Things To Do
Depending on what time of year you arrive in Lewis County, the Fall Foliage Drive-It Yourself Tour is both a beautiful drive through the North Country and a great way to orient yourself. You'll stop at historic landmarks in the area while enjoying the gorgeous autumn colors (left). Tour maps can be picked up at the Chamber Of Commerce office in Lowville.
Agriculture—there's gold in them thar trees
Lewis County is the state's largest producer of maple syrup, also known as Lewis County "liquid gold." During the sugaring season, you can witness the tapping of trees, gathering of the sap, and boiling and bottling of the finished product. The New York Maple Weekend (March 28 & 29), will give you a chance to experience maple syrup making as it was done 100 years ago, when it was collected in pails, loaded on horse drawn wagons, and boiled to perfection over a hand-fed wood fire in a sugar shanty. (And please—if you've only tasted the corn syrup version, you haven't had real syrup!)
Agriculture and the farming life have always played an important role in Lewis County's history. Sharing this longstanding way of life with visitors is a pleasure for those who make their living off the land.
Ellen and Bob Chamberlain, owners of Riverbend Alpacas (left) in Croghan, offer farm tours where you can get up close and feed the alpacas that they breed, raise, and sell. The baby alpacas are especially adorable! Filled with products made with fiber from their own animals, the Chamberlains' fiber studio and gift shop stock everything from baby sweaters to adult-sized clothes, scarves, hats, socks and mittens, felted items, woven table runners, and a large variety of yarn.
Ellen will be happy to show you her loom-weaving technique, and be sure to ask Bob for a tour of his covered bridge, made with no nails! This friendly couple also rent a one-room cabin that has running water, a wood stove, and a porch where you can kick back and relax in a serene setting eight miles from town and right on the water.
If seeing deer out in the wild isn't enough for you, you may want to stop by Houps Acres Deer Farm in Castorland, where individual and group tours are available. The farm is home to over 100 whitetail deer, 20 large Rock Mountain Elk, mule deer, Sitka and fallow deer, along with big horn sheep. During the summer months, the whitetail young are bottle-fed, which allows visitors to get close enough to handle them. You can also find swans, peacocks, and silki chickens on this unique farm.
Fishing at the Denley Trout Farm in Port Leyden is immediately and refreshingly rewarding! Owned by Joseph Kraeger, the farm specializes in raising Brook Trout, Brown Trout, and Rainbow Trout, and has tanks set up for rearing and viewing the various stages of growth. There is a fee for fishing in one of their several ponds, but it's free to stop in and look around. The Kraegers will be happy to explain their operations to you!
A 70-year family association with harness racing led Mac Parks to open Parks Breezy Knolls in Lowville in 1997. The farm is a well-respected Standardbred horse breeding facility and offers tours for horse lovers who want to see stallions, mares in foal, and mares with foals at their sides in a safe, spacious environment.
Open to visitors during the summer months, the Mennonite Heritage Farm is a living history of the life and faith of the area's Mennonite settlers. Artifact displays and exhibits in most of the farm's buildings tell the tale of early Amish-Mennonite life in the 19th century. The Heritage Farm also hosts the Zwanzigstein Festival on the first Saturday in July, a full day of celebration that includes traditional Mennonite foods, crafts, and activities. This is a great festival for children of all ages, with many hands-on experiences such as a petting zoo, wagon rides, bread and butter making, spinning and sheep shearing.
Other local festivals and fairs include the fall Apple Fest, which demonstrates old-time hearth and harvest activities, and the Lewis County Fair, one of the oldest fairs in New York State. Meanwhile, anyone with an eye for vintage tractors and other antique equipment will enjoy the Flywheels and Pulleys Gas and Steam Engine Show, held in Constableville the first weekend after Labor Day.
One of the most unique festivals hereabouts is the Ice Harvest in New Bremen. Every February, the New Bremen Fire Department performs an ice harvest on Crystal Pond. Large blocks of ice are cut from the pond's ice formation and stored in a 19th-century-style icehouse, from where they're sold all summer long to local clubs, other fire departments, and campers.
