Wellesley Island State Park Camping

Wellesley Island State Park Camping

I stepped out of my tent into the early morning light and looked out over the smooth waters of the St Lawrence River. A few birds are in sight, and they sometimes dive to the river to grab something that only they can see. Off in the distance is a large bird, I think it may be an eagle, but it too far away, and I am not an expert to be sure. Still, it is hypnotizing to watch. A few ducks complete the river scene. I am a night owl normally, but I will admit there is something special getting up early when you are camping. Welcome to Wellesley Island State Park.

Wellesley Island State Park camping site A47

Wellesley Island State Park camping site A47

My first camping trip to Wellesley Island State Park  was a last minute decision. A planned trip to Assateague Island, near Ocean City, had to be canceled because of travel restrictions. My first planned trip had also been canceled. I had been looking forward to my combined camping/kayaking trip. My brother has been going to the Thousand Islands for years to camp, boat and fish. Wellesley Island State Park is his preferred destination. He gets a campsite and a slip at the marina for his boat.

Wellesley Island State Park is the largest camping complex in the Thousand Islands region with 432 campsites. I started looking for a week of camping but everything was reserved. Reducing my nights to a mid-week trip, I lucked out and found a few open sites. Even more so, I found a tent only site that was waterfront. I really enjoyed getting out for a few days hiking, kayaking and just disconnecting.

Wellesley Island State Park camping site A47

Camping site A47 Tent Only, Waterfront, shaded with paved access road

There are campsites on either side, however, the sites are large enough that you have sufficient space.

Sunset on the St Lawrence Camping

Sunset on the St Lawrence Camping Site A47

Let’s Do That Again

When I got home, feeling the trip was too short, I looked for another getaway. I found a number of tent sites available the last week the campsites were open. The site I selected after much consideration was next to the boat launch in the “A” loop. It turned out to also be an excellent choice.

Wellesley state park camp a 22

Site A-22 is next to the A loop boat launch

Site A-22 was an outstanding choice for me. It was just a few feet from the boat launch. I inflated my kayak and carried it to the water to enjoy kayaking in the St. Lawrence. It also was only a three-minute walk to the restrooms and showers. Each of the sites, have a fire ring and a picnic table.

A Loop boat Launch kayak

A View of the Boat Launch Site from my Campsite

Hiking

Hiking the River Trail

Hiking the River Trail Near The Glacier Holes

The primary reasons for visiting the park is camping and boating. However, there is much here for the nature lover and hiker as well. The Minna Anthony Common Nature Center sits on a pristine 600 acre peninsula of Wellesley Island. The center itself has breathtaking views of Ell Bay and has a dock for visiting boaters. Ell Bay is very calm.

WellesleyIslandTrailMap

There are 8 miles of hiking trails, make sure you bring extra water. My first hike, I had planned to walk just half hour. The trail was so inviting and offered many photo opportunities, I ended being out there for a few hours.

Nature Center Visiting Boat Dock

Nature Center Visiting Boat Dock

River Level on the River Trail Ell Bay

River Level on the River Trail Ell Bay

The Narrows

The Narrows at the end of the Island

Kayaking the St Lawrence River

My Sea Eagle at Ell Bay Boat Launch

The ocean going ships do not ply the area where Wellesley Island Park is. There are, however, many pleasure boats and jet skies in the river. I am still learning to kayak, and more concerning, I am still getting used to the different way my Sea Eagle handles. So my first visit I launched from the Ell Bay side.

It was a highly enjoyable experience. The only thing that stressed me was four huge turkey vultures. They kept stating at me like they were hungry, and I was dinner. I kept thinking of a cartoon I saw years ago with two vultures. One said to the other, Hell with waiting, I am going to kill something. I was able to paddle close to them, got to within five feet of one before it flew away. The wingspan was at least five feet, and I could feel the wind from the wings as it passed by.

Loop a Boat launch kayak

Let’s Go Kayaking, Loop A Kayak Launch

Sunset Kayaking

This Was Taken As I Returned From An Sunset Paddle on the St. Lawrence River

The park was less used during my second trip with fewer jet skies. My kayaking was from the A loop launch. I could just grab my kayak, and hit the water. I even paddled all the way to Canada. Okay, it was only a quarter of a mile, but it was an international trip.

