Fort Niagara Light

Day 401


     Believe it or not, of course if I am writing about it in this blog you can definitely believe it, early navigators in 1726 using Lake Ontario to the Niagara River used the plume of vapor hanging above the Niagara Falls as a navigation aid. On a clear day it could be seen up to 40 miles. Unfortunately, unless they went to night school, it was not much use other times.

     Some sort of navigation light was needed. It was not until about 1779 that a beacon was placed on top of Fort Niagara (that building behind the woman seen on Day 400). This light was removed about 1803, and was the first navigation light on the Great Lakes. 

     Subsequent lights were used at the Fort until 1872 when this stone lighthouse was constructed.


     This light was located further up the Niagara River at what is now called The Whirlpool. It remained in use until 1993 when it was replaced by a brighter light at the U.S. Coast Guard Station Niagara.

     Could it have been because 100 watts was not enough?

Lighthouse bulb


Fort Niagara, New York

Day 400

     It is hard to believe that we have been traveling the United States for 400 days. Today we are on Lake Ontario where it meets the Niagara River in Western New York. Day 400 Ft Niagara NY 3657_Fotor

     As early as 1678 the French claimed the area of what is now Canada and Northern New York, Ohio, and Michigan. All the area around the Great Lakes. However, by 1720 the British were encroaching with their 13 colonies and claims in Canada. To protect their interests, the French wanted to build a Fort where the Niagara River flows into Lake Ontario. This was a strategic area as the narrow river would allow the French to control who entered the river which connected to the other 4 Great Lakes.

     The Iroquois Confederacy, which consisted of 5 tribes, did not want the French building forts where they lived. In 1725 the French approached the Iroquois and ask if they could build a “House of Peace” as a trading post to help them trade with the Indians. The Indians said they could. 

     The French built the building behind this woman who got in my shot. 

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     It is really a fort in disguise. The building is three stories tall with thick stone walls and floor. The dormer windows are actually gun ports. They protrude from the building with a trap door so hot oil could be dropped on enemy intruders. It housed about 60 soldiers. It had a room for arms and munitions, chapel, bakery, and water well.

     In 1755 the fort was expanded as tension with England grew. Ramparts were built as well as earthworks with cannon protecting the entry to the river. 

     In the French and Indian War, the fort fell to the British in a nineteen-day siege in July 1759. The fort remained in British hands for the next thirty-seven years.

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     Fort Niagara was ceded to the United States after the Treaty of Paris ended the American War of Independence in 1783. Because the new United States did not have sufficient troops to claim the area, the region remained effectively under British control for another thirteen years until US troops showed up on August 11, 1796.

     On December 19, 1813, the British attacked the fort and took it from the American garrison. The conclusion of the war brought the fort back under an American Flag on May 22, 1815. 

Niagara Falls (the city), New York

Day 399

Trucker 2          Hanging out with the truckers on our way to Niagara Falls. 

     The first European to visit this area was Frenchman Robert de la Salle, born November 22, 1643, who was exploring the Great Lakes area for France around 1667 with Belgian priest Louis Hennepin, who was the first known European to see the falls. 

     The City of Niagara Falls was incorporated on March 17, 1892  

Technical Stuff:

Alexandra Bay, NY to Niagara Falls, NY: 244.9 miles

4 hours 51 minutes

11.5 MPG

Diesel: $2.39

Clayton, New York

Day 398

      So, who was Sophia LaLonde? Stay tuned for the thrilling answer. 

     John M. Clayton, born July 24, 1796, was an American lawyer and politician from Delaware. He served in the Delaware General Assembly, became a U.S. Senator from Delaware, and served as U.S. Secretary of State under President Zachary Taylor.  For some reason they named this seaside town in New York after him. 

     We strolled through the town to visit the 1000 Islands Museum. I hoped to find some interesting facts about the islands.

     When we were on Heart Island, we were informed that George Boldt would have lavish parties on his yacht on the St. Lawrence River. During one of those parties, the chef forgot the dressing for the salad and made a concoction of ingredients he had on board, which was named 1000 Island Dressing. 