The Maple Ridge Kite Festival, meanwhile, is a two-day free event held in Lowville each October that includes air show demonstrations, a candy drop, interactive kite flying, and a kite-making workshop, along with the "One Sky One World" kite fly. There are several holiday festivals, including the Christmas Parade & Light Up Lowville event, as well as Christmas in Croghan. The Winterfest, in Lowville, finds the downtown area filled with vendors and live music, along with some great winter games and contests for the whole family.
When you turn on the light switch, you probably don't think about where that electricity comes from, just so long as the lights turn on. Lewis County is home to the biggest wind farm east of the Mississippi. Stretched over 12 miles, the Maple Ridge Wind Farm has 195 wind turbines, each about the size of a 40-story building. Spinning at a speed of 14 miles an hour, and standing at 390' tall from base to blade tip, these "green" giants are quite a sight to see!
Making use of the winds that blow off Lake Ontario, the wind farm became fully operational in June 2006 and provides an annual supply of electricity equal to the needs of 160,000 homes. The American Wind Association says that one megawatt of wind-generated power offsets so much carbon dioxide in the air that's the equivalent of about one square mile of new forest. Combined, this wind farm has a capacity of 320 megawatts. The land is leased from farmers, the local school and other residents and businesses. Wind tours are available by contacting the Chamber of Commerce.
Wine and cheese
Located next to the Lowville Producers store in Lowville, Lady LeWinDa Milkzalot (left) is the largest dairy cow in New York State. At 10'6" high, 15' long, and 5' wide, she won't leave you asking, "Where's the beef?" The Lady makes for an excellent photo op—but just be sure to say "CHEESE!"
Formed in 1936, Lowville Producers is a dairy co-op owned by over 200 dairy farm families. Their cheese outlet store offers 60 different varieties of cheese, as well as many "Made in Lewis County" products like pure maple syrup, Croghan Bologna, maple sugar cakes, maple cream, maple jelly, Freeman's taffy, and Mercer's Ice Cream—and of course you must try Mercer's "Wine Ice Cream," a fantastic new treat with several flavors—made exclusively in Lewis County!
Thursday is Cheese Curd Day, a delicacy that must be eaten while still fresh—and you know it's fresh because it "squeaks." (Refrigeration takes the squeak out.) But 95% of the milk produced locally goes right next door—to the world's largest cream cheese plant. That's right, the next time you enjoy a morning bagel with cream cheese on it, you have Lewis County to thank for it! While you might think that Philadelphia Cream Cheese is made in Philadelphia, it's actually made at the Kraft Cream Cheese Plant in Lowville, from milk produced by local farmers.
The annual Cream Cheese Festival, held in downtown Lowville each September, offers the world's largest cheesecake, a bagel and cream cheese eating contest, a cream cheese tossing contest, cream cheese recipe contest, cream cheese bingo, and a feed-your-partner-cheesecake contest. Races include a milk-tray relay and a tractor race.
What good is all that cheese without some great wine to go along with it? Although you might not think that an area that receives on average 300 inches of snow a year can grow wine worthy grapes, Sue and Mike Maring have planted 10 acres of 10 different varieties of grapes hardy enough to withstand the North Country. Slated to open in 2009, Tug Hill Vineyards will have a beautiful 7500-square-foot timber frame building complete with a large stone fireplace and a banquet facility whose large screened-in porch overlooks the vineyard and Adirondacks. The winery will offer its own vintages starting in 2010, and in the meantime the vineyard has three acres of pick-your-own raspberries and five acres of blueberries.
It's only fitting that Lewis County is home to the American Maple Museum and Hall of Fame (left), located in Croghan and open from Memorial Day to early September. Visitors can see the history of maple processing from the days when Native Americans used birch baskets for sap collection and boiling to modern-day plastic tubing and evaporators. The museum also houses a collection of sugar molds, antique logging equipment, and a replica of a lumber camp kitchen and office. Since you're bound to work up an appetite, delicious pancake breakfasts are served up here and group tours with pancake breakfasts can be arranged.
