Enjoying the Champlain Canal Aboard the Caldwell Belle

Monday, July 31, 2017
As my regular readers know by now, I'm a lover of water and boats and beautiful scenery.  We were lucky enough to enjoy all three yesterday when we took advantage of the gorgeous weather and went cruising on the Caldwell Belle.

Like many of the places and attractions I've featured here on the blog, I didn't even realize this existed.  I had no idea there was such a vessel or cruise until I saw a Facebook post that Pete Bardunias, President of the Southern Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, made a while back.  I've since figured out that if you're looking for anything that's happening in these parts....all you need to do is follow Pete on Facebook. Pete attends every opening, every event.....he's the eyes and ears about what's going on in Southern Saratoga County.  I've been waiting eagerly to check out the Mohawk Maiden Cruises since seeing that post and wow,  it was worth the wait!!

I knew from checking out their website that Mohawk Maiden Cruises offer a number of different cruise options.  Cruise lengths vary from 1.25 hours to 3 hours, and although I'd initially planned on checking out their Lock and Waterfall Cruise, due to our spontaneous decision yesterday to take advantage of the beautiful day, we ended up on the Captain's Choice Cruise.  This particular cruise is a 1.25 hours cruise that takes passengers north on the Champlain Canal.  We'd purchased our tickets online beforehand but some passengers were walk-ons purchasing when they arrived.  I'd definitely recommend booking in advance, especially on a weekend - unless of course you are already in the area.  The Caldwell Belle holds 40 passengers plus crew and although we were probably only at half capacity, I wouldn't take a chance.

The Caldwell Belle is an authentic chain-driven sternwheel paddle boat that originally came from Wisconsin.  Bob Foster originally bought the boat and brought it to Schuylerville.  He ran cruises on it for 12 years before Marla and Maria purchased it.  This is Marla and Maria's fifth season, and together with their son, Jose, they are the perfect Captains and Crew for this relaxing experience. Both Marla and Maria are friendly and entertaining, down to earth and welcoming.  If you're looking for starched shirts and formality, this might not be the cruise for you.  But if you're looking for a cruise that's relaxing and informative, where you'll laugh and learn, then I recommend you check out the river/canal cruise on the Caldwell Belle.

The scenery along the canal and Hudson River is just beautiful.  It didn't hurt that the sky was crystal clear and azure blue or that Maria has eyes like a hawk and pointed out a number of bald eagles, osprey, comarants and a great blue heron.  I feel sure none of the passengers would have noticed any of these without her pointing them out.  Jose even spotted a parachuter which, even with his direction, was almost impossible to see.  Along the way, Marla and Maria both narrated bits of history of the area along with the history of the vessel and some education about traveling on the canal.   It was obvious from beginning to end that these two enjoy their roles as Captain and enjoy sharing their love of boating and the area with their passengers.  That results in a boat full of happy and satisfied (and relaxed) passengers.
Barge coming through with gravel to deliver

Barriers placed to prevent boats from accidentally going down the falls.

Captain Marla introducing the 'skeleton crew' Aarrrgyle.

Bald Eagle

What was really lovely about the paddle boat was the option passengers have when it comes to seating.  The upper deck provides both shade and sun, so passengers can be sheltered from the sun and still be in the open air, but for those passengers not wanting to climb stairs or those not so fond of the open, the lower deck provides tables and chairs and is enclosed with plenty of windows for viewing.  All of the passengers on our trip opted for the upper deck.

Captain Maria behind the wheel!

The Caldwell Belle is docked in Schuylerville at Lock C5.  They offer four regular cruises most days except Mondays, as well as a number of special events.  Ticket prices range from $25 (for a 3-hr. cruise) to $15 for the 1.25 hr cruise.  Seniors and children under 12 are less.  I felt our cruise at $14 (senior price) was well worth it.  I'd recommend it to anyone.   The cruise was calm and smooth and perfect for even the least adventurous of boaters.  Groups are also welcome as well as private charters, parties, corporate events and more.  I don't know how I didn't know about Mohawk Maiden Cruises all these years, but if you didn't either, now you have no excuse!!  Check it out soon!

Crew member, Jose

Waterfall on the left

River on the left - Canal on the right

Caldwell Bell docked on the canal.
If these pictures haven't convinced you, well, I give up!   New York state is so rich in history and beauty - so much of it we haven't even seen.  And this place is right in our backyard!  For more information and to book a cruise:

If you enjoy this cruise and want to see more of the canal, you should consider the Erie Canal Cruise.  Leaving from the Mohawk Valley Visitor Center in Herkimer, the Lil' Diamond vessels offer another beautiful, educational cruise opportunity.

To read my earlier post about the Erie Canal cruise:
Thanks for reading and thank you Marla, Maria and Jose for a perfectly wonderful afternoon on your beautiful boat.  I think I can speak for all the passengers when I say there was nowhere we could have better enjoyed such a beautiful day!

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