     The 1000 Islands Museum had records that showed the dressing was actually made by, you guessed it, Sophia LaLonde. Her husband was a charter fishing boat Captain and Sophia, a gourmet cook, served this dressing at her “shore dinners” for his clients after the trip.

     After this exhausting research, we stopped at Coyote Moon Vineyards for refreshments on their outside deck.

    They had this interesting chandelle in their restroom:

     Well, it is time to move on:

Dark Island, New York

Day 397

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     Dark Island, in the St. Lawrence River, New York, was first charted as Bluff Island in 1818. The Island was purchased by Frederick Gilbert Bourne in 1902.

     Bourne was President of the Singer Manufacturing Company between 1889 and 1905, where he made his fortune.

     He hired architect Ernest Flagg to build a hunting lodge on the St. Lawrence River, as his island retreat. 

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     This hunting lodge was based on a book written by Sir Walter Scott in 1826 called Woodstock. The book describes an elegant castle with secret passageways, tunnels, and a dungeon. This castle is known as Singer Castle, and we toured it today. 

     The most impressive part of the castle were the secret passages. One located in just about  every room.

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     This one, in the library, is opened by an electronic switch under a mantel.

     The passages are interconnecting leading to all the rooms. In this room, a picture is slanted so you can view from the passage.

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     This man had more money than he knew what to do with. The kitchen had an experimental combination cooking top and refrigerator:

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     This bathroom had a skylight in the floor to the bathroom underneath which had no windows. 

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     From the ramparts was an excellent view of the river:Day 397 Dark Island NY 3507_Fotor1

You can book an overnight stay at the castle for a mere $700.00.

Heart Island, New York

Day 396

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     George C. Boldt was born April 25, 1851 on the island of Bergen auf Rügen, Germany, on the Baltic Sea coast.  He immigrated to the United States in 1864 and became a self made millionaire in the hotel industry. 

     In 1900 millionaire Boldt bought an island in the 1000 island area of New York, which he named Heart Island. He set out to build a full-sized Rhineland Castle on this island. The Grandiose structure was for his wife Louise. Over the next 4 years, 300 workers fashioned the six story, 120 room castle, complete with playhouse, powerhouse, Italian Gardens, a drawbridge, and a dovecote.

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     Not a single detail or expense was spared. Unfortunately in 1904, just months before it’s completion, Louise died. Boldt, who had also purchased 3 or 4 other islands, plus had homes in other states, ordered all the workers to lay down their tools and leave the island. He never again stepped foot on this island, and for 73 years it remained vacant and abandoned. In 1977 The Thousand Islands Bridge Authority assumed ownership and has spend in excess of 30 million dollars to restore the dilapidated castle. We strolled through the Castle as well as the playhouse, a neat arch, stone gazebo, flower gardens, and Tower. 

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     We could not go in the powerhouse as it was underwater. 

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1000 Islands, New York

Day 395

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     So, how did the 1000 Islands come to be? Lore has it that Manitou said to the Indians: “I will give you paradise, if you stop fighting”. According to legend, the Indians did not stop fighting, so Manitou put paradise into a bag and threw it into the horizon. The bag broke apart and a thousand pieces fell down into the St. Lawrence River, creating the Thousand Islands.

     The Islands range in size from 1 foot to 40 square miles. 

    Actually, by my count, there are 1,864 islands that dot the St. Lawrence River and comprise the 1000 Island Region. It took me 3 days to count the Islands. In fact, I did it twice to be sure.

     What are the criteria to be an “Island” here? It must be above water level year round, have an area greater than 1 square foot, and support at least one living tree. 

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    We will be spending the next few days traveling on the St. Lawrence River exploring the islands. If I wrote on all of them, you would be terribly bored, so I will just pick a couple.

     No island is divided by the international border, meaning each is either wholly within the United States or Canada. That causes the international border to zig zag across the water instead of forming a straight line between the two countries.

     Most of the islands are privately owned, with the bigger ones having electricity.