The Island

Wellesley Island is one of the largest islands located in the St Lawrence River’s Thousand Islands Region. The Thousand Island Bridge connecting the United States and Canada is really five bridges. Three of the bridges are in Canada, one in the US and one is the border crossing. The bridge on the south side of Wellesley island connects to the US Mainland while the bridge to the north is the border crossing. Most of the island is lightly inhabited, being mostly marsh land and state parks.

Other state parks nearby are Canoe-Picnic Point State Park, Grass Point State Park, Dewolf Point State Park, Waterson Point State Park, and Wellesley Island State Park Golf Course.

Finger Lakes Retreat St. Michael’s Mission

 Nature Lovers Retreat – St. Michael’s Mission

St. Michael’s Mission in Conesus New York, is a perfect getaway for nature lovers. While officially located in Conesus one of the Finger Lakes, the spacious grounds of the former St. Michael’s Seminary and latter St. Michael’s Mission are located on the slopes above Hemlock Lake. Nestled in an area of forest and farmland, the 50 plus wooded acres of the Mission is a nature haven in itself. Add in that it is adjacent to land owned by the nature conservatory and a state forest. The Eagle Crest Vineyards, a leading vineyard with historical ties to St. Michael’s Seminary, is just a short walk away.

If you love nature, then you will find that St. Michael’s Mission is the perfect place to live, have as a weekend retreat, or to have as your vacation base. Just thirty minutes from Rochester the mission sits near the shore of Hemlock Lake, one of the famous Finger Lakes. The Finger Lake region of New York is known for the lakes and rolling countryside created during the retreat of the last ice age. The region is within the Allegheny Plateaus which is a portion of the Appalachian Plateau.

View of St Michael's Seminary and Mission and surrounding areas including Hemlock Lake, a finger Lake

View of St Michael’s Seminary – Mission and surrounding areas

Hemlock Lake — A Special Finger Lake

Hemlock Lake and it’s smaller sister Canadice Lake are unique among the different Finger Lakes. These two lakes are the water supply for the City of Rochester and no development has been allowed along their shorelines. A number of years back the State of New York purchased the land from the city and created a 6,684-acre state forest.

Hiking Finger Lakes Style

If hiking is your way of getting your dose of nature, then this is the right place for you. St. Michael’s Mission is perfect place for hikers. You can walk around the 50 wooded acres or take a trail that leads to the lake from the picnic pavilion. A short walk along the lightly used Mission Road will lead you to three parking areas for the Hemlock-Canadice State Forest each have a number of trail heads. Other State Forest trails are a short drive away.

The Finger Lake region is well-known for hiking and other outdoor activities. There are hundreds of miles of trails near-by. The Hiking near Hemlock Lake, a Finger Lake webpage has more details on local hiking.

Fishing Hemlock and Canadice Lakes

Hemlock and Canadice Lakes are outstanding places to fish. The lake is about seven miles long and maybe a mile wide. It has a depth of 90 feet and an average depth of 35 to 40 feet. This allows for a variety of fish in the lake. The lakes are in the Hemlock-Canadice State Forest and have some restrictions. Most of these restrictions favor the fisherman who enjoys a peaceful day of fishing.

You can fish from the shoreline or a boat except for the northernmost mile of the lake. No high power boats nor personal watercraft, you know this jet ski guys that scare away the fish. Small boats with trolling motors and kayaks are the craft you will see.

Hemlock Park at the very north portion of Hemlock lake is not a part of the state forest. You may not launch your boat nor kayak here, however, fishing from the shore is allowed.

This is from the DEC website for Hemlock lake:

Lake trout historically provided the most significant sport-fishery on Hemlock Lake. In 1957, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation conducted the first biological survey of Hemlock Lake. DEC records show that stocking of lake trout, landlocked salmon and cisco(lake herring) into Hemlock Lake began more then one hundred years ago. Later stocking efforts included rainbow trout, brown trout, smelt, walleye, and lake whitefish.

