New York offers some of the most unique family vacation hotspots in the East, all with great fishing opportunities and diversions galore nearby. Try these top-rated destinations this summer! (June 2009)
It can be a challenge to plan the perfect family vacation that includes affordable lodging, great fishing and plenty of fun activities to keep every member of the family happy. The good news is that families in the Empire State are far ahead of the game thanks to a well-established state park system and a plethora of waterways that are swimming with fish!
Whether anglers want to target trout, lunker bass or tackle-busting muskies and pike, there are plenty of excellent places to wet a line this summer. State park campgrounds offer cost-effective lodging options and plenty of room for fishing, games, swimming, biking and hiking.
Many New York State communities have interesting historic, educational and adventuresome offerings to explore. Families can stand where great battles were once waged, say hello to friendly and exotic animals, ride trains, sail down scenic rivers and learn countless new and interesting things about the historic and natural world we live in.
Here's a roundup of some best-bet family fishing vacation destinations for your clan to enjoy this summer:
WHEN IN ROME . . .
Nearby to all the family fun in Rome and Utica are several family-focused campgrounds that also happen to be near fine fishing waters.
Delta Lake State Park, two miles south of Westernville, makes an excellent base camp for family fun. There are 101 tent, trailer and RV sites within the park, which is on the shore of Delta Reservoir. Anglers may fish here for trout, largemouth and smallmouth bass, northern pike and walleyes. The campground has a boat launch, and there's a sandy beach for swimming, a playground and hiking trails to explore.
Call (315) 337-4670 or visit www.nysparks.com for information.
The A-OK Campground and Marina in Rome is another excellent option for fishing families. Nestled on the northern shore of Delta Lake, the A-OK has water and electric hookups with sites large enough for double-slide outs and pull-through vehicles. A separate tenting area features 24 wooded sites. The full-service marina has a boat launch and boat rentals. There's a camp store, snack bar, sandy beach and playground.
Call (315) 827-9900 or visit www. aokcampgroundofnewyork.com.
Pixley Falls State Park, six miles south of Boonville, boasts several easily accessible trout streams. The big draw here, in addition to its 22 streamside tent and trailer sites, is the 50-foot waterfall near the picnic area. There's also a nature trail to hike here that passes by Pixley Falls.
Call (315) 942-4713 or visit www.nysparks.com.
Kayuta Lake Campground in Forestport has more than 150 campsites offering options such as 30-amp and 50-amp hookups, pull-throughs, tent sites and rental cabins. The campground spans 212 acres, and is surrounded by 1,000 acres of state and county lands.
Kayuta Lake is 4.5 miles long, extending for three miles up into the Black River. Fishing is good here for largemouth and smallmouth bass, northern pike, walleyes, rainbow and brown trout.
The campground has a boat ramp, boat rentals, a beach, camp store, recreation room, mini golf course, tennis, a playground, shuffle board, horseshoes and bocce ball and basketball courts.
Call (315) 831-5077 or visit www.campadirondack.com.
Another great fishing hole with family-friendly accommodations is Hinckley Reservoir, where Trail's End Campground offers rustic tent sites, RV sites with water and electric, full hookups, rustic cabins and a luxury lodge.
The reservoir is home to smallmouth bass, pickerel, brown trout and lake trout. Brookies may be caught in the tributaries here.
The campground has a boat launch, sandy beach, a recreation room, a camp store, two playgrounds, a stocked fishing pond, volleyball, horseshoes and shuffleboard.
Call (315) 826-7220 or visit www.trailend.com.
The family could set up camp at West Canada Creek Campsites in Poland. The campground has tent and RV sites, as well as rental cabins with river views.
Fish the river for brown trout or brookies. Paddling and tubing are popular activities along this stretch of water, too. Canoe rentals are available.
The campground also has a camp store, swimming pool, horseshoes, bocce ball, a recreation room, a basketball court and a playground.
Call (315) 826-7390 or visit www. westcanadacreekcampsites.com.
Other great places to wet a line for brown trout in this region include the Lansing Kill and the West Branch Mohawk River.
If the family is all fished out and has burned through all the campground activities, there's still plenty to do nearby.
The Rome State Fish Hatchery, about four miles north of Rome, is one of the largest in the state. Annual production is nearly 160,000 pounds of trout! Stop by to see the lake trout, rainbows and browns that are raised here. When available, the hatchery also produces kokanee salmon.
The Rome Fish Disease Control Center is also on this property. Call (518) 402-8924 or visit www.dec.ny. gov for more information.
For living history lessons and family fun, visit the Fort Stanwix National Monument at 100 North James Street in Rome. The centerpiece of this park is a reconstructed 18th century fort.
