1000 Islands; the St. Lawrence Seaway on One Tank

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September 2, 2009

Upstate New York is as different from Manhattan as night is to day. The beautiful countryside is full of lakes and streams for great fishing and boating. Visitors to this region can expect to find quiet getaway spots close to water with plenty of activities to interest even the most jaded local. This One Tank RV Trip from Woodall’s takes you through quaint historic towns near Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Utica is a city rooted in history. It served as the base of Fort Schuyler during the French and Indian Wars, then grew into a thriving trade city thanks to its proximity to the Erie Canal. Now, the Handshake City is a 21st century destination that retains that small town feel. Enjoy a relaxing picnic at one of the city parks before heading over to see the 200 animals at the Utica Zoo. Try any of the downtown Utica restaurants for a nice steak dinner before taking in a world-class show at the Stanley Center for the Arts.

Syracuse lies just over 40 miles to the west, accessed via I-90. This route takes you along the Erie Canal, and when you get to Syracuse you’ll be able to tour the Erie Canal Museum. Housed in the last remaining weighlock building in America, the museum features tours and an array of exhibits depicting life near the canal over the decades. Check out the trendy boutiques, galleries and cafes in the Armory Square district, where you’ll find entertainment and nightlife to rival big cities.

Heading north on I-81, travel almost 70 miles until you come to Watertown, home to the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park. Exercise your mind at the Sci-Tech Center, which has many fascinating exhibits and interactive displays that showcase all facets of technology, from military applications to public transportation achievements. For some outdoor fun, take a guided raft tour down the whitewaters of Black River Canyon, or seek out any of the Watertown golf courses for a leisurely round or two.

**NOTE: From Watertown until the end of this route in Massena, you’ll be driving along the St. Lawrence section of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, one of America’s scenic byways. It’s also a year-round destination for birding, so don’t forget the binoculars!

boldt-castle-alexandria-bay-new-yorkAlexandria Bay As you venture up the northbound NY-12, you’ll run parallel to the St. Lawrence Seaway for nearly 30 miles until you reach Alexandria Bay. One of the more fascinating sites in the area is Boldt Castle, located on Heart Island. Originally intended by millionaire George C. Boldt (proprietor of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in NYC) as a gift for his wife, Louise, construction was halted in 1904 after her sudden death. The property lay dormant until acquired by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority, which restored the ruins and completed construction in 1977. Boldt Castle is a re-creation of a Rhineland castle and is an Official Port of Entry into the U.S. from Canada.

Continuing north on NY-12 for 12 miles, you’ll come to the exit for CR-6, which you’ll take for 24 miles into Ogdensburg. For those who have a particular liking for rugged Western art, you’re in for a treat at the Frederic Remington Art Museum. The museum contains an impressive collection of paintings, sculptures, sketches, and personal effects that offer a comprehensive view of this fascinating artist, whose work continues to captivate new admirers to this day.

frederic-remington-painting-of-frontiersman-on-horsebackMassena To get to the last stop of Massena, leave Ogdensburg on the eastbound CR-28 and following it 15 miles to the NY-37-E junction. Take the 37 for 18 miles into Massena’s city limits. The area features great fishing and camping. The Akwesasne Mohawk Casino in nearby Hogansburg offers gaming thrills, dining and live entertainment. Don’t miss the observation decks overlooking Eisenhower Lock on the St. Lawrence Seaway, where you can watch the ships pass by on their journeys between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean.

From here it’s an easy half-day’s drive to Ottawa, Montreal, or up into the northern half of New England. Or perhaps you’d like to point the RV south to explore the Adirondacks before heading over to Massachusetts and Connecticut. Whatever your interests, Upstate New York has plenty of fun activities and beautiful scenery you won’t soon forget.

Where to Stay: At the start of the trip you can stay at the West Canada Creek Campsites in Poland, NY, just 11 miles north of Utica. This park features full hookups and big-rig sites, plus free WiFi. Just off the route between Syracuse and Watertown, stay in the town of Mexico at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park. Park the RV at Association Island RV Resort & Marina in the 1000 Islands region near Sackets Harbor and Watertown. In Massena at the end of the trip, stay at the Massena International Kampground, featuring huge RV sites with full hookups and free hot showers. If you find yourself in the Adirondacks, try camping at Lake George Schroon Valley Resort in Warrensburg.

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  1. J Webber

    Nice article, but to many people New York State and New York City are synonomus. You should mention Adirondack Park a nearly 7 million acre area much of which is designated as forever wild. All of which is over 150 miles north of NYC. There are thousands of lakes and ponds and hundreds of campgrounds scattered thorughout. But a day or two of boondocking in many places is allowed and a must for anyone wishing solitude, to enjoy the fall season.

  2. John Hinbest

    We have enjoyed the 1,00 island many time from the GTA but have never been to a single one of the locations you mentioned and would way Upper Canada Village was not metioned.

  3. John Griffith

    If you stay on I81 until you get to the St. Lawrence River, you will be in Clayton, NY. Some of the nicest folks you will ever meet and clean, beautiful campgrounds overlooking the seaway. Just a few minutes from the ferries that take you to Boldt castle and a trip among the islands.

  4. The blog server doesn’t like my images for some reason, so I’ll add them to the post in a few days once I get things sorted out.