Currently, Hemlock’s salmonid fishery consists of lake trout, brown trout, rainbow trout and landlocked salmon. All these fish may be taken year-round-check your Fishing Regulations Guide for size and bag limits.

Good populations of smelt and alewives provide excellent trout and salmon growth. Annual stocking by DEC sustains the lake trout, brown trout, and landlocked salmon populations. The rainbow trout fishery is supported by natural reproduction from Springwater Creek.

Hemlock’s warm water sportfishery includes smallmouth bass, largemouth bass and chain pickerel. The latter are noted for their large size. Significant opportunities are also available for panfish including bullhead(especially in spring), yellow perch, rock bass, bluegill and pumpkinseed.

You can read about the State forest here.

Hunting

Hunting is a sport that polarize many people. Many people are highly in favor of it, while others think it should be stopped. Hunters present the point that then help keep the deer population under control. That without game management, many animals will starve over the winter. I would say that without hunting, the deer population would be out of control in this area. On an average day, it is common to see a dozen deer. My record, was 25 deer in the recreation field and another 125 in four fields between the Mission and Conesus, about 8 miles.

deer

The State Forest allows deer hunting. Here is some additional information on deer hunting and deer conservation programs in New York.

Hemlock Lake Finger Lakes Region New York

Hemlock Lake Finger Lakes Region New York

Kayaking the Finger Lakes

If you are a nature lover, and enjoy the water, then consider Kayaking. The Finger Lake Region has hundreds of locations for you to explore. Beyond the major and minor Finger Lakes there are many more small lakes, ponds, rivers and streams just waiting for you.
Hemlock Lake and Canadice Lake each has two launch points for small boats. Small motorboats with trolling size motors are allowed, however, jet-skies and more powerful boats are not. The majority of the craft on these lakes are kayaks. These lakes are only minutes away from St. Michael’s Mission.

Conesus Lake has four boat launches, three of which are for hand launches. Two are at the north end of the lake in Lakeville, one is near the south end of the lake on the west side, and there is a trailer launch site on the east side of the lake. That site is always busy with boaters.
The Erie Canal is closer to Rochester than Conesus, however, it is a world-class kayaking destination that deserves a look. The NYS Canalway Water Trail comprises 450 miles of canals and interconnected lakes and rivers. It includes the Erie, Cayuga-Seneca, Oswego, and Champlain canals. Their official website is amazing. You can download maps and guides of the waterway. You can also purchase them in a hard copy for the cost of shipping.

Another great resource for local kayaking, as well as other activities, is the Day Tripping Rochester website. They have an article 58 Places to Explore Rochester’s Waterways.

Here is some more detailed information about local kayaking. One of the positive things to come out of the COVID-19 situation, is that many people are reconnecting with nature. Kayaking has been one outdoor activity that has gain from social distancing.

Sky Watching

As you look out towards the lake at night from St. Michael’s, the only light you will likely see is a blinking red one on a cell tower about 5 miles away. There is little or no light pollution in the area. This leads to outstanding star watching. Both the north and south buildings have an open patio on the third floor that makes for outstanding star gazing.

The recreation field across Mission rd, also makes for a good location to watch the stars.

Skiing

You can classify skiing into Alpine (downhill) or Nordic (cross-country). Both of these styles are available in the Finger Lakes. There are three Alpine resorts nearby. Bristol mountain and Hunt Hollow are about a half hour away and Swain is 45 minutes. There are other places to ski an hour or two away.
Nordic skiing is alive and very well in the Finger Lakes Region. Depending on your skill level, the hiking trails of the State Parks and Forest are available to you. The Rochester Cross Country Ski Foundation, RXCSF, maintain trails in four areas including the Harriet Hollister Recreation Area and Mendon Ponds Park.

Snowmobiling

Having a snowmobile is great, however, it is often difficult to find places where you can ride them. Not some much in the Finger Lakes. New York’s has 10,500 miles of funded trails. The NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has a Snowmobile Unit, whose purpose is to promote snowmobiling. Many of the local state lands, including Hemlock- Canadice State Forest and the Harriet Hollister Recreation Area, have snowmobile trails.

