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Jacques Cartier State Park is named for the French navigator, Jacques Cartier. He, along with other adventurers, was sent in 1534 to search for a passage to Asia as well as to find gold. Though the primary goal failed, his maps of the St. Lawrence River, as well as observations of the local Native American tribes, allowed France to stake a claim on what would later become Canada. France would later send colonies to establish settlements in Quebec, Canada.
Today, the closest town to Jacques Cartier State Park, is Morristown, NY, which has a small convenience store and a couple of restaurants. It is about four miles to the east. For more variety in retail shopping, restaurants, and a health center with emergency services, Ogdensburg, is just under 15 miles northeast.
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Though Jacques Cartier State Park is on the smaller side, clocking in at around 460 acres, the opportunities for outdoor recreational fun are endless. Spend the day watching boats sail by, powered by the never-ending winds. A small boat launch invites people to embark on St. Lawrence River for sailing and boating fun. Engage in spontaneous games of races, zipping up and down the length of the river, or water-ski. A small hook in the coastline creates a sheltered, calm cove, popular for swimming and fishing.
Fishing on St. Lawrence River is said to be exceptional. Anglers can expect to catch a variety of warm-water species, including but not limited to smallmouth and largemouth bass, northern pike, walleye, and bullhead. The flow of the water is somewhat slow, and the river frequently freezes over in winter. Fishermen can find yellow perch, northern pikes, and some panfish in protected coves and bays.
A few miles of trails wind and weave through the dense woods that blanket Jacques Cartier State Park. When snow covers the region, these trails are open to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, though they are infrequently groomed. In autumns, hunters may take to the woods or the river banks to hunt deer and waterfowl, provided that they obtain the necessary permits.
There are a handful of neighboring state parks and forests in which hikers and adventurers can find even more recreational fun. Lonesome Bay State Forest is a hidden gem of unmaintained wilderness. It is one of the few parks in New York that allows hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders to “bushwhack” because there are no maintained trails. Trailblazing and orienteering are vital skills in this park.
Rent a travel trailer and camp at Jacques Cartier State Park. Watch the sunset over St. Lawrence River. Listen to the sound of water lapping at the shore as twinkling stars appear in the night sky. Jacques Cartier State Park RV campground has over 80 sites, many of which have electric hookups. Though there are no water and sewer hookups, there is a dump station available. The restrooms, which have showers, are a short walk from most sites. Nearly all of the RV sites have an excellent view of the river. Cinching the quintessential RV camping experience is a fire pit at each site. Roast s’mores over a campfire for a delicious snack.
There are a handful of other options in the area that may be good candidates. Back Bay Campground near Hammond, offers boat rentals, planned activities, a swimming pool, and two laundry facilities. A majority of the RV sites have full hookups, too.
Hop into a rental motorhome and join the other travelers on the scenic byway that follows the contours of St. Laurence River and Lake Ontario. Along the way, enjoy the stunning panoramic views of the waterways and centuries-old lighthouses strung along the coast like pearls on a necklace. Gape at Singer Castle, located on an island near Chippewa Bay, NY, which is a unique blend of gothic, Scottish, and Spanish architecture. The grand-yet-quirky home is full of secret tunnels, hidden nooks and crannies, and long-lost rooms. Heads-up: the castle is accessible only by water taxis or shuttle boats. All vehicles must be parked in the town.
In spite of harsh winters that plague northern New York, grapevines thrive well. There are several quaint wineries along the coast of Lake Ontario. Just outside Alexandria Bay is Thousand Islands Winery, which is sold across the state. The award-winning wine producer’s tasting room is open to visitors, though joining a tour is well worth the time. Several structures on the property are historic, reminiscent of castles found in Ireland and Scotland.
After a long day of exploring and fun on the water, retire to a rental Airstream and enjoy listening to crackling campfires and frogs croaking.