Oft times when you talk with folks who don’t live in New York or nearby States the perception of New York is of great Skyscrapers, Wall Street,and the financial district, teeming population, and a great harbor where the Statue of liberty is. Few understand that the great State of New York is hardly that. The City of New York which can in part be described so, is what most folks across the country know as New York. The Empire State is a vast sprawling State in the Northeast with some of the most beautiful natural landscape in the nation. The moniker “The Empire State” has no definitive origin though speculations abound. The one I gravitate to is that none other than George Washington in a letter to the then Mayor of New York City James Duane Referred to New York as ” the seat of the empire”. Who ever Coined the phrase is buried along with the history of it for none really knows. The State forms the southern and western borders of the New England States and the northern border of New Jersey and most of the northern border of Pennsylvania. It lies between the Atlantic Ocean And Lake Ontario and the Canadian border at it’s western extremity
The State for it’s size, thirtieth in land mass of the fifty, has merely twenty five national parks and twelve of those are within the City of New York. For you outdoor camping and RV enthusiasts, however, don’t be disappointed. The State has one hundred and Seventy Nine exquisite recreational, and commemorative parks to visit and enjoy. This blog site though is about national parks so I will concentrate on those or it will become a lifelong project merely talking about the Empire State.
The City of New York, the gateway to the State, contains twelve National Parks, Memorials to those of you who can’t relate to a park being other than large tracts of land with Trees. Beginning with the African Burial Grounds in lower Manhattan, dedicated in 2006 by president G.W. Bush and ending with The Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island, they are:
* Hamilton Grange, The birthplace of Theodore Roosevelt, St Paul’s church, Grants Tomb, The Gateway National Recreation Area, The Federal Building, Castle Clinton National Monument ( no not named after President Bill Clinton), Governor’s Island, The lower East side Tenement Museum and the 911 Memorial.
Outside of the Gateway you wont be doing any camping at these national parks. Never fear, however, There is camping in the Gateway and there is an RV park in the Bronx. Out on Long Island you can find RV parks and camp sites. Any one of these areas can provide car rentals, if your not towing your own, in order for you to visit these National Historic Sites. I would also suggest to you A Circle Line Tour around the Island of Manhattan and a trip by boat to the Statue Of Liberty. Again these in no way represent all the fascinating places of New York City but they are the National Sites.
As previously mentioned the State Of New York begins at the Atlantic Ocean. In fact way out in the Atlantic Ocean at Monauk Point on the southern tip of Long Island and the lighthouse. There is a wonderful National park on Long Island, Fire Island National Seashore, 26 miles of the islands 30 mile length. The Island protects the great South Bay of long Island and boasts of pristine beaches, bicycle and walkways, and the lighthouse. It is a favorite getaway for the residents of New York City, and a don’t miss location for visitors to New York. By the way, while in the area you might want to lunch in Montauk at Gosmans Restaurant and dinner in Oceanside at Joe’s Crab Shack, both excellent seafood eateries. Heading back toward the city of New York and the borough of Queens in the Town of Oyster Bay Long Island we would stop and visit another National Park, Sagamore Hill. The Home of Theodore Roosevelt 26th president of the United States.
We have to travel back now past the city to head North and West up the Hudson to Tarry town and the Tappan zee bridge. We could continue to travel along the East Bank of the Hudson River through Paughkeepsie to Hyde Park. Hyde Park is home to three more of the national park sites of New York The Eleanor Roosevelt NHS, The Franklin D Roosevelt NHS and the Vanderbilt Mansion NHS all three homes of titans of American History. You should also know that traveling the East side of the Hudson River is more scenic than traveling on the West. One more thing while traveling the East side of the Hudson River, as you go through Paughkeepsie stop and walk the only walking bridge across the Hudson River. One more thing before we move on to the West side of the Hudson River. Just as with the circle line tour around the Island of Manhattan there are Hudson River tours. The tours leave and return to various places along the Hudson and are very well managed and planned.
