Eisenhower Lock, Massena, NY

The St Lawrence Seaway connects the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean.  A portion of this seaway is in the St Lawrence River therefore the name.  On the river portion there are seven locks and dams which raise or lower ships 243 feet, by-passing either large rapids or hydroelectric dams.   This one lowers or lifts ships 42 ft.

We visited Eisenhower Lock near Massena, NY where the river is diverted into a canal so the below hydroelectric dam could be installed.


Viewing is free and there is a toll-free number to call and get a tentative schedule, always subject to change.  We hit it just perfect and saw a very large ship be lowered thru the lock.  Pretty cool, not sure of this particular ship’s size, but max for the Seaway is 740 ft length, 78 ft beam and 26.5 ft draft, and it fit pretty snug in the lock so probably close to this size???  Anyway here goes, blow by blow.

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Lock Opens
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Ship enters
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Lock Closes
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Note man on far right in red 
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Down he goes
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and down
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and down a total of 42 ft.
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Open Lock on the other end


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She is gone…

Peace and Love

Boldt Castle – Heart Island – 1000 Islands

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OK so I have to admit that we actually paid for our Thousand Islands 2 Nation Tour and a tour of Boldt Castle.  Busted the budget, but it had to be done, no other way to visit them.  The castle is one of a few true castles in the Thousand Islands, but one of only two that are open for tours.  This castle has quite a history with one of the sweetest/tragic love stories.

George Boldt, his wife Louise and their two children summered in the thousand Islands for many years and owned several properties in the area.  Boldt came to the US as an immigrant from Prussia as a teen and lived the American dream (self made millionaire) beginning his career in a hotel kitchen.  He became general manager of the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City (where the Empire State Building currently sits) and the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia and along with his wife made many of our modern hotel comforts the norm.  Specifically, room service and daily clean sheets.  She was the one that realized that if you make the wife comfortable in a hotel the husband is also happy so she catered to the more feminine aspects of hotels.

Anyway, they purchased Hart Island and a “small” frame cottage on the property where they summered for several seasons.  After renaming the island Heart Island, in 1900 George commissioned a six story, 120+ room castle as a gift to his wife Louise with several masonry out buildings.

First was the Alster Tower or children’s play house.  This building has not been restored very much on the interior, but included a two-lane bowling alley, and living quarters in the tower.

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The power house, which generated the power needed to run the castle via generators, a clock tower and bells.  It is actually on a separate island connected by a stone bridge.  The original burnt in 1939, but it has been reconstructed and is one of the most photographed structures on the property.  You can see why, it looks like a castle by itself.

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A gazebo overlooking the river.

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The grand entrance arch where they would have greeted guests.

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And a Dove Cote and French Garden

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They also had a yacht house on Wellesley Island, which looks more like a mansion that a boat house.  It doesn’t match the castle across the creek, but is on a different island so guess it didn’t matter, maybe it matched a “cottage” near by?? It too is open for tours, but we skipped that one.  They say the bays will hold up to 120 foot yacht.  Guess you should be called a YACHT at 120 ft.

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Boldt adored his wife Louise and in building the castle as a monument to their love, included hearts in every motif possible.  Below is the family crest he created which includes a heart with the family B and a hart (an adult male deer), the property has plenty of hearts and harts.

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In 1904 when the property was almost complete and as George was planning to present the home to his wife for Valentine’s day she suddenly died.  He was devastated and telegraphed the workers at the island to cease work.  They left the castle and never returned.  The castle was left vacant and never completed.  They say George never set foot on the island again.  The elements and vandals took their toll on the buildings until 1977 when George Jr. “sold” the property to the 1000 Island Bridge Authority with three stipulations, first no one could spend the night in the castle since Louise never had, second it could never be completed since she had never seen it completed and third all proceeds from tours had to be reinvested in restoring the property.  In the last 40 years they have restored much of the estate to its original grandeur, but there are still areas in vast disrepair.  They say that over $35million has been reinvested to date.

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Nice little summer home but really imagine it is haunted by love not sure another family could find peace here.

Peace and Love from our little castle.



The Thousand Islands

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The Thousand Islands is actually a collection of over 1,800 islands in the St. Lawrence River.  Some are in Canada and some in New York, USA, as the boarder snakes thru the river.  The river emerges from the north eastern corner of Lake Ontario and the islands stretch the first 50 miles of the river from Cape Vincent, NY.  To be considered an Island, it must have at least one square foot of land above the water year around and support at least two trees or scrubs.  One of the smaller islands.