The New York State Snowmobiling Association (NYSSA) has 230+ Clubs and County Associations that make up invite you to enjoy this winter. You can visit their interactive map to see the trail network and find contact information for local clubs.

If you plan on snowmobiling in New York’s Finger Lakes Region download the state’s guide to snowmobiling.

Bring on Winter in the Finger Lakes

While the Finger Lakes is often looked on as a summer destination, the winter has lots to offer as well. Where will you play this winter?

 

Hiking near Hemlock Lake, a Finger Lake

Hiking near Hemlock Lake, a Finger Lake

If your perfect day includes escaping civilization with a hike, then hiking St Michael’s Mission is the perfect place for you. While officially located in Conesus, the spacious grounds of the former St. Michael’s Seminary and latter St. Michael’s Mission are located on the slopes above Hemlock Lake one of the small Finger Lakes.

st michael's mission hiking trail airbnb

St Michael’s Mission Hiking Trail

In the early 1900s, Hemlock Lake had a few cottages and homesteads along the shores of the lake. Small steam ferries traveled the lake bringing passengers and goods to the isolated homes. The City of Rochester obtained Hemlock lake and Candice Lake which is nearby as a water supply and the lands surrounding them. The city did not allow any development around the lake. Today, while some Finger Lakes have limited development, most of the Finger Lakes have sections of heavy development. Conesus Lake, as an example, has homes side by side for almost the entire lake shore. The only buildings around Hemlock Lake is the water authority.

New York’s Finger Lake region is known for the lakes and rolling countryside created during the retreat of the last ice age. The region is within the Allegheny Plateaus which is a portion of the Appalachian Plateau. The area is rural in nature with a number of small towns and villages. Public lands including State and community parks, the Hemlock-Canadice State Forest and the Finger Lakes National forest abound. Hikers can easily find many interesting places year round for hiking.

Hiking St Michael’s Mission

Over 50 acres of wooded land provides ample space for a leisurely hike. However, the property is overshadowed by the adjacent land. The majority of the property and the main building are on the west side of Mission Road. The east side of the road has the recreation area and that portion of the property adjoin land owned by The Nature Conservancy which merges with the Hemlock-Canadice State Forest.

Mission Road was the start of a trail managed by The Nature Conservancy. That trail started at the edge of the mission’s property and followed a ridge above a ravine to Hemlock Lake, then followed the shore line to the pump house of Eagle Crest Vineyard then up a very steep road to the vineyard. I tried that trail but ended up finding posted no trespassing signs. Talking with the vineyard owner revealed to me that they stopped access to their property because of a dispute with the Nature Conservancy concerning hunting.

St Michael’s Mission- Hemlock Trails

Ok, I just named them that. There are a few nice trails that start on the Mission property and continue on The Nature Conservancy property. Starting at the south driveway of the mission and crossing the road will bring you to the recreational area with a large field and a picnic pavilion. To the right of the pavilion is a wide trail. It follows along the same ravine the old Nature Conservancy trail started with. The trail has just a slight downhill till about .4 miles from the start. Here the trail has a branch to the left and continues straight but starts getting a bit steeper.

Straight ahead

There is a trail from the entrance of the south building to Hemlock Lake which is three quarters of a mile, one and a half mile round trip plus any walking along the shore. Hiking over that distance there is a 350-foot elevation change. The first .4 miles to the branch sees only a 120-foot change in elevation barely noticeable. The next .3 miles will see a 200-foot change. This is a bit steep but does not require any aids. Just some sure footing going down. The path becomes fairly flat the last few hundred feet from the lake. When you reach the lake, you can walk the shore line in either direction. The trees are further back on the path to the south.

Find a piece of driftwood to relax on and look out over the lake. It should not belong before you see a fish jumping out of the water or a bird swooping down catching its dinner. If you are lucky, the bird might be an eagle. There are a number of them that make Hemlock Lake their home.

The Loop

 

A trail that is very nice in the spring and fall is one that I call the loop and is one mile long. In the summer, the grass can narrow the trail making it difficult to pass in a small section. Starting at the mission follow the same route as above until you come to a branch to your left (.4miles). As you turn left, the trail has a gentle slope down. Follow the trail for 500 feet and you will come to a section where there are no tall trees to your left and right. This seems to be an old road or fire break that has been overgrown. If you do not see the break and pass it, you will come to a ravine in about 50 feet. Just turn around and walk back.

