WATERFORD - Three 60-foot-tall Genesee beer tanks began their 225-mile journey on the Erie Canal on Friday, marking the opening of the historic canal's bicentennial season.

The massive fermentation tanks, part of a $49.1 million expansion at the Genesee Brewery in Rochester, entered Lock E2 in the Saratoga County town of Waterford around noon as a few dozen camera-wielding onlookers watched.

The 2,000-barrel tanks -- which will be followed by nine other tanks in the coming days -- will travel the canal by barge for the next six to seven days at speeds of six to eight miles per hour before being offloaded in Gates, where they will be loaded on to trucks and taken to the brewery.

The trip was delayed by a week while canal officials waited for water levels to recede, allowing the large barges to enter the waterway.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the canal, which is now primarily used for recreational boating.
The state's entire canal system is 524 miles long.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul officially opened the canal's season Friday, leading school children in a countdown before ordering Lock 2's gates opened.

"Lockmaster, please open the gates to Lock No. 2," Hochul said as awaiting boaters blew their horns.