Culvert Road in Medina is home to the aptly named “Medina Culvert”. This is the only place in New York where you can drive under the Erie Canal.
by Chris Clemens
A culvert is a passageway built typically to allow water to travel under a roadway, railroad or some type of passage that can’t be obstructed by running water.
Usually a closed conduit, we’re used to seeing culverts everywhere in New York. These allow streams to run under the roads we drive.
This particular culvert in Medina actually does the opposite. Instead, it allows the water go over the roadway!
The Medina Culvert
Originally built in 1823, the culvert method was chosen carefully. Because the canal runs along kind of a berm in this section, it made north to south passage tough.
The drop from the towpath down to the road is about 20 feet or so. Because of that drop, any bridge would have needed to be much higher so boats could pass under. Any bridge that tall would have to begin far beyond each side of the canal. Otherwise the pitch would have to be really steep.
After a lot of engineering and consideration, going under by way of a culvert ultimately became the best solution.
Though many New Yorkers still refer to the famous waterway as “The Erie Canal”, it would later give way to its new name ‘The New York State Barge Canal‘ as it was widened and in some places remapped in 1905. This culvert was given proper treatment in 1906 to allow for the widened waterway.
Today it still remains the only place on the entire canal system where you can freely pass under the canal. Or, should you want to, there are sidewalks on each side so you could walk it.
Though there is constant water dripping from the ceiling of the tunnel, it’s looking pretty good for being 190 years old!
Photos Of Medina Culvert
Chris Clemens is the Founder/Publisher of Exploring Upstate. From his hometown in Rochester, he spends as much time as possible connecting with the history, culture, and places that make Upstate New York a land of discovery. Follow him on Twitter at @cpclemens