A Little History

Not too many people know about The Oxbow. It’s a little corner of the World that’s tucked away and almost forgotten. If you walk the canal towpath from Perinton Park to the south, you’ll find the canal widens out somewhat before  it bends right towards Bushnell’s Basin.  Two islands and a stack of wooden poles making a navigation piling tell you are in The Oxbow. Look through the bushes to your right, and you’ll see you are on an embankment that is over twenty feet high, and you can see  over the top over the houses below. This sight really demonstrates the massive effort that went into the Erie Canal’s construction.

The Oxbow has a colorful past. Stories abound of murder, mayhem, speakeasys, brawls, brothels and bars. It was a place Fairport residents looked at with disdain. You were a no-body if you lived there, and school children, being the little horrors they can be, would ridicule the Oxbow kids  until – they were invited to stay there for a weekend.

Oxbow kids and their friends had fun, fishing, swimming, rafting, adventuring on the islands. It was a place where very happy childhood memories were made, and I’ve met several adults who lived and played here that had wonderful tales to tell.

One story I heard was from a man who lived on the north shore as a kid. The lone white house facing you as you walk down into The Oxbow was the local pub where, one night a man in a wheelchair had a lot too much to drink and became very obnoxious. Several customers dragged him outside, wheelchair and all, cracked a beer bottle on a rock, and slit his throat, leaving him to die in the bushes.


Pictured here are two of the three cottages that were still inhabited until recently.  They were burnt down, probably by local kids.

I often took my boat around by these cottages and spent a while fishing. I imagined the inhabitants living here, and kids hanging their bare feet off the dock, fishing rod in hand, whiling away the hours on these hot summer days.

I live on the North corner of the ‘lake’ with a wonderful view looking south. To wake in the morning and gaze out, watching the sun rise over The Oxbow is a sheer delight that brightens my every day, regardless of the weather.

Enjoy my live view. CLICK HERE

In the 1920’s the canal was dredged and the silt and debris  deposited in the lake formed by the construction of the  embankment to the west.


This photograph was taken with the view from Old Post Rd. looking north west. Note the electricity pylon in the center of the picture. It must have been taken shortly after the area was flooded as the embankment (upper left) is in place, but no sign of the islands yet.


A few years later, the Oxbow is a hive of activity; dozens of cottages are crammed in along the shore line. The main island is half complete and trees are well established. The smaller island barely exists, and there’s even a barge with a boom, probably there to contain the dredged material, or is it a pipeline to pump the silt ashore.


blow up

Most properties were taking advantage of their waterfront appeal and had docks and decks and even boats.

One ex-resident told me how many of the original bargemen cottages were designed so that the waterside wall was opened enough to let the bow of a barge pull inside. A deck was shaped to fit the bow  and the men slept there in more comfortable conditions than on board.  I’ve yet to find any photos of these barges, but I suspect they are very similar to the English narrow boats I am familiar with. Does anyone have any photos?

Some interesting articles.

From Vacation Spot to Ashes

The Early Years

The Erie Canal in Perinton

Author: Mike Caswell

I live in Fairport, and my home is at The Oxbow section of The Erie Canal. I fish, have a pontoon boat and like messing in boats. (see www.mud-skipper.com). I'm retired and enjoy every day living here with my wife Carol and our two dogs.

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