Turn uphill at the break and in about a quarter of a mile you will come to an open field with a small stand of trees in front of you. Follow to the right of the trees and it will lead you to the north edge of the recreational field. You can cross the road, climb the steps and walk across the grounds of the Mission. This loop has an elevation change of only 140 feet over a half mile.

Forest Trails

There will be a separate section for the Hemlock-Canadice State Forest trails, however, there are a few trail heads that are just a short walk from St Michael’s Mission. There are two trail heads off from Mission Road and another off from Blank road, all within one mile.

Forest trail heads

These trails do have an elevation change, however, as they do not go all the way to the lake the change is only between 200 and 250 feet. A good portion of the distance are across the contour, leaving a few steep climbs. There are many streams in the spring time and a number of small waterfalls.

 

Hemlock-Canadice State Forest Brochure page 2

Hemlock-Canadice State Forest

The  Hemlock-Canadice State Forest trails just mentioned are only a few of the many trails around the two lakes.The state maintains about 14 trails in the park. All the trails are natural except the boat launch road which is a seasonal road. A local site has a set of 10 topographic maps that show many of the trails around the lake.

The Reynolds Gully Falls trail is considered by many as one of the best waterfalls trails in the Eastern US. Technically it is outside the state forest and is under the control of the Harriet Hollister Spencer State Recreation Area, however, the parking lot is in the state forest.

Harriet Hollister Spencer State Recreation Area

Harriet Hollister Spencer State Park is located just South of Honeoye Lake in Canadice, NY. The main park and parking lot is located on Canadice Hill Road where you can find 22.83 miles of multi-use trails for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and a snowmobile route. With an elevation greater than 2,000 feet, the dense woodland receives far more reliable snow cover than elsewhere in the region, making it a prime destination for winter activities.

Harriet Hollister Spencer State Park is located just South of Honeoye Lake in Canadice, NY. Finger lakes wine and hiking

Harriet Hollister Spencer State Park is South of Honeoye Lake in Canadice, NY.

Other Nearby Finger Lake Hiking Destinations

Here are a few other nearby hiking destinations that are surely worth the short drive.

Letchworth State Park

Letchworth State Park, renowned as the “Grand Canyon of the East, is one of the most scenically magnificent areas in the eastern U.S. The Genesee River roars through the gorge over three major waterfalls between cliffs–as high as 600 feet in some places–surrounded by lush forests. Hikers can choose among 66 miles of hiking trails. Letchworth Photos by Charles Davis

The Genesee Valley Greenway State Park

The Genesee Valley Greenway State Park is a 90-mile open space corridor that follows the route of the Genesee Valley Canal (1840-1878) and the Pennsylvania Railroad Rochester Branch (1882-1963) from the Erie Canalway Trail in Rochester’s Genesee Valley Park to the Village of Cuba in Allegany County. The Greenway will eventually extend to Hinsdale in Cattaraugus County.

rochester junction lehigh valley hiking trail finger lakes

Rochester Junction of the old Lehigh Valley Railroad

Lehigh Valley Trail Linear Park

This Monroe Country Park is about a 20-minute drive away. It is a trail about 15 feet wide and 15 miles long across the county on the bed of the old Lehigh Valley Railroad. This trail does connect to other trails including the Genesee Valley Greenway State Park.

LVT Brochure 2017
Rochester Junction

Rochester Junction

Lehigh Valley Trail North Branch

The old Lehigh Valley Railroad had a north-south branch ending in Rochester. The north branch starts at Rochester Junction and ends in Genesee Valley Park in the City of Rochester.