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The St. Lawrence River hosts a seaway or shipping lane where ocean liners, freighters and tankers access the great lakes from the Atlantic Ocean.   This happens until the river freezes over in the winter.

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The islands became popular as summer vacation spots for the rich and famous in the late 1800s.  Many built small summer cottages on sizable islands and on others the cottages barely fit on the island.

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Of course, there are many very large homes as well, even some castles, but the castle is another post.  Many of the larger homes are hidden in the trees so hard to photograph, but this gives a taste.

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This house with two islands has one island in Canada and the other in the USA.  The boarder is rather fluid around here, but you are suppose to register your visit if you touch land in the other country or drop a fishing line in the waters of the other country.  Another interesting point is that the river freezes over in the winter.

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Peace and Love

Watkins Glen State Park

Unlike Pennsylvania New York charges an entrance fee to most all of their state parks, but most are less than $10 for the entire car so the more people in your car the better the deal.  Reading about parks in the finger lake area we discovered that in 2015 Watkins Glen was nominated in a USA TODAY Readers Choice Poll for the best state park in the USA and was chosen third out of a pool of over 6,000 nominees.  Pretty impressive right, so we had to check it out.

The gorge was opened to the public in 1863, it was privately owned and ran as a tourist resort until 1906 when it was purchased by the State of New York.  The park includes three main trails the south rim, north rim “Indian trail” and the gorge trail.  They offer for an extra fee a shuttle bus between the three entrances.  We considered taking the shuttle from the bottom to the top and hiking down since we really don’t like hiking up, but ended up hiking up the Indian Rim Trail and back down the gorge.

The gorge trail is not natural it has paved paths and many stone steps mostly developed in the early 1900 some by the CCC.  Within two miles the stream descends over 400 feet with 200 foot cliffs, generating 19 waterfalls.  The trail winds over and under waterfalls, thru tunnels and the spray of cavern cascades.  It includes several bridges and a tunnel with a spiral stair case.  It was truly a beautiful gorge and not a bad hike.  There were many other visitors the day we were there and it was not a great weather day, so I can not imagine the crowds it must have in the peak season.

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Peace and Love

Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge

At the north end of Finger Lake Cayuga lies Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge.  As the lake moves north on its route to Lake Ontario it created a large marsh land which was designated as a Wildlife Refuge in 1938.  Ninety years of protection!!!

We did not visit at dawn or dusk, which is when the most bird/wildlife activity would occur, mainly because the days are so long.  Today sunrise was at 5:20 and sunset will be at 8:48. Too early and too late for us to drive 40+ miles to the refuge, unless it was for an event like the Sandhill Cranes in Roswell, NM (see October/November 2017).

But we did see several Osprey and/or Eagle nests that were occupied.  I say and/or because there are definitely both in the park, it boasts at least 6 active eagle nests this year one a trio of  2 males and 1 female that have been nesting there since 1987!!!  That’s impressive, we were married in 1989 and have owned 4 houses not including rentals…  Eagle from a distance…

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They have a drive that travels thru various wetlands habitat and we saw a variety of cranes and herons, and either a beaver or otter??  It looked like an alligator crossing the pond at first but they don’t have aligators up here and looked brown and furry as it passed.   Best shots are the birds with reflections pretty cool.

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Mom loved wildlife and touring the refuges in Florida near NSB – Merritt Island and others.  This reminds me of some of those areas and know that she would have loved it.  We find it fitting that there is a “May’s” point within the refuge… I know she approves.

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Peace and love

Finger Lakes Waterfalls

New York has a group of eleven lakes better known as the finger lakes.  They were formed over the last two million years by glacial carving of old stream valleys.  We are staying between the two largest Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake.  Cayuga is the longest at 38 miles and Seneca is the deepest at over 600 ft deep, both at their deepest are below sea level.  They flow from south to north and eventually empty into Lake Ontario.

The southern end of the lakes are full of gorges and the resulting waterfalls.  If you are like me and love, love, love waterfalls this is a must visit area.  Ithaca is the city on the southern end of Lake Cayuga and home to Cornell University.  They have a beautiful campus with an inviting arboretum the R. F. Newman Arboretum where we had a nice walk and picnic.  You can really tell we are in north of home, they dogwoods and wildflowers are in full bloom in early June!!!

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They also have a river gorge running thru the middle of campus – Fall Creek Gorge, which brings us back to the waterfalls. There are numerous gorges in the area, we even saw a t-shirt with the logo “Ithaca is Gorges” ha ha and true.  Below are Ithaca Falls and Triphammer falls both on campus.

