Lakes to Locks Passage
- DesignationAll-American Road (2002)
- Intrinsic QualitiesHistoric, Recreation
- Length234 miles
Explore the story-filled regions that connect New York’s historic water of Lake Champlain and Lake George with the Champlain Canal and Hudson River to the south and the Chambly Canal to the Richelieu and St. Lawrence Rivers of Quebec to the north.
Story of the Byway
Among the big draws to Pyramid Lake are the spectacular tufa formations. Tufa is a type of limestone formed by calcium carbonate deposits precipitated out of the water over areas of hot springs. Another draw of the lake is its population of Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, Nevada’s state fish, and though listed as a threatened species, is allowed to be fished. The lake is also a breeding ground for one of the largest colonies of American white pelicans in the country.
Begin your travels along Lakes to Locks Passage "The Great Northeast Journey" on US Route 4 in Waterford at the Canal Visitor Center, the junction of the Champlain and Erie Canals where the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers come together. Continue your drive north on US Route 4 through Mechanicville and Stillwater, two of the 16 Lakes to Locks Passage "Waypoint Communities" that are eager to meet and greet visitors along the Byway. While driving along US Route 4, note that the Champlain Canal is running parallel to the roadway, often just a "stone's throw" away.
Most of the Canal locks have parks and interpretation about the Canal system - keep an eye out for the signs. Be sure to note the junction of US Route 32 in Schuylerville, and the signs to Saratoga National Historical Park and Saratoga National Cemetery. as you continue north through Fort Edward, Hudson Falls, Fort Ann, and Whitehall, be sure to stop at the Visitor Centers and park facilities. In Whitehall, the "Birthplace of the US Navy," US RT 4 heads east to Vermont, but Lakes to Locks Passage continues north on NYS RT 22 to Ticonderoga. You will find Champlain Valley Heritage Network interpretive signs that have been erected along the byway. Look to the west as you approach Ticonderoga. At the top of Mount Defiance the American flag flies at the strategic military outlook for Lake Champlain, to the east are views of Fort Ticonderoga, and the fort site at Mount Independence in Vermont. At the junction with NYS RT 74 East, you can make a right turn to Fort Ticonderoga and the historic cable ferry to Vermont, which operates during the summer; or a left turn on Montcalm Street will take you into historic downtown Ticonderoga. Just north of Ticonderoga, NYS RT 9N and NYS RT 22 join, continue north along NYS 9N/22 to Crown Point. When in Crown Point, look for the signs to the Penfield Museum, on Essex County Route 2, or at the junction with NYS RT 903, follow the signs to the Crown Point State Historic Site, Crown Point State Park and the beautiful Champlain Bridge to Vermont. The byway continues north on NYS RT 9N/22 from Port Henry to Westport.
In Westport NYS RTs 9N and 22 once again separate. Head north on RT 22 through the pastoral communities of Wadhams and Whallonsburg along the Boquet River to the community of Essex. The byway will turn left when it hits the lakeshore and ferry crossing to Vermont. Traveling north on the byway will take you through Willsboro, up towards the Adirondack Mountains, and on to the junction with US RT 9. Turn right and follow US RT 9 through Keeseville to Plattsburgh. Be sure to stop at Ausable Chasm, and explore its breathtaking views. As you continue north on the byway through Valcour, you see a wonderful view of the broad lake and Valcour Island (boat access only). In downtown Plattsburgh, turn right on City Hall Place, and then left on Cumberland Avenue to follow the city's signed "Heritage Trail," which will take you past several historic sites and great views of the lake. Cumberland Avenue will join NYS RT9, where you will turn right and head north again. at the northern edge of the city, turn east on Cumberland Head Road, which will take you past the Cumberland Head State Park, and will loop around Cumberland Head, providing outstanding views of the lake. Or continue on NYS RT 9 to Point Au Roche Road. Turn right and head east to the Point Au Roche State Park, where you turn north again on Lake Shore Road. Follow Lake Shore Road through farmland and open views of the northern lake islands of Vermont. at the junction of NYS RT 9B, turn right and continue north to Rouses Point and the Canadian border.
Points of Interest
The Ausable Chasm is a sandstone gorge and one of America’s oldest tourist attractions. The first European to record having seen it was William Gilliland, in 1765. Gilliland owned some 50,000 acres of land that extended between present-day Crown Point and Cumberland Head. Much of his property remained uncharted at the time of the Revolution.