Finger Lake Trail Map

The Finger Lakes Trail System

The Finger Lakes Trail System includes the main Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) from the Pennsylvania-New York border in Allegany State Park to the Long Path in the Catskill Forest Preserve. The main FLT is 580 miles long. There are six branch trails and 29 loop trails and spur trails that extend from the main FLT. These branch, loop and spur trails currently total 412 miles. Including the Main Trail and all branch, loop, and side trails, the Finger Lakes Trail System offers 1,000 miles of hiking.

mendon ponds park great for kayaking and hiking

Mendon Ponds Park great for kayaking and hiking

Mendon Ponds Park

 

One of my favorites,Mendon Ponds Park is the largest Monroe County Park with 2,500 acres of woodlands, ponds, wetlands and glacially created landforms. In 1969, it was named to the National Registry of Natural Landmarks due to its geologic history and presence of significant kames, eskers, and kettles. Visit the county park page for maps.

Mendon ponds hiking

The Trails Never End– Quaker Pond Trail Mendon Ponds

The list can go on and on. The variety of hiking trails around the Mission is remarkable and you will find trails for every skill level. If you are looking for relaxing days on the trails, St. Michael’s Mission is a great starting place. Rooms, a entire floor or a seperate building is availalbe on airbnb. See the different listings for St. Michael’s Mission here.

 

 

Watkins Glen State Park

Watkins Glen State Park

To many people talking about Watkins Glen brings forth an image of high energy. Watkins Glen was the home of the first auto racing in the United States after WWII, and is home to Watkins Glen International Speedway. Many of the country’s best races can be found at the speedway as well as special events. However, The area offers much more than auto racing. The glen offers activities for those who like the outdoors as well as those that enjoy the finer things in life.

The village of Watkins Glen is located at the south end of Seneca Lake. In the early days of automotive travel, it was a popular overnight destination. The village was halfway between New York City and Niagara Falls, then a two-day drive. The Finger Lake region of New York is a very popular destination for those wanting to get away from big city life. Known for the lakes and rolling countryside, The Finger Lakes region is within the Allegheny Plateaus which is a portion of the Appalachian Plateau. The shores of Seneca Lake are less populated than most of the other Finger Lakes, still you can find many things to do in the area including wine tours, hiking, boating and camping.

Visit Watkins Glen Park

If hiking and camping is what interest you, even mildly, then the Watkins Glen State Park is a must-visit destination. The New York Park website has this to say about the park:”Watkins Glen State Park is the most famous of the Finger Lakes State Parks, with a reputation for leaving visitors spellbound. Within two miles, the glen’s stream descends 400 feet (ca. 122 meters) past 200-foot cliffs, generating 19 waterfalls along its course. The gorge path winds over and under waterfalls and through the spray of Cavern Cascade. Rim trails overlook the gorge. Campers and day-visitors can enjoy the Olympic-size pool, scheduled summer tours through the gorge, tent and trailer campsites, picnic facilities and excellent fishing in nearby Seneca Lake or Catherine Creek, which is renowned for its annual spring run of rainbow trout.”

The park has three entrances. The main entrance is located in the village and is the starting point of the Gorge Trail. There is also a welcome center and souvenir shop here. Parking is limited here with some additional parking located across the road. The Upper entrance is near the opposite end of the park and the furthest point of the Gorge Trail. One point to note: the main entrance is at a 440-foot elevation, while the Upper Entrance is at 1010 foot elevation. So walking from the entrance to the upper is all uphill. The south entrance is on the south side of the park and is the entrance for the camping and swimming pool. You can also access the trail system from this point as well.

WatkinsGlenTrailMap

Hiking

At the main entrance you have two trail options, the gorge trail which follows the water and the Indian trail that goes to the to of the gorge and connects to the north rim trail. When you enter the gorge trail from the main entrance, you start by entering a tunnel carved into the rocks. Then cross a bridge that looks down over the last waterfalls. This trail is moderately difficult mostly due to uneven wet surfaces. The views are breathtaking. The Indian trail starts with a flight of steps that take you up to the rim. Once at the top, the trail is tree covered and only a moderate climb. Along the Indian trail are some overlooks that peer down to the gorge. There are also a few points where you can take steps down to the gorge trail. There is a suspension bridge that connects the north rim trial and the south rim trail near the campgrounds at the south entrance.

The campgrounds have sites for tents and RVs. It also has some rustic cabins.

The park is just one of the many things you can do here. This is a great weekend getaway from anywhere in the northeast.