Off-Post Leisure and Travel
If you’re looking for something to do around Fort Drum, there’s no lack of activities or events! Outdoor recreation can be found on Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River, the Black River and Indian Lake. These bodies of water provide some of the best fishing, boating and sailing, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, scuba diving and whitewater rafting in the world. Winter brings “lake-effect” snow with unparalleled snowmobiling, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, skating and hunting, especially on the Tug Hill Plateau. Museums and historic points of interest include the War of 1812 Battlefield in Sackets Harbor, Boldt Castle and Millionaire’s Row in the Thousand Islands, the Antique Boat Museum, the Clayton Opera House and the Jefferson County Historical Society. There is a lot to see and do here — discover New York!
The following information may help Soldiers and families get their bearings and some ideas of things to do and places to go in the area. This list is not all-inclusive; it’s just meant to be a starting point. For more information on the Thousands Islands area, visit www.visit1000islands.com.
Ebenezer Emmons, a Williams College professor, named the Adirondacks in his mistaken belief that it was the name of “a well-known tribe of American Indians” who once hunted there. Actually, the word is an Iroquois term meaning “bark eaters.”
The Adirondacks encompass 11,000 square miles, almost one-fourth of the state. There are 2,500 mountains in the range, 43 of them more than 4,000 feet tall. The two tallest are Mount Marcy and Algonquin Peak.
The region has about 2,800 lakes and ponds and about 1,200 miles of streams. The first forest preserve in the United States, the Adirondack Park, consists of almost 6 million acres.
Boat Launch Sites and Rentals
Several facilities are along the shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. Call the Thousand Islands International Tourism Council at 800-8-ISLAND for specific information.
There are dozens of campgrounds in the area, both state and private. Most offer both tent and improved sites. For lists of parks and general information, call the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce at 315-788-4400, or the Thousand Islands International Tourism Council, 800-8-ISLAND. For campground information, call New York State Parks Reservations at 800-456-2267, visit them online, or visit the New York State Department of Environmental Conservationwebsite.
If you’d like to go international, Fort Drum is an ideal place to start from — Canada is right across the Thousand Islands Bridge.
Some cities to see:
Kingston — a short drive west. Visit the home of Queens University and Fort Henry. Enjoy shopping with an international flavor.
Montreal — Jacques Cartier and Samuel de Champlain are more than names in history books here; stroll 16th-century Vieux (Old) Montreal, watch the Expos and Canadians, and visit world-renowned museums and the site of the 1976 Summer Olympics.
Ottawa — Canada’s capital is two hours away, with Winterlude and Tulip festivals, majestic parliament buildings and the family-oriented Canada Science and Technology Museum.
Quebec City — Fluency in French helps but is not necessary in this beautiful city of old-world stores and restaurants. Great forests and provincial parks lay outside the city limits.
Toronto — From the top of the Canadian National Tower — the largest tower of its type in the world — look out at the city with its thousands of restaurants. This modern metropolis is the home of several sports teams: the Maple Leafs, Blue Jays, Raptors and Argonauts. Stroll past exhibits at the Royal Ontario Museum, or hit the links in an area with more golf courses per capita than anywhere in North America.
There is a wide variety of community parks located in the tri-county area. Check with the chamber of commerce in Jefferson, Lewis or St. Lawrence counties for hours, activities and locations.
Major fishing tournaments occur every season in the eastern Lake Ontario and Thousand Islands region. Major sport fishing species include smallmouth and largemouth bass, lake trout, salmon, walleye and muskellunge. For information about licenses, fees and seasons, visit the NYSDEC website.
Charter fishing: There are dozens of fishing guides in the area who offer charters for every type of fishing. For a list of local charter captains, call the Thousand Islands International Council at 800-8-ISLAND.
There are several public and private golf courses in the area, both nine and 18 holes. Call the Greater Watertown North-Chamber of Commerce at 315-788-4400 for more information.
Hiking, Biking and Skiing
The local area offers many trails of varying difficulty. Several trails are dual-purpose: used for hiking, biking and ATV use in the warm months and for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing in the winter.
Dry Hill Ski Area, Watertown 315-782-8584
Snow Ridge Ski Resort, Turin 315-348-8456
White Face Mountain, Lake Placid 518-946-2223
Check the New York State Visitor’s Guide at www.visitnewyorkstate.net for more outdoor activities information.
Jefferson County Historical Society
The historical society features evolving historical exhibits about Watertown and Jefferson County. For more information, visit www.jeffersoncountyhistory.org or call 315-782-3491.
Sackets Harbor Battlefield and Museum
Sackets Harbor, NY
Visit the historic battlefield site, explore the grounds and Navy Yard property, and read interpretive panels along the History Trail.
New York State Zoo at Thompson Park
1 Thompson Park
Watertown, NY 13601
The zoo is in historic Thompson Park, which was designed by the sons of Frederick Law Olmstead, the “father of landscape architecture,’’ who designed Central Park in New York City. The park also includes a large playground, tennis courts, a swimming pool and a golf course.
The 32-acre zoo exhibits species that are, or at one time were, native to New York. Get nose-to-nose with black bears, watch the playful antics of rare wolverines, or check out the river otters. The zoo has a variety of family programs, including the Summer Zoofari day camp for children, the Become a Zookeeper program and numerous volunteer opportunities.
Hours are seasonal. Visit the zoo’s website for more information on hours of operation, admission fees and special events.
Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library
229 Washington St.
Watertown, NY 13601
The library has several public-access computers with print capability. There is also an extensive genealogy department. The Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library is part of the North Country Public Library System, which includes Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence and Oswego counties. To learn more about the programs offered throughout the library system, check their website.
Seaway Trail Discovery Center
Ray Street and West Main Street
Sackets Harbor, NY 13685
The stone, nearly 200-year-old former Union Hotel houses interactive exhibits about points of interest found along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, which stretches 518 miles along Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, the Niagara River and the St. Lawrence River.
Thousand Islands State Parks and Recreation
There are 1,753 small islands dotting the St. Lawrence River between Oswego and Massena, hence the name Thousand Islands. This is the area where the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario join. The river separates the United States from Canada. Control of the St. Lawrence was important during the War of 1812. State parks within the region offer a wide variety of recreation, from long sandy beaches on Lake Ontario to the deep shale formations of Whetstone Gulf. A phone reservation system gives access to camping sites and cabins from Southwick Beach in southern Jefferson County, to Wellesley Island among the Thousand Islands, to Keewaydin on the St. Lawrence River.
Whitewater Rafting and Kayaking
The Black River Gorge is the best summer whitewater run in the eastern United States. Black River has enormous drainage coupled with numerous upstream reservoirs, which guarantees dependable water levels every weekend throughout the summer. The Black River features rapids (and lines through rapids) that appeal to even the expert boater. While an intermediate boater can negotiate the gorge by choosing sagacious lines and perhaps an easy portage, advanced boaters will still discover a challenging run.
Many farmers markets are available in the tri-county area from May to October. For exact times and dates contact the local chamber of commerce.