1000 Islands

Clayton & Alexandria Bay, NY

8/14/16 to 8/16/16

I'm not sure if anyone knows anything about The 1000 Islands but I've heard about them and since we were in Upper State New York we decided to visit. The Thousand Islands are a group of over 1,800 islands in the St. Lawrence River, straddling the border of the U.S. and Canada. Lake Ontario flows into the St. Lawrence River which in turn flows into the Atlantic Ocean. It was a fashionable retreat for the elite in the late 1800s and early 1900s and today the area is a hub for outdoor activities such as boating and fishing. Most of these islands are privately owned and the owners build expensive homes on them. A summer playground for the rich but there are many state parks with marinas for everyone else. It’s home to elaborate island mansions like the German-style Boldt Castle on Heart Island and Singer Castle on Dark Island.

We camped at The 1000 Islands Campgrounds which sits between the small towns of Clayton and Alexandria Bay. We weren't too excited about this campground. Showers were pretty bad, so bad that we didn't even use them and since we had full hook-ups we didn't have to. Trailers were close together and it was noisy here. (barking dogs) There was a lot of junk and old trailers stored near the back of the property. This one goes on our "Do Not Use" list.

Monday 8/15/16   The first thing we did was make reservations for a boat tour. We decided on Clayton Island Tours. We signed up for the 1:00 Boldt Castle, Two Nations Tour. The pickup point was at the marina in Wellesley State Park on Wellesley Island. Monday morning we packed a lunch and headed to the park. We had planned to do some hiking before the boat tour but we didn't have enough time and we were unfamiliar with the park. Plus because we were so close to Canada I got a text from AT&T about international charges. I spent almost 45 minutes on the phone making sure we would not get charged. They ended up giving me free unlimited talk and text and 1 GB of data if we went across the border. And for my trouble, they added an additional 5 GB of data per month to my shared family plan. Thank You, AT&T! We parked at the marina and walked around that area for a while. We found a nice shady picnic table and had lunch. We did get to walk out to a couple of areas where we got some great views of the water and passing boats.

The boat tour was a little over 3 hours with an hour stop at Boldt Castle. The tour was pretty interesting with a guide that gave us facts and history of the 1000 Islands. He kept us entertained and also threw in a few jokes. And yes, 1000 Island Dressing originated here. We traveled up the American side, stopped at the Boldt Castle and then returned on the Canadian side. He pointed out two small islands that were very close to each other. He said one person bought both islands and one was in the U.S. and the other was in Canada. The owner even built a small "international" bridge linking them to each other. (sorry, I didn't get a picture)

The Boldt Castle was amazing. Here's the story:

At the turn-of-the-century, George C. Boldt, millionaire proprietor of the world-famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, set out to build a full-size castle in Alexandria Bay, on Heart Island. The grandiose structure was to be a display of his love for his wife, Louise. Beginning in 1900, the Boldt family spent summers in the 1000 Islands at the Boldt family's Wellesley House near Mr. Boldt’s Wellesley Island Farms while 300 workers including stonemasons, carpenters, and artists fashioned the six-story, 120 room castle, complete with tunnels, a powerhouse, Italian gardens, a drawbridge, Alster Tower (children’s playhouse) and a dovecote. Not a single detail or expense was spared. In January 1904, tragedy struck. Boldt telegraphed the island and commanded the workers to immediately “stop all construction.” Louise had died suddenly. A broken-hearted Boldt could not imagine his dream castle without his beloved. Boldt never returned to the island, leaving behind the structure as a monument of his love. For 73 years, the castle and various stone structures were left to the mercy of the wind, rain, ice, snow, and vandals. When the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired the property in 1977, it was decided that through the use of all net revenues from the castle operation it would be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations. Since 1977, several million dollars have been applied to rehabilitating, restoring and improving the Heart Island structures.

One of the guides at the castle said Boldt had 2-1/2 million dollars into this castle when he just let it go. That was in 1904, could you imagine how much that is in today's dollars?

Tuesday 8/16/2016   We didn't have anything planned for today and it was a good thing. It was raining when we got up and continued most of the day. We ended up driving to Watertown, a large town about 30 miles away and doing a little shopping and had a late lunch. That's one thing that surprised me about the 1000 Islands area. It's very busy around the water but there are no Walmarts and no fast food places for 30 miles. The whole area around Clayton and Alexandria Bay has that nice small town feel. 1000 Islands is a nice place to visit if you are in the area, especially if you have a boat and like to fish.

Wednesday 8/17/2016   We packed up and headed to Burlington, VT.

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