Families with little ones ages 3 to 6 can stop by the Marinus Willett Center information desk to sign the tykes up for "Adventure on the Carry," an age-appropriate expedition that allows the kids to explore the park while making new friends.
For kids age 6 and older, there's the Fort Stanwix Junior Rangers program. Kids get to explore the park at their own pace and earn a reward.
For a head start, have the in-park version of the program mailed to you before vacation so that the kids can look it over. Mail requests to: Attn: Junior Ranger Program, Fort Stanwix NM, 112 East Park Street, Rome, NY 13440. There's a second program that can be completed at home with a little research, a little imagination and a little help from an adul
t. This version of the Fort Stanwix Junior Rangers program may be accessed on the Internet at www.nps.gov/fost/fortkids/ beajuniorranger.htm.
A visit here is best begun at the Willett Center across the street from the city parking lot on James Street. The ranger on duty offers an orientation program, and then the visitors head off on the Great Oneida Carrying Place to enter the fort proper.
Three short trails surround the fort. One follows a portion of the Oneida Carrying Place and two interpret the Siege of 1777. Ranger-led tours and programs are available throughout the day.
There's also a museum on-site with over 450,000 objects on display.
For details, call (315) 338-7730 or visit www.nps.gov/fost/.
About three miles away, at 5789 New London Road, is another interesting site to explore.
The Erie Canal Village is an outdoor living history museum centered on the heritage of central New York and the Erie Canal. The reconstructed 19th century settlement sits on ground where, on July 4, 1817, the first shovelful of earth was turned for construction of the original canal.
In 2009, kids will enjoy the mule-drawn Packet Boat rides. There are three museums including the Erie Canal Museum, the Harden Museum, which houses a collection of horse-drawn vehicles and the New York State Museum of Cheese, which once housed the Merry and Weeks cheese factory.
There are also buildings here typical of a 19th century village including Bennett's Tavern, the Blacksmith Shop, a railroad station, an ice house, the Wood Creek School, the Maynard Methodist Church, the Shull Victorian House, Settler's House, Crosby House and the Canal Store.
Call (315) 337-3999 or visit www.eriecanalvillage.net.
The family animal lover will want to stop by the Fort Rickey Discovery Zoo at 5135 Rome-New London Road. This hands-on, interactive talk with the animals will make some great memories. North American animals include the gray wolf, river otter, white-tailed deer, raccoon, American bison, porcupine and corn snake.
Critters from south of the border include the Colombian black spider monkey, red-tailed boa constrictor and capybara. More exotic offerings include the zebu and Burmese python, both from India, and the emu and blue-tongued skink from Australia. The zoo also includes animals from Asia, Europe, Africa and Madagascar.
Fort Rickey has several programs geared toward allowing the kids a closer look at some of the animals through presentations by zoo staff, and there are also opportunities to pet some familiar barnyard critters, including a pony, a miniature donkey, chickens, sheep and rabbits.
Call (315) 336-1930 or visit www.fortrickey.com.
Visit the unique geology found at the Rome Sand Plains on Hogsback Road. Hike the Sand Dune Trail, or head down the road to reach the Wood Creek Trail. Interpretive signage at each trail explains how the unique features here were formed over 10,000 years ago.
For more information, call (315) 866-6330 or visit www.dec.ny.gov/ outdoor/8082.html.
The Utica area holds many family entertainment options. The Utica Zoo on Steele Hill Road features tigers, monkeys, camels, reptiles and more. There's a children's petting zoo, and guests can observe the sea lions during feeding and training sessions.
Call (315) 738-0472 or visit www.uticazoo.org.
Plan to spend a few hours at the Children's Museum of History, Natural History, Science and Technology at 311 Main Street in Utica. This four-story historic building houses hundreds of hands-on exhibits for kids to explore. Exhibit areas include the Play Space, Exploration Station, Saturn Car, Train Exhibits, Microbe Room, Hyperbolic Funnel, Iroquois Longhouse, History Dioramas, the Hall of Legos, Computer Corner, Hot Wheels Hall, a surround sound theater and a Mission Control Center.
There are displays about clowns, the Erie Canal, fossils and airplanes. There's also a critter room, and some interactive robots.
Call (315) 724-6129 or visit www.museum4kids.net.
The longest excursions available aboard the Adirondack Scenic Railroad depart from Union Station in Utica. The full-day trip passes through many flag stops including Holland Patent, Remsen, Forestport, Woodgate and Otter Lake. The trip is two hours each way with a four-and-a-half hour layover in Thendara.
Call (877) 508-6728 or visit www.adirondackrr.com.
The family history buff will want to visit the Oriskany Battlefield Historic Site at 7801 State Route 69 in nearby Oriskany. The Battle of Oriskany, waged on August 6, 1777, was considered to be a significant turning point in our nation's war for independence.
