Tag Archives: minna anthony common nature center

Be a Voyageur!

Since the 1980s, there has been a 36-foot long, 16 passenger (plus two staff), fiberglass Voyageur canoe at the Minna Anthony Common Nature Center in Wellesley Island State Park. No one really knows where the canoe came from or exactly what year it arrived, but there are a few stories told about its origins.  Some say there used to be five Voyageur canoes located in parks along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario and some say the canoe was made by NYS Parks’ employees.  Ultimately, the mystery of its origin is part of its mystique.  What they will say is that every summer for about the last 30 years park visitors and Nature Center staff have headed out on daily trips in our canoe to learn about the history of the Voyageurs and to explore the ecology of Eel Bay, the Narrows, and Escanaba Bay.

Voyageur canoe trips leave the Nature Center docks at 9 am and return at 11 am, but there is plenty for staff to do before anyone ever steps foot into the boat.  If it has rained, staff must bail the canoe and dry the wooden seats for passengers.

Unknown photographer 2003
Novice voyageurs head out on their first journey, photo by State Parks.

They also move the boat into place on the docks so it is ready for the day.  When that day’s voyageurs come down to the dock house they are fitted with personal floatation devices (PFD’s) and paddles while being taught about the fundamentals of paddling before heading out to the canoe.  Loading the canoe with passengers can be quite tricky, as people who are likely to be stronger paddlers must be strategically positioned in the boat and the canoe must be balanced on the water to safely leave the docks.  Once the canoe is balanced and its passengers comfortable, staff jump in at the bow (front) and stern (back) and slowly steer the boat out into Eel Bay.

The staff member sitting at the bow of the boat begins the interpretation as the large boat gets underway.  They talk about how the canoe weighs 1,000 pounds empty and how it is made of fiberglass.  As the passengers paddle, they discuss the importance of Eel Bay as a large, shallow water bay on the St. Lawrence.  Then conversation shifts to the Voyageurs who were part of the French fur trading companies that existed in the 18th and 19th centuries.  The interpreter weaves a tale about the adventures Voyageurs had as they transported furs, predominately beaver, from Montreal to trading posts along the shores of Lake Superior.  As the boat rounds the sharp turn into the Narrows passengers learn what a day in the life of a Voyageur was like, from what they ate to how they were paid.  The staff member sitting in the stern who has been quietly working to steer the boat will ease it to a stop as the canoe coasts into Escanaba Bay.  Passengers will spend a little time admiring the plentiful water lilies that dot the bay before reversing course and heading back towards the Nature Center.  On the return trip to our docks, some time is dedicated to floating along in silence, taking in the sights and sounds of the majestic St. Lawrence River.

Molly Farrell
Pat and Aziel Snyder standing next to the newly restored Voyageur canoe. Doesn’t it look beautiful? Photo by State Parks.

The canoe had begun to show its age in recent years but last winter Pat Snyder of River Restorations, a local boat restoration company, beautifully restored it to top condition.  A few sections of the gunnels were replaced, the gunnels and seats sanded down and refinished, the seats reinforced to help prevent deflection when people are stepping into the boat, and the fiberglass shell was repainted.  The canoe once again looks majestic and is ready to go out on the water!

Each July and August, look for the return of our sleek Voyageur canoe to the Nature Center’s dock.  For just $4 (anyone over 13) or $2 (under 13) you can join staff from the Nature Center on a memorable journey on smooth waters, travelling the shorelines of Wellesley Island.

For information on upcoming trips, please visit our Facebook page (Minna Anthony Common Nature Center- Friends).  To have enough paddle power to steer the boat, we must have at least 8 people over the age of 18 on board.  To reserve a spot on a trip, please call the Nature Center at 315-482-2479.

Post by Molly Farrell, July 2018

Learn more about Voyaguers:

Durbin, William; The Broken Paddle; Delacorte Press, NY, 1997.

Ernst, Kathleen; The Trouble and Fort La Point; Pleasant Company Publications, Middleton, WI, 2000.

Enjoy a Wintry Weekend at a New York State Park

The dog days of summer are a very distant memory, but many intrepid New Yorkers thrive in winter and are eager for falling temperatures and continued snowfalls.  To these hardy adventurers, a few extra layers of gear combined with the snowy terrain offer a winter wonderland of nature, fitness and fun.

In fact, a few of New York’s State Parks remain open and offer accommodations this time of year.  From cold-weather sports to the quiet beauty of snow-covered landscapes… snowshoe treks to winter carnivals, skating rinks to seal walks, New York State Parks are popular destinations for winter recreation and the perfect remedy for cabin fever.

Allegany State Park is not only the largest state park in New York at 65,000 acres, but this flagship property offers four seasons of adventure and is considered to be a premier winter-time destination for cold-weather fun in the northeast.  Allegany features 18 trails with 80 miles of hiking and snowshoeing, more than 25 miles of cross-country skiing and 90 miles of groomed snowmobile trails.  While the mercury may be dropping, the park heats up as families and outdoor enthusiasts enjoy winter activities and snow-based recreation in this vast wilderness setting.  Convenient and affordable winter lodging options at the park include year-round cabins and cottages available for rent.

Group camp5 Winter scene
Snowmobilers leaving Group Camp 5 at Allegany State Park. Photo by OPRHP.

With winterized cabins and the incredibly scenic Genesee Valley gorge as a backdrop, Letchworth State Park is another ideal destination for winter sports. Winter activities include snow tubing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. Families can also rent the Maplewood Lodge, located in the middle of the park near the entrance to the Highbanks Camping Area.  A popular choice for snowmobilers, it connects to the New York State snowmobile trail system. The three-bedroom lodge sleeps up to eight people and consists of a furnished kitchen, living room with cozy fireplace, dining room and a full size bath and powder room.

Cross Country Skiing
Cross-country skiing is a popular activity in many State Parks over the winter months. Photo by OPRHP.

Wellesley Island State Park along the St. Lawrence Seaway in the Thousand Islands is another prime location with winterized accommodations to host weekend getaways or an impromptu overnight when available. The park’s Minna Anthony Common Nature Center is open year-round and includes nine miles of hiking trails, and five miles of cross country ski and snow shoe trails.  During the winter months visitors can warm up by the fireplace and meet other explorers. The trails have a diversity of habitat including field, forest, wetlands and views of the St. Lawrence River.

In Cooperstown, Glimmerglass State Park offers a variety of child-friendly activities such as tubing, ice skating and winter trail sports.  Reserve one of the cottages that sleep eight at nearby Betty and Wilbur Davis State Park and bring the whole family to enjoy a day of snowmobiling too.

For patrons enjoying New York’s state parks year-round, there is no ‘off-season” and every reason to get outside and embrace all types of cold- weather recreation among the wintry landscapes.

Post by Wendy Gibson and MaryAnn Corbisiero, OPRHP.

For more information, visit:

www.nysparks.com

www.newyorkstateparks.reserveamerica.com