In 1810, William Constable Jr., who was responsible for the development of Lewis, Jefferson, Herkimer and Oswego Counties, began construction on Constable Hall, a 14-room Georgian mansion built with native limestone. Unfortunately, William died before he ever got to live in the house of his dreams, but his wife, Mary Eliza McVickar Constable, lived there for 49 years. It was here in 1822 that Mary's first cousin, Clement Clark Moore, penned the poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas," which we now know as "Twas The Night Before Christmas." The estate is now a 22-acre museum where you can view an outstanding collection of rare antiques, many original to the house, along with an enclosed garden designed by Mary Constable herself. An arts and crafts fair with music and a silent auction takes place there every Father's Day and a candlelight tour is held in September.
Honoring "every fiddler who has ever made hearts light and happy with the fiddle's lilting music," the Fiddler's Hall of Fame & Museum, set in a converted farmhouse in the rural setting of Osceola, preserves the history and promotes the art of fiddle playing and country dance. Home to displays of photographs and memorabilia, as well as recordings of old-time fiddlers, the museum hosts a Fiddler's Summer Kick-Off Festival in May, as well as an annual Fiddler's Picnic festival each July and a Kid's Kamp in August. Their free Sunday Concert Series runs from May - October and is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Snowmobiling and ATVing the North Country
Boasting the most snow east of the Rockies, the Tug Hill area receives an average yearly snowfall of 300 inches (or 25 feet), making Lewis County a winter wonderland! This snowmobiler's paradise has over 600 miles of well-groomed trails and conveniently located businesses along the trail which cater to sledders. It's even possible for you to travel entirely by snowmobile alone with trail connections to Oswego, Plattsburgh, Old Forge, Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake, the Champlain Valley, and the New York and Quebec corridor trails. Snowmobile races are also held at various locations throughout the winter.
Held each spring on the tug hill, the SNIRT Run, or Snow and Dirt Run, is the most fun you'll have since you were a kid playing out in the yard making mud pies! This grown-up version of getting down and dirty will leave you covered in mud and laughing until your stomach hurts as you muscle through the back trails on your ATV.
If you think snowmobiling is just a winter activity, think again! In June, July and August, Gordon Yancy holds Snowmobile "Watercross" races around the lake at his Flat Rock Inn. The Inn also has Snowmobile and ATV rentals available, along with easy access to the trails. With over 600 miles of trails, Lewis County is home to the most ATV trails in New York State. Experience a sense of freedom you've never known, as you enjoy breathtaking views while navigating this beautiful terrain.
Skiing & snowshoeing
If you love downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, or snowboarding, then you'll love Snow Ridge, located in Turin. This complete skiing and snowboarding facility has 22 slopes and trails, seven lifts, a professional ski school, cafeteria, restaurant, lounge, and a rental shop. A high-volume snowmaking machine kicks in if the snowfall amounts drops below optimum levels.
Osceola-Tug Hill Cross-Country Ski Center in Osceola offers 35 kilometers of groomed ski trails for cross-country skiers of all levels. Other trails for cross-country skiers include the Tug Hill Wildlife and Management Area at Whetstone Gulf State Park in Turin, Maple Ridge Center and Lewis County Fairgrounds in Lowville, and the Lowville Demonstration Area in Dadville. In the off-season the Maple Ridge Center also hosts mountain biking, running, and hiking events.
Come fly with me
The relatively young extreme sport of Snow Kite Skiing has also found a home in Lewis County. Each February, over 100 kite skiers from as far away as New Zealand make their way here to catch some good air at the Kite Skiing festival on Tug Hill. Using kites and techniques similar to kite surfing, skiers are attached to a glider-type kite that harnesses the wind to carry them not just through the air, but uphill as well.
If you'd rather strap on a pair of skates than a pair of skis, you can skate for free at the Lewis County fairgrounds in Lowville. And if you forget your skates, don't fret... there's always someone to lend a hand in this community-oriented county. You can find pairs of skates lined up along the ice—free for your use!
Make a splash!