There are interpretive signs here to help visitors learn about the bloody battle. Call (315) 768-7224 for information.
For more information about this region, check DeLorme's New York Atlas and Gazetteer, Map 77.
Or, visit the Oneida County Convention and Visitors Bureau online at www.oneidacountycvb.com.
HARRIMAN STATE PARK AND THE HUDSON RIVER
The southeastern corner of New York State offers anglers access to several lakes and streams, plus the mighty Hudson River.
Harriman State Park in Rockland and Orange counties is the second largest park in New York. There are 31 lakes and reservoirs here, 200 miles of hiking trails, three beaches, miles of streams and two public camping areas.
Beaver Pond Campground, adjacent to the Lake Welch Recreation Area, has tent and trailer sites (some able to accommodate big rigs), showers and a laundry facility. There's a boat launch here for fishing access, a beach and hiking trails.
Call (800) 456-2267 for reservations, (845) 947-2792 for information or visit www.nysparks.state.ny.us.
Nearby is Lake Welch Beach, the largest in the park. This was a small lake until a dam was constructed in 1942. Now Lake Welch offers swimming, boating and fishing opportunities.
Lake Sebago Beach is a day-use area within Harriman State Park. There's shoreline access and a boat launch. The lake is home to bass, perch and sunfish.
The beach area has large playing fields and a playground.
The nearby Sebago Cabin Camp offers rustic cabins and full-service cottages. There's a beach here, a recreation hall, a play area, tennis courts and rowboat rentals. On Saturdays, there are bonfires, and on rainy days, movies are shown.
Call (845) 351-2360 for details.
Lake Tiorati was created from cleared swampland in the state park. A concrete dam was built to meld two ponds into one large lake, which now offers swimming, boating and fishing.
A short drive away are several day-use state parks that provide more family fun time. Bear Mountain State Park has a dock for mooring small boats and provides access to the smallmouth and largemouth bass and northern pike that swim in the Hudson River.
The park also has a shaded picnic grove, large playing field, a swimming pool, multi-use trails for hiking and biking, and a zoo. The merry-go-round features hand-painted scenes of the park plus 42 hand-carved native critters including black bears, wild turkeys, deer, raccoons, skunks, Canada geese, foxes, swans, bobcats and rabbits.
A hike up to Perkins Memorial Tower on Bear Mountain rewards the ambitious visitor with panoramic views of the park, the Hudson Highlands and Harriman State Park.
Call (845) 786-2701 or visit www.nysparks.state.ny.us.
There are several boating access sites to the Hudson River as it winds south through Stony Point and West Haverstraw. The ramp at the Stony Point Bay Marina and Yacht Club is concrete, single-width, with a 50-foot floating dock on the south side and a 20-foot floating dock on the north side. There's a protected cove here sheltered from the wakes and currents of the big river.
Call (845) 786-3700 for details.
While in the area, stop by the Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site on Park Road. The site features a Revolutionary War battlefield, 18th century camp life demonstrations and an 1826 lighthouse overlooking the Hudson River.
In West Haverstraw, Hudson River access is available at the Haverstraw Marina on Railroad Avenue. There's a double concrete ramp here, but at last report, the left side was in rough shape. There's plenty of parking here, and a tackle store on-site. Fishing is excellent across the way in Haverstraw Bay.
For a change of pace while at the marina, check out the Great Hudson Sailing Center for sailing lessons or a wind-powered sunset cruise. Call (845) 429-1557.
Check DeLorme's New York Atlas and Gazetteer, Map 32, for additional boat launch details along the Hudson.
Downriver are the High Tor, Rockland Lake and Tallman Mountain state parks. High Tor State Park boasts a swimming pool, picnic area and hiking trails in addition to spectacular views over the Hudson. At Rockland Lake State Park, anglers may launch their own cartop boats or rent one, and then fish for bass, perch and norlunge (tiger muskies).
The park also has two Olympic-sized swimming pools and two kiddie pools, a playground, picnic tables, grills, six tennis courts, two golf courses and hiking trails that provide scenic views over the Hudson Valley. There's also a fitness trail that winds around the lake.
Call (845) 268-3020 for more information.
Tallman Mountain State Park consists of wooded land on the eastern slope of the Palisades uplands above the Hudson River and Piermont Marsh. The marsh is part of the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve.
The park has a swimming pool, running track, tennis courts, a play field, walking and hiking trails, picnic facilities and a playground.
Call (845) 359-0544 for more information.
For additional New York fishing information, try www.dec.state.ny.us.
For more travel information, call (800) 225-5697 or visit www.iloveny.com.