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The southern end of Seneca lake is Watkins Glen with its own gorge, but that will have to wait to another post.  Other falls in the area include Taughannock Falls the tallest free-falling waterfall east of the Mississippi River.  It plunges 215 feet, 33 feet higher than Niagara Falls but with much less water.  Our camp host said it was used in the original King Kong Movie.  I can’t find anything to verify this claim, but interesting folklore for the falls.  It is in a state park that requires fees to access the gorge trail, but this overlook and rim trail are free with a 1-hour parking limit.

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Near by small town of Montour Falls was named because there was a waterfall at the end of Main Street.  Montour Falls or Shequaga Falls is viewed from a small park at the end of Main St and falls 165 ft.

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A couple of others just fall beside the highways –

Aunt Sarah’s Falls

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And Hector’s Falls.

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All of these were just from a single day of riding around, can’t imagine the beauty that must exist in this area with further exploration!!!  Peace and Love from the finger lakes.

Cattaraugus County, NY – Southern Tier

We dropped south from Niagara to right outside of Salamanca, NY north of the Alleghany Forest part of NY’s southern tier.  Not only is this a beautiful part of New York it is also where our friend Yorke lives with his wife Cathy and kids Zak and Emma.  Unfortunately, we did not cross paths with the family, but had a very nice visit and driving tour of the area with Yorke.  They live in the beautiful little Village of Cattaraugus.

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The area is dotted with “towns” and “villages”, seems like a town is a general area that includes a smaller activity hub called the village of the same name.  The land is mostly gently rolling hills with lots of public land, farm land, some ski resorts and Lake Chautauqua.  There are lots of Amish in the area which has been the case in most of Penn and New York, just another way of life.

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He showed us some very interesting geography in the area all public land and free of charge.  Little Rock City was basically huge 8’x8’ rock “cubes” and larger all just laying around inches apart.  Hard to describe and not a good picture, but fascinating.  And the gorge in Zoar Valley was beautiful, wish some of my old geology folks were around to explain the formation.  Our special surprise was this bald eagle feeding in a field on the side of the road.

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The best find for us in the area was Griffis Sculpture Park about 400 acres with over 250 sculptures out in the middle of nowhere.  It is currently operated by a private foundation and $5 honor system donations are requested.  Then you wander around the woods and meadows checking out the sculptures the main lawn has a stage and a couple of shelters where they have concerts on occasion.

The park was created by Larry Griffis, Jr who became an artist late in life and after a stay in Rome came home and made it his mission to create a haven for imagination and play for his fellow neighbors to enjoy.  He also created the Essex Street Arts Center on Buffalo’s West Side in 1969.  Must have been a hell of a guy.  The sculpture garden was way cool we spent a couple of hours including a picnic lunch.  There are a group of nude bathers around a pond, some insects, and family heads just to mention a few.

Peace and love.


Niagara Falls – USA and Canada

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Leaving Lake Erie area, we traveled up to Grand Island between Buffalo, NY and Niagara Falls, NY.  Lake Erie ends in Buffalo and becomes the Niagara River.   Basically, four of the great lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, and Erie all drain thru the Niagara River over Niagara Falls and into the last great lake – Lake Ontario.  Interesting that these five Great Lakes contain almost one fifth of the worlds fresh water and it all ends up in Lake Ontario.  Ontario eventually empties into the St. Lawrence river and to the Atlantic Ocean.  But more about the St. Lawrence later when we get there.

The Niagara River flows about 40 miles from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario.  On the west side of the river is Canada and the east side is New York, USA.  The river is not very wide, but we saw no indication of a wall being built to keep the Canadians out, guess they are just not that interested???  We walked across the Rainbow Bridge to Canada had to show passport each way and pay $1 to return thru a turn stall.

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The falls are about half way down the river and consist of three distinct falls the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Horseshoe Falls.  They are separated by Luna Island between American and Bridal Veil and Goat Island between Bridal Veil and Horseshoe both accessible from the USA side via trolley or foot.

The falls were created slowly and over the last 12,000 years have moved at least 7 miles upstream in that time.  It has moved as much as 6 feet in one year, but today the erosion has slowed partially due to water being redirected to feed hydroelectric power plants.  They divert more water overnight to preserve the natural beauty during the day.