Whether you prefer a calm paddle through docile waters or an intense journey through raging torrents, you can find both in Lewis County. Those with basic paddling and camping skills may want to venture out on the Beaver River Canoe Route. This 14-mile trip down one of the finest waterways in the Western Adirondacks includes six overland passes totaling slightly more than two miles and camping sites along the way. The river was once used to float logs downstream to lumberyards and is home to many different species of wildlife, among them beavers, coyotes, hawks, owls, porcupines, bears, otters, minks, deer, and waterfowl.
In the spring and fall, Reliant Power has staged water releases that create an opportunity for adventurous kayakers. The American Whitewater Association brings in groups of paddlers to enjoy these special whitewater releases on the Beaver River.
If you'd rather cruise than paddle, the Norridgewock Lodge in Beaver River offers several seasonal Wilderness Cruise options around the Stillwater Reservoir. You can relax and enjoy the scenery, which might include a few loons, a bald eagle, and even some deer. They also have accommodations available.
I'll get a line, you grab a pole
The Black River, which originates in the Adirondacks, offers a 40-mile flatwater segment from Lyons Falls to Carthage, making it perfect for a leisurely paddle in canoe or kayak along its tree-lined banks. The river was also used to transport goods to and from the Erie Canal in Rome, NY.
Lewis County offers some of the best fishing in the state. A 42-mile stretch of the Black River flows through Lewis County, with many hidden fishing holes where you can feel the excitement of a tug on your pole as you reel in trout, yellow perch, chain pickerel, bullhead, northern pike, walleye, black bass, smallmouth bass, pickerel, landlocked salmon, kokanee salmon, red salmon, and tiger muskellunge. All of these varieties can be found in the hundreds of miles of streams in state forests, forest preserves, and wildlife management areas. The county also has over 75 miles of public fishing rights. Ice fishing on the lakes in the winter months is also an excellent opportunity to get on out there and spend a day fishing and relaxing.
Spin your wheels
Don't forget your bike, water bottle, and camera! Lewis County offers hundreds of miles of off-road routes, seasonal-use roads and bike trails, and scenic roads that will take you through the dramatic rise of the Tug Hill Plateau, the rolling farmlands of the Black River, or the deep forests of Adirondack State Park.
The Race With the Wind Mountain-Cross Bike Race, a 50-mile race through the wind farm in Tug Hill, is held every September. If a 50-mile trek sounds like a little too much for you, the race also offers a 12-mile family ride that makes for a great day of family fun!
America's first wilderness
In 1885 legislation was passed that established the Forest Preserve, stating that the land "shall be forever kept wild forest lands." This was the start of protecting the Adirondack wilderness, a wilderness that is just as beautiful today as it was almost 125 years ago when this law was passed. Covering some 6.1 million-acres, the Adirondack Park is the largest park in the contiguous United States, the largest National Historic Landmark, and the largest area protected by any U.S. state. The park offers plenty of outdoor activities, breathtaking views, and opportunities to see many of the animals that are native to the area.
The "lesser wilderness"
The Iroquois Indians called the Adirondack Mountains the "Greater Wilderness" and the Tug Hill region the "Lesser Wilderness," but there's nothing "lesser" about Whetstone State Park. While it is much smaller in size than its big brother the Adirondacks, this beautiful park is located around a three-mile long 200-400 foot high gorge cut into the eastern edge of the Tug Hill Plateau and offers views equal to that of the larger park, camping sites, and a beach for swimming. A bridge takes you from one side of the gorge to the other, where you can enjoy a great family picnic.
Other great places to stop and have a basket lunch are the Singing Waters Picnic Area, located in one of the county's reforestation areas. Fish Creek runs right through the picnic area, which can accommodate up to 103 picnickers and is where the first county picnic was held in 1957. Whitaker Park, located in Martinsburg, provides a tranquil setting for a family picnic and outing, or a quiet place to just sit and enjoy the scenery. The park overlooks the Black River Valley and provides a view of the western edge of the Adirondack Mountains. Many community parks throughout the county also offer pavilions and picnic tables for public use.
If you're a golfer, can there be anything better than breathing in the cool dew-filled morning air while 18 holes of manicured greens and freshly cut fairways await you? Lewis County offers four different golf courses, each with its own clubhouse and pro shop.
