Formed around 10,000 years ago when a mile-high glacier scraped and gouged as it retreated north, Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge is a critical habitat in the New York Fingers Lakes region. One of the first prominent settlers in the area, Dr. Peter Clark, built a home on a hill and named it Montezuma as a nod to the Aztec emperor, Montezuma. Eventually, the surrounding marsh, village, and later, the refuge all adopted the name. In the early 1900s, the state of New York recognized a need to protect the wildlife habitats for future generations and began purchasing land. Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge was officially established in 1938.
The closest town is Seneca Falls, which is about five miles to the southwest. The town was the inspiration for Bedford Falls, a fictional location in which the majority of It’s a Wonderful Life film took place. The town is also known as the birthplace of Women’s Rights, which would later spawn the Suffragette movement. Start your RV camping adventure with friends and family when you book an RV in Seneca County, NY.
The Great Outdoors
Covering about 10,000 acres of wetlands, marshes, and meadows, Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge teems with birds and waterfowl. A favored stopover spot for many migratory birds, it’s not uncommon to see over 100,000 birds frequenting the wetlands during the peak seasons (autumn and spring). The region is a major breeding ground for many birds, and a handful of endangered species as well. Bald eagles have resided in the area since the 80s, and they have maintained at least three nests in the area over the years. The number is expected to grow over time as the subsequent generations also build nests in the marshes. Black terns, which are considered endangered in the state of New York, have a small colony in the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge.
Because the region is largely marshy, hiking trails are limited. The two-mile trail leads to an observation point, which is close to one of the favored nesting grounds for several species. Photographers, ornithologists, and nature lovers will enjoy the opportunity to observe several species like great blue herons, pied-billed grebes, and green-backed herons search for bugs and fish to snack on or dance to entice potential mates.
There are several state parks, preserves, and refuges with more hiking trails. The Ontario Pathway, which is laid over abandoned railroad tracks, meanders 25 miles from Newark to Stanley, NY, then it hooks sharply to the west. This section passes by several marshes, groves of dense woods, and meadows, eventually terminating near Canandaigua.
Hunting at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge is permitted during the appropriate season. Typical targets are deer, turkeys, and various waterfowl. The boat launch may be used during the hunting season. However, they are restricted to the area near May’s Point. Fishing, which is also restricted to May’s point, is a popular recreational activity that persists year-round. Fishermen, heads up: several species of carp are considered invasive, and there are no limits on catching them.
Camping at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge
Although RV camping at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge to witness the sight of birds arriving at the end of their long migration journey would be an ideal Airstream camping trip for many outdoorsmen, the park does not maintain a campground. However, there are several public-and privately-run campgrounds that are a short drive away.
The Oak Orchard Marina and Campground is on the northern end of the park. In addition to its convenient location, several RV sites have full hookups, and the remainder has water and electric hookups. The restrooms are a short walk from most sites. They also include a swimming pool, a coffee bar, and a playground in its list of amenities.
Another option for you to RV camp is at Cayuga Lake State Park. There are nearly 200 sites to choose from, and though most lack electric hookups, all have access to running water. There is a dump station should a guest require it. The restrooms, which have showers, are wheelchair-accessible. Several paths in the campground, including ones that lead to the swim beach and dock, are paved, too. The campground is open between April and October, weather permitting.
Exploring the Area
One of the best ways to see this part of New York is by embarking onto one of the state-designated byways. Hop into a rental motorhome and hit Cayuga Lake Scenic Byway, which follows the contours of the lake. Along the way, pass by charming small towns, many of which are historic, wineries, and scenic points. At the halfway point, stop at the Purity Ice Cream Shop in Ithaca, NY; Purity is one of the oldest still-operating ice cream shops in upstate New York.
Many small towns hold festivals and community events, partly to bolster the economy, partly in a nod to their heritage and culture. The local county fair, held in Waterloo, has been held annually since 1841. Though the events at the mainstay fair have changed in the past hundred-plus years, it traditionally holds livestock contests, baking competitions, and rodeos. There are hundreds of local businesses, artists, crafters, and food vendors for attendants to explore.