A Travellerspoint blog

2015 Happy Trails - Week 06

August 23 thru August 29, Upstate NY: Watertown, Lake Ontario Coast, Thousand Islands, Little Sodus Bay, Seneca Falls, NY, and Youngstown, NY

Sunday, August 23

Watertown, NY

This morning we left the Bucktail Family Fun Park Camping Resort (don’t you just love that name; makes me laugh) in Mansfield, PA and drove east on US Rte. 6 through Sylvania, PA (loosely translated to “woods Penn’s woods” :-) and then into Towanda, PA where we stopped to stretch our legs at a spot overlooking a beautiful park that ran alongside the Susquehanna River for about a mile.


Along where the river banks were steep the park walkway was lined by an iron fence with rose bushes growing all along it. I imagine it is quite stunning in the summer when the roses are blooming.


The views of the river were beautiful as we walked along the park path.


We turned north on US220 and rode along the Susquehanna River to Saire, PA where we then turned east on SR17. We stopped for a picnic lunch at a rest stop on the highway across from Tioga Raceway.


At Binghamton we turned north on I81 for last leg of our journey today. We turned off the interstate at exit 46 in Watertown, NY and drove Rte. 12F to the Black River Bay Campground

We had made reservations at this private campground because it was located on the Black River Bay and we snagged a picturesque site right on the riverbank. After setting up camp we drove into Watertown looking for a place for dinner. It was a beautiful evening and we found this wonderful restaurant, Maggie’s On The River, where we ate dinner outside on a patio overlooking the Black River rapids.

Views from the dining patio:


While enjoying our dinner we were entertained by a couple of adventuresome kayakers playing in the current. It appeared that one was the more experienced (yellow kayak) and was training the other one (blue kayak) who kept upsetting.




The restaurant itself is housed in an old brick building that was originally the Watertown Thermometer Company building. Coincidentally Tim had told me a story as we were driving today about the last time he travelled to Watertown on business when he worked for Cheseborough Ponds Hospital Products Division. This building was the original site for the thermometer company bought by Cheseborough Ponds Company.

Monday, August 24

Seaway Trail east along the coast of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River to Alexandria Bay, NY

We began our day with breakfast at the Cracker Barrel restaurant in Watertown and found that they had excellent cell phone coverage, something lacking at the Black River Bay Campground, so I stayed a couple of hours drinking tea and uploaded all our photos from the past two weeks onto the blogsite while Tim drove to Walmart and picked up a few items.

We drove 104 scenic miles today tracing the easternmost portion of the Seaway Trail from Watertown, NY east along the coast of Lake Ontario and a portion of the St. Lawrence River to Alexandria Bay, NY. Our route took us on SR180 through the little town of Dexter to SR 12E which we followed around the northeastern edge of Lake Ontario past Chaumont Bay to the quaint little village of St. Vincent on the St. Lawrence River. We stopped to warm up (it was chilly out) with a latte before continuing on along the river to the town of Clayton where we walked along the shops and tasted (and bought) a few of New York’s best wines at the Coyote Moon Winery.


Views across the St. Lawrence River

Muskie Monument

Clayton is a beautiful little town.

We finished the afternoon with a wine tasting at the Coyote Winery where we bought some delicious wines and even a couple of beautiful etched wine glasses.

Back on the road we continued on SR12E along the St. Lawrence River thru Fisher’s Landing to Alexandria Bay, NY where tomorrow we will return to take the Uncle Sam Boat Tour of the Thousand Islands.

Tuesday, August 25

Thousand Islands, NY

We got an early start this morning for our 49 mile drive up to Alexandria Bay, NY. Once there we boarded a large triple decked vessel for our 2 ¼ hour tour of both the Canadian and the American sections of the 1000 Islands including Millionaire’s Row, so named because of the huge mansions built on the islands during the “gilded age” of the American Industrial Revolution.

Wealthy industrialists from all over the country migrated to this area of the country each year to escape the summer heat back home. The islands and homes on the American side of the border are known as the “old money” and the ones on the Canadian side are the “new money”.
While known generally as the “1000 Islands” there are in fact 1864 isles. The smallest is named Tom Thumb Island. Too cute.

Alexandria Bay

Cormorands, a species of bird we’re very familiar with in Florida.