The Carlowden Country Club (above left) in Denmark has grown quite a bit since it was first established in 1926. When it first opened it only had one hole, which golfers would play over and over again! The course now offers 18 different holes and a spectacular view of the Adirondacks from its clubhouse. Known for its sand greens until 1964, the Brantingham Golf Course (situated on scenic Brantingham Lake) was built in 1910 and during its early years was also used for boxing matches, evening baseball games, and even as a landing strip. Planes no longer land on the 18-hole, par 71 course, so the only thing you'll have to watch for in the air is your ball!
Opened in 1979, The Cedars Golf Course is a par 71 course located on County Route 19 between Lowville and Castorland that also offers a clubhouse and pro shop. Formerly a farmhouse built circa 1840, the Turin Highlands Country Club, located in Turin, is now home to a championship, par 72, 18-hole golf course.
Finally, for the not-so-experienced golfer, Crystal Acres Family Recreation Center in New Bremen offers a miniature golf course and driving range.
North Country Awakening
The Open Sky Healing Arts Center in Lowville is a spot for relaxation, renewal, and rest. Kathleen Merrick and her staff are happy to share their wisdom, experience, and time with you as you attend Yoga, Pilates, or Tai Chi classes, but one of their specialties is massage therapy. Relax as you experience Swedish, Shaitsu, Deep Tissue, CranioSacral, Hot Stone, Pregnancy, or Massage for Relaxation and Pain Management. The center also offers a romantic couples massage beside a roaring fire, as well as healthy living workshops throughout the year.
Otter Creek Horseback Trails has over 65 miles of picturesque trails along with an assembly area with trailhead parking, 100 roofed tie stalls, two stud stalls, and a water system. The area is also handicapped-accessible, offering three handicapped mounting platforms and handicapped restroom facilities. This forest and mountain environment offers the opportunity to view deer, bear, coyote, fox, snowshoe hare, grouse, wild turkey, and a wide variety of other bird life. You can also camp on the grounds.
Race on over
If you love action sports, but don't love all of the work associated with them, check out one of the many races held at the Adirondack International Speedway (left). Located in Beaver Falls, the raceway will boast three paved tracks when complete: one for Challenger Late Models, True Stocks, Sports Compacts and Light Trucks; another (currently under construction) for the NASCAR series, Busch North, American Speed Association and other large events; and a third that will be home to club and vintage racing.
Marguerite's Cranberry Emporium on N. State Street in Lowville has a wonderful selection of holiday-themed items, salt glaze wear pottery, Yankee Candles, collectible bears, and other gifts.Three miles north of Lowville on State Rt. 26 you'll find Pure Mist Naturals, which offers premium herbal soaps, salves, butter creams, and lotions that are all handmade from natural products and are superior moisturizers. The shop has a large variety of gifts of all types from folk art to cabin dÈcor to giant pillows and even cards.
If you're looking for a great novel to relax with in a big old Adirondack chair, the Wildroot Bookstore in Lowville has a wide selection of new and used books. On the Bookstore's lower level, year-round art can be found at the Gallery 812. Here you can find products from 60 different crafters, including quilts, purses and bags, wood burnings, jewelry, paintings and prints, and handmade baskets. Bruce Carter, whose work is currently on display at the Library of Congress, has several prints available for purchase here.
A hidden gem on Croghan's Main Street, The Fabric Hutch offers much more than its name implies. While you can find fabric that will bring joy to any quilter, the second floor of the store is a treasure trove of folk art gifts, handcrafted items, and collectibles.
The County's Fairground in Lowville hosts a weekly Farmer's Market from May through October on Saturday , where you can choose from a variety of homegrown fruits, locally grown meats and vegetables, and handmade crafts and home-baked goods.
Numerous antiques stores dot this landscape, including Antiques‚N-Stuff and Constableville Auction Hall & Antique Gallery in Constableville, R & S Antiques in Copenhagen, The Little Country Shoppe in Croghan, Velda's Antiques in Deer River, and Antiques by the Lake in Harrisville.See more info on activities and businesses