The American side has a nice NY State Park designed by Fredrick Law Olmstead the same man who designed Central Park in NYC and many other parks.  This state park is also the first state park in the USA developed in 1885.  It is very nice with many walking paths and natural areas complementing the flora and fauna of the area and the falls, but the Canadian side really has the best views of the falls themselves.

American Falls – After several large rock slides, in 1969 these falls were dewatered, diverting all water to horseshoe falls for six months so that Geologists and Engineers could study the rock faces and effects of erosion to determine if there were a safe way to preserve what was there.  It was determined that the would be too costly to remove the rock from the base of the falls and that nature should be allowed to take its course.

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Bridal veil falls – This is a small fall with a long history.  The Cave of the Winds is under/in front of these falls where an elevator takes you to a maze of walkways in front of the falls.  Looked really wet and not so much fun for $20 each???

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Horseshoe Falls is the largest of the falls and as named is the shape of a horseshoe.  The Maids of the Mist ferrys on the American side and a comparable ferry on the Canadian side take people up to theses falls and into the mist.  This looked pretty cool, but also very wet and $20 each??  Not sure, but we did not go.  But the ferrys seemed full all day long, on both sides.  Horseshoe is also the largest of the three, of the 700,000 gallons of water per second that go over the falls, a little less than 90% goes over these falls.

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Tesla – The with the water power of Niagara Falls Tesla proved that AC current could be used more efficiently and effectively than DC.  Look it up I really don’t understand, but Randy does and is very impressed, statues on both sides of the falls, Tesla created modern electricity.

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Practically speaking this can be a very expensive visit, parking alone on Goat Island is $10.  We parked at the Discovery Center – free and walked both sides of the falls leisurely in around 5 hours including a sitdown snack  – only cost was the snack.  Peace and Love

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Lake Erie and Presque Isle

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We saw our first Great Lake – Lake Erie while staying near Erie, PA.  We have not been spending much time in cities or even small towns and Erie was the same, we did drive thru and had a picnic on one of the piers on the lake front.  But did not spend much time in town.

The prize jewel of the area is Presque Isle State Park or also known as the Peninsula.  As I mentioned PA state parks are free, which made this area even more inviting.  Presque (pronounced presk) Isle is basically a large comma shaped piece of land jutting from the shore and creating a protected harbor in front of Erie.  Actually, this geographic feature and the safe harbor are largely responsible for Erie becoming a city – the fourth largest city in PA.

The great lakes were created during the various ice ages by glaciers advancing and retreating over thousands of years gouging the earth and the gouges filling with water as the glaciers retreated.  As our latest ice age ended approximately 12,000 years ago, the glacier in what would become Lake Erie only advanced about half way thru the lake (east to west), leaving a moraine or large ridge of rubble that bisected the lake north south.  Over these 12,000 years much erosion has occurred and the moraine denigrated leaving this small peninsula on the southern shore.     If you look at the northern shore directly across there is a larger peninsula on the Canadian side left over from the same moraine.

So anyway, that was a long way to say that this peninsula experiences a lot of erosion most prominently on the west side which is also the beach side.  As a means to deter erosion they have installed break waters or large mounds of rock dotting the shore line about 30 yards off shore.  You can see them in this picture and notice that the beach juts out at each breakwater so they seem to be working somewhat.

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At the entrance to Presque Isle is Tom Ridge Environmental Center, which is also free.  It was very informative and well worth the time.  They have an observation tower but you can’t really see anything except the roller coaster from an adjacent amusement park so spend your time in the exhibits.

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The great lakes are much like a small sea or ocean and they are used much like we use the ocean, fishing, sailing, beaching, etc and as a large lake/small sea they need lighthouses, just theirs are different they are shorter and square???  As different as places seem, they are really much the same.

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We and Nellie enjoyed a nice beach break on the Peninsula and Randy and I took a bike ride around the peninsula.  Would have also been a nice area for kayaking, but we did not stay that long.

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Horseshoe pond is also an interesting part of the peninsula.  Apparently in the late 1800s some immigrants to poor to purchase land in the area built houseboats and lived in the waters protected by Presque Isle.  By the 1920s the area was overwhelmed with house boats and many were in disrepair since there were no regulations as to placement or construction of these houseboats.   The park began regulating the structures and set aside Horseshoe Pond as the only place they could moor.  There are currently 24 houseboats in Horseshoe Pond, most seem to be in good repair and they look like a great place for a summer get a way.  It is located behind beach 11 and you would not know they were there unless you are visiting the Coast Guard station or the north pier.

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Peace and Love