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     Heavy rains during the previous month has caused the river level to rise 2 feet, putting many docks and buildings under water.

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Cape Vincent, New York

Day 394

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     Cape Vincent is located where Lake Ontario flows into the St. Lawrence River and Seaway.

     The French were the first europeans to explore this area around 1615. In the late 1790’s and early 1800’s James LeRay de Chaumont acquired the land in this area and named the Cape for his son. LeRay, a Frenchman, married and became a naturalized citizen of the United States. Following Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, Napoleon’s brother, Joseph, negotiated with LeRay for land that included Cape Vincent. The plan was to sneak Napoleon to Cape Vincent. However, Napoleon died in St. Helena before this was accomplished. Many French Army veterans and evacuees settled in the area and were major contributors to the growth and identity of the region.

    Today the village celebrated it’s annual “French” Festival. It is only fitting that the parade be symbolically led by Napoleon.

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There were display booths, food, a puppet show for the children,

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and, of course the parade:

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    The parade had an abrupt ending as a torrential downpour occurred. However, after it was over, some of the members of the different marching bands had a jam session:

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Alexandria Bay, New York

Day 392

St Lawrence River     

     Alexandria Bay is a village located on the south bank of the Saint Lawrence River near the U.S. and Canada border. It is about mid-way in the 1000 island area of New York. The site of this village was selected by Cadwallader Child in 1804 while surveying a road, with settlement in the area beginning in 1817. The town of Alexandria derives its name from Alexander, son of J.D LeRay de Chaumont under whom much of the land was settled. The township was formed April 3, 1821. However, by 1836 there were only 25 dwellings here. This area is mostly for summer tourists. 

      We chose this area to set up our camp as it is central to towns along the St. Lawrence River, and easy access to the 1000 island area. 

Alexandria Bay

Technical Stuff:

Peru, New York to Alexandria Bay, New York: 198.3 miles

5 hours 11 minutes

9.9 MPG

Diesel: $2.50


Battle of Valcour Island, New York

Day 391

     Research revealed that the only information on the Battle of Valcour Island, New York, also known as the Battle for Lake Champlain, was located in the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, not located in Peru or Valcour, New York, but in Vergennes, Vermont. So we drove to Vergennes, which included a 25 minute ferry ride across Lake Champlain to the museum.

     Although the museum covered a vast amount of maritime history on the Lake, I was mainly interested in the battle. I was directed down to a pier where a replica ship of the Colonial Fleet of that battle, the Philadelphia, was docked and told to talk to Bill, who would be on the ship. 

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     This man had a vast knowledge of the battle, and relayed the following: 

     Colonel Arnold was born on January 14, 1741, a British Subject, as everyone born at that time was, in Norwich, the colony of Connecticut. He served with distinction in the French and Indian War. During the early battles of the American revolution, he was greatly admired by George Washington as a military man that could think outside the box and achieve a military victory where other’s could not. 

     For that reason Washington sent Colonel Arnold to Lake Champlain to build and assemble a fleet to engage the British Royal Navy, the largest and most powerful navy in the World, who were expected to come from Canada and attack the Colonies. 

      On October 1, 1776, Arnold received reliable intelligence indicating that the British had a force significantly more powerful than his. Because his force was inferior, he chose the narrow, rocky body of water between the western shore of Lake Champlain and Valcour Island, in upstate New York, where the British fleet would have difficulty bringing its superior firepower to bear, and where the inferior seamanship of his relatively unskilled sailors would have a minimal negative effect. Some of Arnold’s captains wanted to fight in open waters, the traditional way to fight a naval battle at that time, and where they might be able to retreat to the shelter of Fort Crown Point, but Arnold argued that the primary purpose of the fleet was not survival but the delay of a British advance on Crown Point and Ticonderoga until the following spring. 

     On October 11, 1776, the British Fleet sailed down Lake Champlain. As they past Valcour Island Arnold sailed out and engaged them. Arnold lost to the superior British forces. However, the American defense of Lake Champlain stalled British plans to reach the upper Hudson River valley.

