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?

 

Kayaking with My Sea Eagle 330

Why A Sea Eagle 330

This is going to be a combination post and product review of my Sea Eagle 330. I am fairly new to kayaking. Over the last few years I started renting them and going to different places around the area. I enjoyed it and was at the point where I could justify buying one vs renting them. However, The cost of a roof rack was almost $500 for my car. I could have just gotten the cheap pads and tie down kits but felt I could not trust them for anything but a short drive. So getting my own kayak was set aside for a while.

While cleaning out my mom’s garage, a large canvas bag was found and since no one knew what it was, it was sent to the dumpster. Later, I pulled it out to be examined later. A Few weeks later, I was online looking for a cheaper roof rack. A link for sea eagle popped up and I saw it was the same bag that I had rescued earlier. I went to the garage and with my brother emptied the bag. I found inside a Sea Eagle 330.

We put it back in the bag and it went to my storage space to wait for more time and warmer weather. When I did have time, I found it was very dirty and missing the paddles. Before rushing out and buying a new paddle, I inflated it and let it sit for a weekend. When I returned, I found that two of the chambers were mostly deflated.

When I had inflated the kayak, I liked it. It looked good and I had no problems bringing it to storage, nor inflating it with the foot pump. I was not looking forward to looking for a leak, plus I was not sure how long it had been in the garage. I knew it had not been used for at least 4 years. The best option was to buy a new one.

I looked at the different packages and got the starter package. It is not on Sea Eagle website right now but it is the same as the deluxe package except it does not have the carry bag. I had considered the Pro Solo package, with the deluxe seat and carry bag. Since I had a carry bag and a deluxe seat with the old kayak, I opted for the starter set that had two seats and an extra paddle, in case I wanted to tandem.

First Impressions

When I took the kayak out of the shipping box, my first impression was the material was a good quality. It reminded me of a zodiac inflatable. After checking everything and preparing the items for the first time, it took me about 10 minutes to actually inflate the Sea Eagle 330. I sat in it a few minutes, then broke it down and packed it away in the carry bag that I had.

A few days later, I took it to Hemlock Lake for my first on water experience. I found a flat section of ground with some grass and laid out the kayak. Pumping it up and getting ready was easy. The pumping took me about 8 minutes. I used the SEC seat that came with it. A few comments that I read about the Sea Eagle 330 said it was unstable. My first impression was the same. However, once I had a foot of water below me and a few full strokes I felt it was stable. I think it was the skegs dragging. I did not feel comfortable with the seats. They just did not seem to support me well. On my third outing, I switched to the deluxe seat and fell they are right for me.

Taking it down takes a while, if you are caring for it properly. It needs to be rinsed off then dried before folding. Invasive species are a problem in my area so this is an important step. Also, it will keep it new looking. Once it is cleaned and dried, it only takes three or four minutes to fold it and place it in the carry bag. The carry bag will also hold the paddles, foot pump and life jacket.

Sea Eagle vs Hard Kayak

I have a dozen outings this year in my inflatable about the same as I had for the previous three years combined in a hard shell kayak. The hard shells I used were sit-ins with a large cockpit opening and 12 foot long. If I were to rate them against each other on a ten point total scale, it would be a 7 for the Sea Eagle and 3 for hard shells. Here are some of my views:

  • Transportation: This is all Sea Eagle. I have a small Nissan Versa Note which is a hatchback. The carry bag fits sideways very nicely, so there is no need to lower the back seats. It stays in the car, so I can just grab swim trunks and head out. As I mentioned before, This is an important point for me.
  • Speed: Hard Kayak has the edge here. I am not very fast even in the hard kayaks. Still, it seems to take more effort to get speed out of the inflatable. I do find it difficult to keep up with others. You will find me kayaking to relax and to enjoy nature, so I really not need to go fast. I seldom do a point-to-point paddle and I mostly paddle alone, so not a major point for me.
  • Stability: I mention this above but will expand a little here. Once you get some water under you, I feel the Sea Eagle is as stable. There been a few times when I needed to deal with a wake from a passing boat. I felt the Sea Eagle handled it better than when I did the same in a hard shell.
  • Yaw: Yaw is the deviation from a straight course. I feel that there is more yaw in the inflatable. It is not so much that it is an issue. Wind has more influence on the inflatables then a hard shell. This noticeable to me when I am kayaking on Hemlock Lake which has some wind at times.

