Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A trail by another means…

Exploring yet another sort of trail, we recently traversed the Oswego Canal; taking in the rich fall colors and historical sights along the way. A very special thank you to our friend Richard for being our tour guide and canoe captain.

We began our journey just north of Battle Island, named for a skirmish of the French and Indian War. It was in July 1756, after delivering supplies and reinforcements to Fort Ontario, that a small British troop was ambushed by warriors of the Five Nations. Led by Captain John Bradstreet, the soldiers quickly made their way to the small island, where they took refuge in the thick underbrush and made their stand against multiple attacks. For decades, the hasty strongholds and trees bearing marks of the battle could be seen, a reminder of the island’s one important day in history.

We rounded the island, listening to calls from a gaggle of geese. On the south side, we discovered a landing site for picnic-goers and briefly enjoyed the company of a blue heron. As we next glided past Factory Island, we found the ruins of an old starch factory; built in competition to Oswego’s Kingsford Starch Factory. We then passed Battle Island State Park where late season golfers were playing the beautiful fairways and greens of the 18-hole course.

We continued on toward the former Van Buren estate, first settled in 1796 by John Van Buren, a first cousin to past President Martin Van Buren. Built in the 1820s, the tavern provided a place for visitors to eat, drink and sleep. “The Pillars” was constructed in 1847 as the personal residence of the patriarch’s son, David. Today, both buildings are private homes and not open to the public.

On our return, we followed the old Oswego Canal, which was open from 1828 to 1917. The canal runs from Oswego to Syracuse, where it joins the Erie Canal. In a few places, canoers and kayakers can see vestiges of the old canal and its towpath along the east side the Oswego River.

The ride was, at turns, an easy glide and a hard slog. Regardless of the effort, it was serene and refreshing – a welcome retreat to the scenic beauty in our “backyard”. The trip provided us an opportunity to closely view our local heritage and natural world along the smaller waterways, and take in the panoramic views along the great expanse of the Oswego River.

Here are a few images of our adventure:

Canoers and kayakers of all skill levels will find a vast network of picturesque waterways in Oswego County. To ensure a memorable and enjoyable paddle, be sure to follow these tips:
  • New York State law requires that all boaters have access to a personal flotation device, which should be worn at all times.
  • Do not use intoxicants while boating.
  • Do not approach dam areas too closely on either the up- or down-stream sides.
  • Standing up in a canoe is not advisable.
  • Remember that once you reach your destination, you may have to paddle just as far in the opposite direction, perhaps against the wind or heavy current.
  • Know your limits and abilities. Use good judgment at all times.
The nearest launch sites for this bit of the tour are: Indian Point in Fulton and the Minetto Boat Launch in Minetto. However, if you would like to visit other waterways, or would like more information about paddling or canalling, please visit our Web site at http://www.visitoswegocounty.com/.