Camping is like moving. You need to take EVERYTHING with you. You pack your car to the roof then drive to your destination where you unpack it all. Next, the construction begins. After a few hours of labor, your project is done. You built yourself a grotesque version of a real house. Now it is time to relax. You start the fire. You inhale its smoke. You stuff your mouth with the carbohydrate bombs – roasted marshmallows, while being attacked by mosquitos. Finally, you crawl into your tent to spend your night on the ground. To top it all, your bathroom is far away!
Knowing all the above, what did I do last weekend? I went camping! Why? Because I like to stay close to nature; because my long to-do list stayed at home; because I could share this experience with my friends, Yong and Jim; because it is cheap; and finally because I love the 1000 Islands. In this post, I explain why it is one of my favorite camping destinations in the Northeast and what you need to know to visit.
I visited 1000 Islands Region many times before lured by its beauty and exceptional recreational opportunities. There are many logging choices along St. Lawrence River, but my favorite is Wellesley Island State Park, NY. Camping is outstanding there. There are multiple sites right on the water. For the summer, they need to be reserved months in advance. My favorite area of the park is section B, but since our trip was almost last-minute, I felt lucky we got anything waterfront. Our A21 site was specious and offered nice views of the river.
The unpacking went relatively easy. After setting up our camp, we treated ourselves with a delicious Korean chicken prepared by Yong. Then Yong and I took our canoe on the river while Jim stayed behind to read.
We returned from the river just in time to witness a spectacular sunset right from our site. Next couple of hours, we spend by the campfire talking and solving the world’s problems.
On Saturday morning, I woke up early enough to see the light of sunrise reflecting on the water. Jim was already busy cooking breakfast. The main attraction of the day was a sightseeing boat tour of the area provided by Clayton Island Tours. This tour caught my attention because it offered picking up his clients right from the park’s marina. I also liked the price of $ 22.00 per person. This is not the most sophisticated option to explore the 1000 Islands, but it takes you to all the places you want to see and it is as much informative as other tours. (Here you can see the highlands of our tour.)
Sunday morning came way too quickly. After packing everything back to our cars, we went on the river again. It was still rather early so the water was calm. We had a great time paddling and taking pictures. I even went swimming. Later during the day, many motor boats appeared on the river generating substantial waves, not necessary pleasant to those prone to motion sickness – in this case, all three of us!
From when I started visiting the park over 20 years ago, a significant improvement took place. Bathrooms now are modern and clean. They are nice playgrounds for kids in many sections of the park. There is also a recreational hall by the marina. It is a huge park so biking and walking are popular. There are many large open fields to play ball. Little children enjoy a designated beach area, but majority of people go swimming anywhere they feel like. After all, this park’s main attraction is water. Boating and fishing are excellent. You can dock your own boat at the marina (fees apply) or rent a boat at the park or Alexandria Bay, NY.
When planning your trip to Wellesley Island State Park, remember there is a bridge that leads to it. It costs over $2 to cross it. You can only pay with cash or credit. EZ Pass is not accepted.The closest grocery store is about 9 miles away, on the main land in Alexandria Bay. Bring what you need with you, otherwise running for milk will cost you not only gas but also the bridge toll.
WARINING: Almost immediately after entering the park, your cellular phone signal will get picked up by Canadian tower. Make sure your roaming data is turned off. If you let it go, you might face hundreds of dollars in charges. To be safe in that regards, call your provider before your trip and ask how to handle the situation.
Wellesley Island State Park offers more comfortable logging options than just tent camping. One of them is camping cabins. They are extremely difficult to reserve because of their prime location. They are right on the water, some sitting high on the cliff overlooking the river. For those looking for conveniences of home, the park provides cottages with kitchen, bathroom and separate bedrooms. They are also very difficult to reserve even though their views and location are not as impressive. For RV lovers there is a large designed area of the park – not appealing to me at all. It is just an open field with no shade or privacy. That should not be an issue for those with their own boat, since they will spending majority of their time on the river.
Overall, the park has something for everyone. It is a perfect choice for an inexpensive vacation in a beautiful surrounding.