The first three decades of the 19th century was the heyday of canal construction in the United States. Overland transport was not practical for large, heavy loads -and this posed a real obstacle for those wishing to colonize the interior of North America and establish commerce. To be sure, the continent is blessed with a lot of navigable natural waterways, but for places where Mother Nature has not provided convenient access, canals could be built. Thomas Jefferson opined hopefully that an elaborate network of canals might one day stretch deep into the continent, linking farmers and artisans with the mighty Mississipi, which dominated most of his "Loisiana Purchase". The most famous American canal is the Erie, which facilitated trade between New York City and then-boomtown Buffalo, NY. It was an economic and engineering marvel in its day, and -who knows- if trains hadn't been introduced shortly after completion of the Erie, maybe other great canals would have followed. Of course trains did come along, were much cheaper to build, and offered speed canals could not compete with. The era of canals was over by the 1850's...but not before a legion of smaller, lesser-known canals had been contructed. Strewn across much of New York State are the remnants of those bygone days. Today, an avid cyclist or hiker can follow some of the minor New York State canals for miles, often in very picturesqe settings. In fact, if you find yourself in central New York state, his book is very useful as a trip planner.