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With a long history of army presence, Fort Drum is a military reservation in Jefferson County that’s home to the 10th Mountain Division. It is 80 miles north of Syracuse and sprawls across more than 100,000 acres and is renowned for its freezing cold winter temperatures where the mobilization and training of almost 80,000 troops takes place every year.
Fort Drum was established as Pine Camp in 1908 and was expanded following the outbreak of World War II, becoming Camp Drum in 1951 before being renamed Fort Drum in 1974. It’s an ideal place to rent an RV if you’ve got a military ID and can access the fort’s campground and services, although there are also non-military RV destinations in the nearby surrounds.
Book an RV rental in Fort Drum and make the short drive southeast to the Beartown State Forest, which encompasses more than 7,000 acres. It’s a popular destination for hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing, with resident creatures including deer, beavers, and black bears. Explore the seven miles of hiking trails that lace through the park or spend the afternoon fishing in the Swiss Creek.
Just to the northeast sprawls the Frank E Jadwin Memorial State Forest, which is one of the largest and most diverse in New York. It encompasses hardwood and conifer forests, ponds, and wetlands, as well as historical sites and a memorial to the forester who helped establish the protected area - Frank E Jadwin. Around 27 miles of multi-use trails crisscross the reserve while the rivers and creeks are regularly stocked with brown and brook trout.
Fort Drum also makes a good base for exploring the Thousand Islands near Wellesley Island State Park. The area encompasses more than 1,800 islands in the St. Lawrence River. It’s a hub for water sports and recreation, as well as being dotted with historical mansions dating to its late-19th-century years as a fashionable retreat for the elite. Admire the German-inspired Boldt Castle on aptly named Heart Island and tour the labyrinth of secret passageways at Dark Island’s Singer Castle.
Pick up your motorhome rental in Fort Drum and make the short drive south to Bud's Campsites, a small, family-friendly RV destination in Great Bend. There are full hookups available and washrooms, as well as an RV storage service for the winter months.
If you’ve got a military ID, you can pull into one of the RV sites at the Remington Park RV Campground, which offers full hookup 20, 30, and 50-amp sites. There’s direct access to the wilderness hiking and biking trails of Remington Park, together with a nearby sandy beach and swimming area.
Alternatively, you can drive east to the Natural Bridge / Watertown KOA, which features spacious sites beneath a canopy of mature trees. There’s a heated indoor pool that can be used in all weather conditions, as well as a pavilion where you can mingle with other guests. Wi-Fi is also available on site.
Fort Drum is home to a Walmart on its western edge where you may be able to set up for a night or two with the manager’s permission.
Book an RV rental near Fort Drum and head to the Jefferson County Historical Society, which occupies a grand Victorian mansion in Watertown. Delve into the local history while browsing the artifacts, books, and documents on display in the period furnished rooms. Admire the Tyler coverlets and 19th-century textiles, as well as vintage carriages and a Babcock car, then take time to stroll through the surrounding Victorian garden.
A short stroll away is the heritage-listed Paddock Arcade, a 19th-century shopping mall that is one of the oldest covered shopping arcades in the United States. It was designed in a Gothic style with a glass roof to allow light to filter in and is fronted by an elegant Italianate facade. The Paddock Arcade still functions as a shopping mall today and is home to a bicycle store, an antique shop, and numerous dining establishments.
If you’re traveling with kids, don’t miss a visit to the Thompson Park Zoo and Conservancy, which exhibits a number of animals that are native to New York State. It sprawls across 32 acres, with enclosures where you can get up close to American elk, bobcats, wolverines, and black bears. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife at the Olmsted Pond’s viewing area and be surrounded by colorful butterflies in the Heather A Freeman Butterfly House.
You’ll need to make the 20-minute drive into Watertown for other services if you’re not military personnel. Here you’ll find a handful of supermarkets where you can stock up on groceries and eateries if you want to dine out, as well as gas stations if you need to fill up your campervan rental from Fort Drum.
Whether you’re visiting Jefferson County for its wildlife conservancy or forested trails, book an RV in Fort Drum and start exploring!