Oswego kayakers to take Canalway Challenge Saturday

The Oswego Yakkers paddling group, seen above at a recent excursion, is looking for brave individuals to join them for a 15-mile paddle this Saturday as part of the statewide Canalway Challenge.

Statewide initiative encourages exploration, education on Erie Canal system

OSWEGO — A group of intrepid Oswego County paddlers will embark this weekend on one leg of a new statewide challenge designed to connect New Yorkers with the history of their local waterways.

Officials from the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor (ECNHC) earlier this month announced the launch of the Canalway Challenge, one of many initiatives running concurrently with the Erie Canal’s ongoing bicentennial celebration.

Bicyclers, paddlers, runners, hikers and walkers of all ages are invited this summer to “set their sights on fun and adventure” along the 524-mile New York State Canal System.

“The Canalway Challenge offers a new invitation for people to enjoy the scenic beauty and incredible recreational opportunities along the waterway,” said New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian Stratton, himself a SUNY Oswego graduate. “This is a fun and multidimensional challenge everyone should take the opportunity to embrace.”

A new, fun offering on the Oswego County waterways? You better believe Minetto’s Dick Drosse is all over it.

“Whether you paddle, hike or ride your bike — it doesn’t matter,” Drosse said. “This is a fun and healthy way to get out and enjoy the scenery and historic sites along the canals. The Canalway Challenge is a nice way of promoting the canal, our local history and our community.”

An avid kayaker and member of the Oswego Yakkers paddling group, Drosse and his wife Naneen for more than a decade have spearheaded numerous conservation and environmental enrichment programs in Oswego County.

Whether it’s pulling out (by hand) invasive water chestnuts from the Oswego River, planning exciting and innovative annual Earth Day activities with the Oswego County Green Team or leading the charge to protect the Great Bear Springs Recreational Area, the Drosses looked at the Canalway Challenge like everything else: with an eye towards improving their local community.

Drosse said he and Naneen pushed the ECNHC last year to include the entirety of the New York State Canal System in the Canalway Challenge, originally slated to consist of just the 365-mile Erie Canal.

Now, enthusiasts along the Champlain, Cayuga-Seneca and Oswego Canal can get in on the fun, starting this weekend.

Jennifer Mays, owner and operator of Oswego Expeditions, knows the rivers, lakes, streams and creeks of Oswego County better than just about anyone and says events like the Canalway Challenge help encourage residents to “keep our waterways and trails clean, safe and accessible.”

“Outdoor recreation on the Oswego Canal has the potential to be a huge economic driver that will significantly improve the local communities physical and economic health,” said Mays, whose company specializes in tours showcasing the best of Oswego County’s natural resources with her elite guidance and skill on the water. “I am very excited to be partnered with the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor on this positive movement and look forward to seeing the positive impact this challenge will have on the communities along the Oswego Canal.”

The Oswego Yakkers will be joining the Canalway Challenge this Saturday, June 15, to paddle from Fulton’s Indian Point to Minetto River View Park and group leaders are encouraging anyone interested to join them for a fun day on the water.

The group will meet at 9:30 a.m. at Indian Point and paddle from Fulton to Minetto with a tailgate lunch at the finish line. If interested, contact rdrosse@twcny.rr.com

Ground was broken on the Erie Canal in 1817 and state Canal officials are in the midst of a seven-year-long bicentennial celebration, slated to culminate in 2025

Participants are encouraged to share their experience on social media using the hashtag #canalwaychallenge and tag their favorite miles #favorite15. Participants can also join the Canalway Challenge Facebook group, facebook.com/groups/canalwaychallenge, to show off special moments, share photos, and ask questions.

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