OSWEGO COUNTY – Nearly 300 paddlers took to the Oswego River Canal on Aug. 18, traversing through four locks and ending in Oswego at Lock 8 near the entrance to Oswego Harbor.
This year’s annual Paddlefest was organized by the H. Lee White Maritime Museum.
The recreational event offers families and individuals a chance to experience navigating several miles of waterway through the locks on the historic canal.
Paddlers had the option of launching from Bullhead Point in Fulton or taking a shorter route from Minetto to Oswego.
Mercedes Niess, executive director of the H. Lee White Maritime Museum, said organizing the annual Paddlefest was a natural fit for the museum, which focuses on the region’s rich waterfront heritage and encourages use of the lake and canal for recreation.
“Part of our museum’s mission is educating people and encouraging more people to get comfortable on the water,” said Niess. “This event pulls the communities on the canal together and connects them with a shared and rewarding event.”
Niess said many agencies and volunteers worked together to provide an “amazing and outstanding safety team.”
They included the Phoenix, Fulton, Minetto and Oswego fire departments, Oswego County Fire Service, Oswego County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary, several volunteer members of the Oswego Yakkers paddling club, and Oswego and Fulton city police departments.
With winds from the north and a strong current in Oswego Harbor due to recent heavy rains, organizers decided to modify the course as a safety precaution Saturday morning.
Paddlers ended their route near Lock 8 at Bridge Street, instead of entering the harbor and paddling around the West First Street Pier to the museum’s boating education center.
“This year was the museum’s first time organizing Paddlefest. It gave us and our volunteers an opportunity to get this one under our belt,” said Niess. “Many of the volunteers had participated in the past, but many were new, so this also gave them a chance to get their feet wet as we look to preparing for next year.”
Niess said organizers and volunteers also received support from visitors, businesses, and residents who appreciate the effort needed to coordinate and organize the event.
Jean Mackay, director of communications and outreach for the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, told members of the Oswego County Tourism Advisory Council August 21 that Paddlefest has inspired many other communities and events along the New York State canal system.
The first Oswego County Paddlefest was organized by former Oswego County Legislator Jake Mulcahey of Oswego.
Mulcahey recruited a small group of volunteers to help with the event six years ago and has continued to be involved as a volunteer and business sponsor.
For information on the H. Lee White Maritime Museum, 1 W. First St. Pier, Oswego, visit http://hlwmm.org/
For information on paddling the Oswego River Canal go to http://visitoswegocounty.com/the-great-outdoors/boating/ or http://visitoswegocounty.com/wp-content/uploads/Paddle-fest-brochure1.pdf.