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Exploring History, Nature, And Community With Corn Hill Navigation

The Rochester area has such historical significance, from its Industrial Revolution days as a key commerce stop along the Erie Canal east to west, its beautiful Great Lakes and access to the Finger Lakes, and its prominence in the suffrage and civil rights movements. Essential to human progress have been the waterways that encouraged and facilitated development. 

Our waterways are the lifeblood of the area, and Corn Hill Navigation, a non-profit operating out of Rochester’s Corn Hill neighborhood and Pittsford’s Schoen Place, aims to educate guests of all ages. 

Since its founding in 1991, Corn Hill Navigation highlights the history and ecology of the Genesee River and the Erie Canal. For over 30 years, the Sam Patch, a replica packet boat, has been an iconic part of Schoen Place, and since 2023, the Riverie, a modern, accessible yacht, allows guests of all ages and abilities to soak up the beauty of Rochester’s waterways.

Sam Patch in Pittsford’s Schoen Place

Sam Patch was America’s first daredevil, amazing audiences in the early 1800s by jumping from waterfalls. He jumped from Niagara Falls twice and then set his sights on the Upper Falls in Roc. According to legend, Patch successfully made the 97ft. jump with his new pet bear once, but when he raised the jump platform to 125ft and jumped a week later in what he advertised as “Sam’s Last Jump” (because he was done for the season), he did not survive. Patch lived on in legend, with the Pittsford boat named in his honor. 

Sam Patch tours offer live narrated tours of the region’s cultural heritage and canal history, providing guests with the signature canal experience, passing through a historic lock (with an elevation change of 571 feet between Albany and Buffalo, locks were and are essential for canal travel). Tours often coincide with the 4th grade social studies curriculum of the Erie Canal and the Industrial Revolution.

Riverie in Rochester’s  Corn Hill Landing

Docked on the Genesee River at Rochester’s Corn Hill Landing is the modern vessel, the Riverie, named for the convergence of the words River and Erie, as the Genesee and the Canal converge just south of its dock.

Dr. Lisa Wing, Board of Directors’ Chairperson for Corn Hill Navigation, says,

“There’s no more magical view of the City [of Rochester] than from the bow of a boat," 

and the Riverie gives visitors the opportunity to soak it all in as they learn about the Genesee, the Erie Canal, the Rochester skyline, Mercury and the wings of progress, and the basic landmarks of downtown Rochester. From the Riverie, guests see the city from a new perspective.

The Riverie’s education initiatives focus on environmental science, as students, mostly the 1,500 Rochester City School 5th graders, analyze the river’s health through biological, chemical, and physical assessments.

Wing says students often come with preconceived notions about the health of the river, but on the Riverie, they investigate for themselves. Students see the river from a different point of view (and often board a boat for the first time), helping them understand the connection between human actions / inaction and the waterways. 

Executive Director of Corn Hill Navigation, Patrick Russell-Walsh, says when people know the story and history behind something, they’re more likely to appreciate and take care of that treasure. He says “[The Genesee River and Erie Canal are] amazing, and we have to take care of it!”

The Sam Patch and Riverie offer such great opportunities for people to learn about local treasures. As Russell-Walsh says, “You can go anywhere in the world and see the same restaurants … but this is the only place where you can see the canal and the river converge.”

Corn Hill Navigation Cruises

To offset educational programming costs and allow the public to experience the Genesee River and Erie Canal, the Sam Patch and Riverie offer narrated and special event cruises from mid-May through October and offer opportunities for private charters.


  • Live Music Sunset Cruises – Sit back, relax, and enjoy live music as you cruise the canal

  • Lock 32 Cruises – Experience the penultimate canal experience as you lock through the centuries old lock system.

  • Arts & Culture Cruises – Throughout the season, enjoy in-depth presentations on the Erie Canal and the Genesee River, hands-on art classes and yoga sessions, and other special guest programming as you traverse the canal in the Sam Patch


  • River and Canal Cruises – Explore the Genesee River as it winds from High Falls to Genesee Valley Park, and experience the region’s rich history and stunning scenery on the way

  • Lunch & Lock 33 Cruises – Travel from the Genesee River to Lock 33 on the Erie Canal while enjoying beautiful views and learning about the area’s history

  • Music Cruises – Enjoy live music from local artists as you cruise around Genesee River and soak up the stunning views of Rochester’s skyline as the sun sets. Friday nights throughout the season

  • Date Night/Sunset Cruises – Thursday and Saturday nights throughout the season

  • Birding Cruises – June 15th, July 27th, August 24th, October 26th

  • July 4th Downtown Fireworks Cruise


  • Pathway of Resistance: The Erie Canal and the Underground Railroad, June 19th

  • The Genesee Valley Canal - Sept 11th 

  • Waterway of Change: Women and the Erie Canal October 16th 

  • (Add QR code specific for Home Magazine to – Patrick will send the QR code)

Q&A with Corn Hill Navigation’s Patrick Russell-Walsh and Dr. Lisa Wing

Favorite Cruise Memories:

Patrick: When a student is deathly afraid of boarding the boat because they can’t swim and haven’t been on a boat before, but five minutes into the cruise, they’re all smiles. When students say they are so glad to be away from school and learning, but the entire session here, they’re learning and engaged. It’s all about the hands-on learning.

Lisa: Hearing passengers gasp when the boat rounds the bend and the city skyline comes into view. Or one time when a patron cruised on a private charter and was in tears aboard the boat because of how beautiful the scenery was.

Favorite restaurant:

Patrick: Nosh, Cure, Grace & Disgrace

Lisa: Edibles, and I can’t stop thinking about Neutral Ground’s sandwiches

Favorite outing with family/friends: Both immediately said, “Cruising around Rochester” of course! But besides that,

Patrick: Corbett's Glen

Lisa: High Falls

Favorite cultural spot around Rochester:

Patrick: RPO, Strong, RMSC

Lisa: RMSC of course

Favorite warm weather meal/drink:

Patrick: Margarita

Lisa: Diet Coke, turkey burger

Favorite summer hobby:

Patrick: Kayaking

Lisa: Riding bikes – there are so many bike trails, including the canal trail

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