165 tiny house,

174 tiny lighthouse


A tanker reminiscent of the Captain Phillips movie

Tom Thumb Island, the smallest of the 1000 Islands.
To qualify and be counted as one of the 1000 Islands the land must be at least 3 feet in diameter, be above water 365 days of the year, and have at least one tree and one other form of vegetation.



A campground on the Canadian side.

Interstate 81 links America to Canada crossing the American Channel not too far from Alexandria Bay onto the island of Wellesley then across the Canadian Channel to the Canadian mainland.

Canada Bridge

American Bridge

We were told that the bridge has work crews painting it every day of the year!

The grandest of all the “gilded age” mansions on the 1000 Islands is Boldt Castle on Heart Island and it has by far the most interesting background story. At the turn of the 20th century, George C. Boldt, millionaire proprietor of the world-famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, set out to build a full-sized Rhineland Castle in Alexandria Bay on picturesque Heart Island. The grandiose structure was to be a display of his love for his wife, Louise.

Beginning in 1900, Boldt’s family shared four glorious summers on Wellesley Island while 300 workers, stonemasons, carpenters, and artists fashioned the six story, 120-room castle, complete with tunnels, a powerhouse, Italian gardens, a drawbridge and a dovecote. Not a single detail or expense was spared. Altogether six structures were built: Boldt Castle, the Power House and Clock Tower, the Alster Tower, the Hennery, the Arch, and a stone gazebo.

In 1904 tragedy struck. Boldt telegrammed the island and commanded the workers to immediately “stop all construction.” Louise had died suddenly. A broken-hearted Boldt could not imagine his dream castle without his beloved. Three hundred workers laid down their tools. Boldt never returned to the island, leaving behind the structure as a monument of his love.

Boldt Castle

Alster Tower

Power House and Clock Tower

175 Power House with Boldt Castle in background

The weather all day was pretty dreary, varying between just overcast and chilly to downright cold with showers but we managed to have a wonderful time in spite of it. After all, a day on a boat beats a day on the shore, hands down, no matter the weather.
Once the tour was over we drove back along the river stopping in Sackets Harbor at the Visitor’s Center.

View out across the harbor from the front porch of the Visitor’s Center.

We walked from the Visitor’s Center down to the shore for cocktails and dinner at the Sackets Harbor Brewing Company. It was freezing inside so even though it was chilly outside, we changed tables to one out on the deck overlooking the water. It was quite pleasant and the sun even cooperated and came out for a short time. The ducks were quite entertaining and the food was delicious!


After dinner we drove around Sackets Harbor for a bit stumbling across the historic Madison Barracks, a military installation built for occupation by 600 US troops a few years after the end of the War of 1812. It was named for James Madison who had just completed his presidency in 1817. It includes the stone hospital, bakery, several warehouses known as “Stone Row”, a stone water tower and a series of brick buildings constructed in the 1890s as officers’ quarters, barracks, mess hall and a weapons storage and repair building.

Madison Barracks was the US Army’s primary post in upstate New York through the end of World War II but interestingly it has now been converted into a residential community.


Wednesday, August 26

Seaway Trail west from Watertown, NY to Fair Haven Beach, NY

We drove 112 miles today leaving the Black River Bay Campground this morning to begin our trek southwest on SR 3 along the shoreline of Lake Ontario. Our first stop was at the Henderson Harbor overlook but - there was no overlook!!! Seriously it was just an overgrown pullover surrounded by bushes and weeds with one lonely spot where you could barely glimpse the water through the trees.


We continued on to the next stop on our agenda, Southwick Beach State Park for views of Lake Ontario’s “largest sand dunes – over 60 feet high” we had read in one of the tour books. Unfortunately we were skunked again! There were no sand dunes to be found anywhere!


Even though it was a blustery day there were a few people braving the beach.

And a few birds doing what birds do.

There was a nice campground right on the water but it was full.


We continued our drive along SR 3 to Rte 104 through the picturesque small city of Oswego, NY. We stopped for the night at the nearby Fair Haven Beach State Park Campground. While our site was just across the road from the Lake, it was up on a high bluff and there wasn’t much of a view.


Our site.

Thursday, August 27

Little Sodus Bay in Fair Haven, NY

The beach at the Fair Haven Beach State Park was beautiful but chilly.