     Although the British won the battle and now had control of the Lake, they abandoned the area and returned to Canada for the winter. This allowed the Colonial Army a year to prepare for the anticipated attack of the British which resulted in the Battle of Saratoga in New York, a battle won by the Colonists, which proved to be the turning point in the Revolutionary War. All because of Colonel Benedict Arnold. 

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Ausable Chasm, New York

Day 389

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     Ausable Chasm is a sandstone gorge and tourist attraction located near we are camping, on lake Champlain in Northeastern New York State. The Ausable River runs through it, and then empties into Lake Champlain.  The river was originally named “Au Sable” (French for “sandy”) by Samuel de Champlain when he first explored the region in 1609 because of its extensive sandy delta. Can you guess where the lake got it’s name? The 1.5-mile-long chasm was opened to the public in 1870 as a tourist trap, sorry, attraction, five years after the Civil War. 

     Today we hiked the Chasm and the area around. We first walked about 2 miles along the rim of the Chasm so we could look down.

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We then took a raft ride through the Chasm,

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and then walked about 3 miles within the Chasm, along the Ausable River. 

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     As always, there was a rock formation in which people see things. Here, some people see an elephant head:

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     I don’t understand how they see that, it is obviously soft serve ice-cream in a cone. 

     Since we are in the Adirondack Mountains, Adirondack Chairs are everywhere. 

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     Aaaah! That was a long walk.

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6 hrs on Lake George, New York

Day 383

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     Took a 6 hour boat tour of Lake George, 32 miles from the Village of Lake George to Ticonderoga, where the lake empties into Lake Champlain, which flows into the St. Lawrence Seaway to the Atlantic Ocean.

     The Lake was named by the British during the French and Indian War to honor their King, George #2. The lake played no part in the American Revolution, but was prominent during the French and Indian War as it is only 160 miles from Canada. 

     We boarded the ship Mohican, part of the Lake George Steamboat Company, which has been carrying passengers on the lake since 1817. There are over 170 islands in the lake, most of them State owned. 

     Camping is permitted on the State owned islands.

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     About 30 of the islands are privately owned, on which some have houses. 

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     Like all waterways that traverse mountains, there is the inevitable “man in the mountain”

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     To me, it is not the face of a man, but a double scoop ice-cream cone.



Peru, New York

Day 385

     The town of Peru is in upstate New York, south of Plattsburgh, not far from Lake Champlain. The area was first settled in 1772. The Battle of Valcour Island was fought on Lake Champlain in the eastern part of Peru in 1776. The town was formed  Dec. 28, 1792. 

     We drove through the town of Peru and the town of Valcour looking for information on the battle, as I wanted to visit the area of the battle. To my surprise, nothing was here. Since this was an important battle as it delayed the British from reaching Saratoga, I found this strange. I will research the issue. 

     Today, and for the next couple of days, there are severe thunderstorms and flooding. More than likely we will stay in the campground until the storms moves on before further exploring. 

Technical Stuff:

Queensbury, N.Y. to Peru, N.Y. 99.5 miles

2 hours 13 minutes

10.3 MPG

Diesel: $2.45



Fort William Henry, New York

Day 382

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     The French and Indian War (they were on the same side) was THE First World War, as fighting between Britain, France, and Spain took place in the Caribbean, Philippines, India, Africa, Europe, and North America.

     A minor battle of that war (I guess it was not minor for the 1500 men who died) took place here at Fort William Henry in Upstate New York on Lake George. The Battle is most noted for the resolute but ultimately unsuccessful defense of the Fort on August 9, 1757 by British Lieutenant-Colonel George Munro. He was forced to surrender to the French after a 6 day siege. Upon his retreat from the fort he was attacked by the Mohawk Indian allies of the French who had not been paid by the French as promised. They massacred 185 of Munro’s unarmed troops. 

     If this sounds familiar, it is because you read it in James Fenimore Cooper’s novel The Last of the Mohicans.

     The fort we visited was a replica of the original 1755 fort which was burned to the ground as the French moved on to their next battle in 1757. This is all that remains:

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