I rode from near Utica to Lockport summer before last with my son. Get the Guide Book "Cycling the Erie Canal". It's from New York State Parks and Trails. It's spiral bound with a map that covers 10 miles per page. Shows local sites, restaurants, bike shops, etc. Very handy.
About 70% of the route is on a bike path. Much of the bike path is packed stone dust. We had 700X28 tires which were ok for a very dry path. I definitely wouldn't use anything narrower and would feel more comfortable with a wider tire. If you have the option, go west to east. I've heard that if there's a breeze, it's usually that direction.
And thanks for the picture of the biyak (or is it a kaycycle), I'm going to paste it into an email to a friend who may ride with me and tell him I've made a slight change of plans.