La Chute Falls
The Easiest Route from Canada to Albany by Water
Putnam Pocket Park
The Battle of Hubbardton
Drowned Lands Pocket Park
This area is called “the Drowned Lands” because the mountains and hills here seem to sink into the surrounding marshy low-lands. Several rivers, creeks, and streams converge below, forming the headwaters of Lake Champlain. It is considered part of the lake even though it is barely as wide as a river.
Whitehall is known locally as the “Birthplace of the U.S. Navy.” It is one of several places that holds claim to such a title. The U.S. Navy traces its lineage to Philadelphia, the seat of the second Continental Congress, where a resolution was passed on October 13, 1775, creating the origins of the Continental Navy. Other claims include Machias, Maine; Providence, Rhode Island; and Marblehead, Massachusetts—but none of these predate the naval action that took place beginning on Lake Champlain in May 1775.
Saratoga Surrender Site
About noon, Burgoyne and his Generals crossed Fish Creek and passed the ruins of the Schuyler House, which Burgoyne had burned a week earlier. He continued about a half-mile south to a hilltop overlooking the Hudson, where Rebel General Horatio Gates awaited Burgoyne’s arrival. There the two gentlemen met. Burgoyne was following a tradition of surrendering by turning over his sword in ceremonial fashion. Burgoyne told Gates, “The fortunes of war have made me your prisoner,” as he handed over his sword. Gates held onto the sword for a short while then returned it to Burgoyne, responding, “I shall always be ready to testify that it was through no fault of your Excellency.”The high officers of both armies then joined together for a meal in Gates’ tent. They sat together at a table made by laying boards across barrels and were served a modest four-course meal. They ate and drank in good humor, Burgoyne supposedly even raising a toast to George Washington at one point. Baroness Riedesel was surprised at how jubilant Burgoyne was acting. The Baroness and her children were invited to dine with a stranger who turned out to be General Philip Schuyler. He had arrived to tend to the reconstruction of his summer home when he came upon the lady. It was during this dinner the Baron and Baroness Riedesel together with Burgoyne were invited to stay at the Schuyler Mansion in Albany.
Valcour Island Heritage Trail
The Valcour Island Heritage Trail is a 7.5-mile loop and will take about 4-5 hours to complete. Trails are open year round; however, the best time of the year to walk the island is during the spring or fall. Then, most campsites are unoccupied and the brush and insects have yet to flourish.
Crab Island Overview
Crab Island is a tree-covered, uninhabited island just north of Valcour Island. Crab Island played an important role in the War of 1812. A small monument to 143 men who died in the Battle of Plattsburgh, and who were buried on the island can be found on the northern end of the island. At one time the island was owned by the Plattsburgh Air Force Base and used as a recreation area. The island supports a large poison ivy cover.
Penfield Homestead Museum
It was two adventurous boys that led to the discovery of the most important ore beds in Crown Point: A boy hunting for bees on his father’s property in 1821 uncovered what would become the Hammond Ore Bed. Just five years later, another boy, named R. L. Cram, was hunting for partridge only a short distance from the Hammond Bed. As he grasped a bush to pull himself up a steep mountainside the whole mass detached from the rock, revealing shining ore beneath. He took samples of it to his father, who owned the land. His father opened the bed, realized the value, and soon sold it to Allen Penfield and Timothy Taft (who sold his interest several years later). This bed was known as the Penfield Iron Ore Bed. The bed had six different openings, the bed varying in thickness from five to 30 feet. The ore was black, containing no sulfur, and only a slight trace of phosphorus. In other words, it was quite pure and valuable. Allen Penfield, Taft, and later Charles Hammond, worked the Penfield Bed. The ore had been tested and deemed superior. Beginning in 1828, the Penfield ore was transported 4.5 miles east to a cold-blast Catalan forge at Ironville. The original forge had two water wheels and employed about 40 men. Over the years, the forges were improved and expanded. In 1873, the Ironville forge became the property of the Crown Point Iron Company. The Penfield Bed was worked until the late 1880s when no more ore could be mined from it. From the earliest days, the Penfield’s developed various ways to improve efficiency. Most notable, was, in 1831, the use of an electromagnet to separate the iron from the crushed ore. It’s for this reason that Ironville is considered the birthplace of the “Electric Age,” as it was where the first industrial application of electricity took place in the United States.