Remember the 60 foot dunes that weren't? Well this may explain their disappearance. Evidently recent storms have decimated the dunes all along this section of the coast.

We explored the town of Fair Haven and came across the most delightful little bakery, The Fly By Night Cookie Company. Needless to say we sampled more than a few and the cookies were extraordinary!

Friday, August 28

Seneca Falls, NY

We left Little Sodus Bay and the Lake Ontario shoreline today and drove south to the Fingerling Lakes area of upstate New York.


We dropped the trailer at a very pleasant (but remote) campground and headed into Seneca Falls to tour the town. We choose this area of the Fingerling Lakes specifically because Seneca Falls is where the Women’s Rights Movement was founded in 1848.

Our first stop was the National Women’s Hall of Fame. So much history! One could easily spend the day here.


Our second stop was a history museum where we found many artifacts from the days when the intricate waterway system of canals and locks were built creating a navigable path connecting Lake Erie, the Fingerling Lakes, and Lake Ontario with the Atlantic Ocean via the Hudson River and/or the St. Lawrence River.


We strolled along the Cayuga-Seneca Canal which flows through town. This is the canal that connects the Fingerling Lakes of Lake Seneca and Lake Cayuga to the Erie Canal.


Along the way we came to a beautiful statue of the three founding women of the Women’s Rights Movement: Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cody Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony. They organized and held the first Women’s Rights Convention here in Seneca Falls in 1848, drafting the Seneca Falls Convention’s Declaration of Sentiments with the historic words “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal …”


I think I fit right in!

On the outskirts downtown proper we found a delightful park with many statues and sculptures.


The most interesting sculpture depicted the struggle women fought for equal rights: the right to own property including the right to one’s own wages, guardianship rights, the right to education and lastly the right to vote, all of which were denied to women only a few short hundred and fifty years ago.


The park was along the banks of the Cayuga-Seneca Canal. These are the canal boats that navigated the canals and are still in operation today.


The highlight of our excursion today for Tim was when we discovered the bridge on Bedford Falls Blvd that Jimmy Stewart threatened to jump from in the motion picture It’s a Wonderful Life.



Evidently someone did jump from the bridge if I read the message on the plaque correctly.


Saturday, August 29

Youngstown, NY

After a short hike around the pretty grounds of the rural campground we got a leisurely start toward our last tourist destination of the summer – Niagara Falls.

For a while we drove west along the shore of Lake Ontario past many scenic apple orchards.


Such picturesque farms right on the shore of Lake Ontario! We stopped at one and bought some lovely produce although we were too early for apples.


We stopped to make lunch and to stretch our legs at one point at a nice roadside park. There were lots of interesting flowers and plants growing wild.


We planned our route to drive west along the Lake Ontario State Parkway which tracked along the coast of Lake Ontario toward Lake Erie. It was listed as a Scenic Byway. We discovered it must have been the first “scenic byway” ever built. Picture the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey, a divided four lane highway without billboards or buildings lining the sides, but this one so old that the concrete was decomposing and full of terrible potholes. All of the “overpasses” were only high enough for cars. So at each interchange we were forced to leave the highway and then re-enter to avoid the low overpasses. Plus we couldn’t really drive at speed because the road was in such disrepair.

After a couple of hours we decided to leave the “scenic” route and find our way on city streets to our destination, the Four Mile Creek State Park. That’s when the real adventure began. We were happily making our way west through very scenic small towns on two lane streets when we rounded a curve down a short hill and suddenly came to face to face with a railroad pass – a short tunnel under a railroad bridge and it was just like the under passes on the Sake Ontario State Parkway! Tim screeched to a halt and I jumped out of the truck and ran to the back of the trailer where I waved down the traffic coming up behind us. Tim then backed the truck and trailer up a few hundred yards and into a residential street and someone’s driveway. The owner came out and told us we weren’t the first people to have to back up into his driveway like that; it evidently happens to truckers quite often. OMG!

Fortunately when we finally arrived at our destination, the Four Mile Creek State Park in Youngstown, NY, we were pleasantly surprised. It was a very nice campground right on the shore of Lake Ontario.

Posted by JudyandTim2015 20:40 Archived in USA

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