Sea Eagle Kayak Tips:

Here are a few tips:

  • Seat position: Where you position the seat has some impact on your stability but more importantly your control. The instruction video and owners manual recommends that solo paddlers position the seat a little behind the middle. I am more comfortable moving it back a little farther. Also, once you have moved away a little from shore, balance yourself in the seat.
  • Form: I found that I needed a higher stroke because of the higher sides. In the hard kayaks, I used a feathered paddle. I am more comfortable with my paddled unfeathered when I am kayaking in my Sea Eagle.
  • Extras:
    • I have a waterproof pouch with a neck string that holds my car keys and my cell phone if I take it along. I loop the string around the side strap of the deluxe seat and place the pouch portion in the pocket of the seat back.
      Lily pad at mendon ponds taken while kayaking from my sea eagle 330 kayak

      Why you need a camera kayaking

    • Waterproof Camera: I missed some great photos because there was no way I would take my cell phone out of the waterproof pouch, and I was not going to bring my digital SLR. I bough a point and shoot camera that is waterproof. The wrist cord attaches to the valve holder of the seat. Still experimenting on the placement, but I can reach down, release the camera and get some on water shoots.
      Why you need a camera kayaking

      Mendon Ponds Kayaking

    • Inflation gauge: There is a clear flexible plastic gauge that you hold against the hull to measure that the hull is properly inflated. Note clear plastic translates to easy to lose. Buy a couple extra before you need them, only a few dollars each.
    • Cleaning supplies: At the end of the day, I will take a wet towel to get any mud or marks off the kayak, then wipe it down with a dry towel. I also have a towel I can kneel on while I fold the kayak. As I fold the kayak, I might need to wipe it off and dry it. Some marks are stubborn, so I will unfold the kayak at home and clean it with a cleaner designed for marine vinyl. I plan on keeping my kayak for years but looking new.

My waterways:

Here is a brief rundown of where I have used my Sea Eagle.

Hemlock Lake Finger Lakes Region New York sea eagle 330 kayak

Hemlock Lake Finger Lakes Region New York

  • Hemlock Lake: This is one of the minor Finger Lakes of Upstate New York and is the closest to my home. It is also a water source for the city of Rochester. The shore line is undeveloped and is a state forest. Kayaks, canoes and small fishing boats (trolling motors only) are the only boats allowed in the lake. The lake is seven and a half miles long with two boat launches. The northernmost mile of the lake is closed to boating. Hemlock lake is in a valley of sorts with hills on the east and west shores. Conditions can get windy if you move away from the shore as hills can create a wind tunnel. There is less effect at the south end. The south boat launch is at a point where the areas south is more wetlands. The two portions of the lake give you different experiences. Hemlock has great fishing and some nesting eagles.
    Kayaking Mendon Ponds Park Sea Eagle 330

    Kayaking Mendon Ponds Park

  • Mendon Ponds Park: This is the largest park in Monroe County and has always been one of my favorite places to hike. Now it is also one of my favorite places to kayak. The Hundred Acre Pond is a great place to explore. The water is shallow and mostly flat. Like Hemlock, it is for Kayaks, canoes and small fishing boats with nothing larger than trolling motors. Great place only a few people on the water. The first time I went there, it had only 6 kayaks, all inflatables.
    Wellesley Island State Park: The park is located in the Thousand Islands region of New York in the middle of the Saint Lawrence River.

    Ell Bay at Wellesley Island State Park

  • Wellesley Island State Park: The park is located in the Thousand Islands region of New York in the middle of the Saint Lawrence River. The park has three boat launches with two being hand launches. The Ell bay side of the island has less boat traffic and is perfect for kayaking. I did get a little nervous when four turkey vultures kept an eye on me. Two of them had wingspans that must have been five feet.
     Wellesley Island State Park st Lawrence River Kayaking

    Wellesley Island State Park. St Lawrence River Kayak launch site

From the Sea Eagle Website

About the Sea Eagle 330 Inflatable Kayak

Our lightest, most portable kayak is America’s most popular, the versatile Sea Eagle 330. It weighs just 26 lbs. and packs down small enough to fit in the smallest car trunk. Don’t let the lightweight fool you, it’s a rugged kayak able to hold 2 people or 500 lbs and yet easy enough to be carried and paddled by one.

Specifications

Person Capacity

2

Hull Weight

26 lbs.

Length

11 ft. 2 in.

Width

2 ft. 10 in.

Interior

9′ 6″ x 15″

Load Capacity

2 Person or 500 lbs.

Deflated

24″ x 16″ x 7″

Chambers

3 (port, starboard, floor)

Tube Diameter

10″

Air Valves

5 Deluxe One Way

Inflation time

6 min

Seam

High Frequency Welded

Material

33 mil Polykrylar (K80 PVC)

Floor

Inflatable I-beam construction

Whitewater Rating

Suitable up to Class III

Inflation Pressure

1.1 psi

I have really enjoyed my Sea Eagle 330, and for me it was the right kayak to buy.