You can, after crossing the Tappan zee bridge, head north toward Albany, on the west side of the Hudson River. Your travel will bring you past the great American institution of West Point where our incomparable military leaders have originated. You’ll find another national treasure as you travel north to Albany and that is The Thomas Cole House, the founder of the Hudson River school of American Painting. Your route will have you going through the Catskill mountains with their breathtaking beauty, flowing rivers, deep forests, meadows,and gurgling streams. Going through them north to Albany you can almost visualize Rip Van Winkle frolicking through his mountains after being awakened. Just before reaching Albany there is the quaint little town of Kinderhook New York. That is where the National Park the home of President Martin Van Buren’s home is. Albany, the Capital of New York, itself is an exquisite city of historic structures and modern Architecture. New York doesn’t end at Albany. Troy New York Just above Albany along the Vermont Border has another National Park the home of Kate Mullany the first leader/founder of the first all women’s labor union in the United States. Continuing north along the Vermont border still another National Park can be found where one of the most significant battles of the American Revolutionary War was joined at Saratoga. After the Americans Defeated the British an entire British army surrendering, The French were convinced to recognize the fledgling Nation and vowed their support. The State continues past Lake George and Lake Placid all the way to the Northern shores of Lake Champlain and the Canadian Border. All this way you were traveling through the Allegheny Mountains a part of the Appalachian Trail which is a National park and national treasure. Many beautiful and enchanting locations are available to camp, hike, fish, boat and enjoy New York’s outdoor wonderland. In the winter there is amazing skiing and skating and all manner of winter sports.
As for me though I am headed right for the Upper Delaware scenic and recreation area another designated national parks area. There is 73 miles of recreation area only 30 of which is actually owned by the government. The river highway between Port Jervis and Hancock featuring it’s hawks nest was designated Americas’ most scenic highway in 1960. The upper Delaware itself is such fun when you have a friend and a canoe. When I lived in New Jersey near the Delaware Water Gap I and a friend often spent our weekend on the Delaware Canoeing. I mean it’s no Colorado or even the South Fork of the American River in Ca. but it is fun. This area is also some of the finest Wine country in the USA.
Not to awfully far from here, by New York standards anyway,in the town of Washingtonville is the oldest winery in the United States The Brotherhood Winery. A Sunday afternoon/evening wine tasting with friends here is pleasant indeed. This area brings back many warm memories.
Now I would start the trek north and west passing as I go some of the finest farmland this country has to offer. Soft rolling hills dotted with dairy farms, cattle ranches, hay fields, lush woodlands, and rushing streams litter the gorgeous Central Valley of the Empire State. Just North of where we would be traveling is the historic Mohawk Valley, more sweet farmland dotted with rustic towns. It was in this valley that more than 100 major battles of the French and Indian Wars and American Revolution
This photo of Brotherhood Winery is courtesy of TripAdvisorwere fought.
The task of protecting Americas’ northern flank was in stout hands. The Cites Of Schenectady Utica and Rome grew to maturity in this valley. At the City of Rome New York a National Monument Fort Stanwix has been refurbished in tribute to the settlers of the Mohawk Valley who so valiantly defended their homes and settlements during those turbulent beginnings. It is said that because of the efforts of fort Stanwix the battle of the aforementioned Saratoga was won. I remember when young a movie starring Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert ‘Drums Along the Mohawk” gave homage to the settlers of the Mohawk Valley.
Heading still west we now come to the next to last of the National parks of the State of New York and that is Seneca Falls/Waterloo. M’Clintock house is the historic sight of the first woman’s rights council in the United States.
The next leg of our journey across New York would take us of course to the western edge of this wondrous State to Buffalo, Niagra, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, The St Lawrence River. Niagra Falls may not be a national Park but as it disgourges water from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario through tghe Niagra river it forms a picturesque backdrop for numerous Honeymoons, my own included.
It is one of the most beautiful Sites in North America. The Erie canal changed the mode and cost of moving goods and people from the American interior to Albany and down the Hudson to New York City. Two of the Great Lakes Erie and Ontario border New york. The St Lawrance Seaway, a conbination of the St Lawrance River and a series of Canals, opened the Atlantic to the Great Lakes To further enhance the ability of our midwest to compete Globally.
Now for such a large and Historic State you might ask yourself are these the only National set asides for the Recreation of such a large, dynamic population? The answer is of course not, these listed are merely the National Parks. There are State parks, 179 of them, There are National and State wildlife management areas. There are Blm lands. There are Army Corps of Engineer lands. There are Beautiful Lakes teaming with fish, rushing rivers, hiking trails, magnificent mountains, Everything this unimaginably exceptional land has to offer. Be sure to go to your National parks Office or send for your America the Beautiful Passes whatever level you qualify for they are a real value. The State of New York also has a pass program you should check on.
Oh I almost forgot there is one more National Park in New York, and Pennsylvania, and Ohio, and Michigan, and Wisconsin, and Minnesota, and North Dakota. I had heard of the Appalachian trial as most of you have. I had,however, never heard of the North Country Trail covering Seven States and 4600 miles. I need to do some research but you can rest assured that in a future Blog that the North Trail and the 9 other Trails authorized by Congress as National Scenic trails besides the Appalachian trail, will be the subject matter of a future blog. So Have fun, watch for the Blogs, place a photo and a short blurb on the page we plan to provide about your experience in a National Park and I’ll see you hopefully soon.