Colburn Blast Furnace
One of the few stone blast furnaces left to see in Essex County is the Colburn furnace, west of Moriah Center. It is largely in ruins, however. Built in 1848, it was likely very short-lived. There was no running water supply in the area and so it was powered by a 40-horsepower steam engine. At the time, the only other steam-powered furnace in the area was the one at Fletcherville—it was around this time that furnaces were slowly transitioning from water to steam power. (At both Colburn and Fletcherville, charcoal powered the engine.) Once standing 40 feet tall, it has collapsed into heaps of stone and iron fastenings. The stone blast furnace was a pyramid-shaped structure with an inner cavity.
While Witherbee and Moriah may have been the site of most of the iron ore and the industrial structures that were required to process it, Port Henry was the site of immense railyards, shipping wharves, and blast furnaces along the lakeshore. Yet Port Henry—in contrast to Witherbee and Mineville—physically reflected the great wealth that mining and manufacturing had created. It was in Port Henry where the large estates of the company owners, complete with their mansions, gardens, and greenhouses, stood. By 1923, north and south Main Street in Port Henry had been paved, using iron tailings as part of the paving material.Port Henry fostered a broad variety of cultural and civic initiatives. The Port Henry Musical Association, which gave a number of concerts, formed during the 1860s, enriching the cultural lie of the town. The Lewald Opera House, built in 1874, was an integral part of the village square—which was also home to a bandstand—and helped make theatrical events commonplace in Port Henry during the late 1800s. The town’s own Tromblee Quartet was considered the best male quartet in the state, and the Port Henry Cornet Band was considered the best band north of Troy, often making excursions to Plattsburgh and Burlington to perform. Beyond music, the town also was home to boating regattas, a yacht club at Powerhouse park, the American Canoe Association, a golf course, a country club with tennis courts, and a horse racetrack (Listen to audio from 21, Driving Switchback and Cheney Roads).Later, Port Henry became an important filming location or many silent-era films in the early 20th century. Arctic City Film Studio, popular for filmmaking between 1914-1929, was based in Port Henry.
The Concrete Homes of Bridal Row
The single- and double-family homes on Bridal Row include six identical single-family, concrete block homes, built by Witherbee-Sherman for newly married couples—hence the original street name Bridal Row. Like much of the other company buildings in town, they were built from concrete made with the waste mine tailings. These were the first concrete block homes built by the company, completed in 1906 at a cost of $1,350 each. Today, this group is the most intact group of identical row houses in the Mineville-Witherbee area.
The Witherbees, Sherman & Company Buildings
Today it is the Moriah Town Hall. Also on the property to the east is the Witherbee, Sherman & Company carriage house, which was also used as an icehouse and a laboratory for testing iron ore. It now houses the Iron Center Museum. The museum chronicles a century and a half of iron mining history.
Baum Site 1: Union Cemetery
British General John Burgoyne’s campaign from Canada in 1777 had a series of rapid successes, but that changed as he began his trip across the expanse of land that connected Lake Champlain and Hudson River.
Dawn Community House
Located on the former Harney property was the controversial Dawn Valcour Agricultural and Horticultural Association. Colonel John Wilcox, the founder of the utopian experiment, attempted to create a commune here based on the concepts of spiritualism and free love during the summer of 1874. His short-lived dream, with only a few active members, was confined to a small one-room structure. That fall, the Dawn Community succumbed to financial challenges, legal issues and the coming winter. All that remains is a partial foundation of their building.
Discover the Beauty of Upstate New York
Beginning in Waterford and heading north along route 4, you have officially begun your journey along the Lakes to Locks Passage. Your first stop along this road has to be Saratoga Historical Park right by Saratoga Lake. This is a wonderful spot with plenty of opportunity for activities. As you continue north, you will pass incredibly historic sites like the Schuyler House the Saratoga Monument all located in the same area. Fort Edward will be your next stop, as there are plenty of places to stop and relax while taking in the historical area like the Old Fort House Museum. You can then continue north for about an hour and a half until you reach Ticonderoga, which has plenty of lodging opportunities for visitors so you can experience everything this hamlet has to offer.
To fully experience Ticonderoga, you must stop by the historic Fort Ticonderoga and all the historical sites located around it to understand its significance. From here, you will continue north and eventually see the waters of Lake Champlain, which will lead to plenty of activities later in the trip. Continue north and just take in the beautiful views while you cruise along this road. As you reach the cities and towns of Keeseville and Plattsburgh, you will be greeted by wonderful, quaint areas that provide so much for its visitors. There are shops, restaurants, and so much to experience here on these beautiful lakeside areas. Take time to end your journey in one of these areas and spend the day exploring Lake Champlain.
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