources (e.g., field books and engineer's correspondence) for additional information (e.g., on the release of certain parcels of land), sometimes including a date.

There are 102 maps of the Erie Canal from Waterford to Morris Island (just west of Pattersonville in the Mohawk River) and 54 maps of the Champlain Canal from Northumberland to 101st Street in Lansingburgh (just north of the Federal Dam in Troy). The maps show proposed routes of the two divisions of the Barge Canal, and where the existing canal and proposed canal are not in close proximity the existing canal may not show at all.

Numbering is consecutive for maps of each of the two canals. There are no dates, scales, titles, or legends on the maps. Each map has two sets of numbers on its face. The maps may be sections cut up from larger rolls. They cover areas of the Eastern Division of the Erie Canal that are missing from canal survey maps of prior years. They are commonly referred to as "Egg Shell Maps" after the paper on which they were executed.

14068-04: This accretion consists of microfilm copies of the original accession on aperture cards. Labels indicate either Erie or Champlain Canal and are numbered in separate sequences. There are apparently three duplicate sets of cards. Some cards may be missing.

Use of Records

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions regarding access to or use of this material.

Alternate Formats Available

Microform: Also available on aperture cards.

Related Information

Related Materials

Series B1210 Middle and Western Division Survey Maps for the Proposed 1895 Erie Canal Enlargement, covers earlier surveys for canal areas not found in this series.

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