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Exploring The Great Lakes Seaway Trail in Winter

Near the whirlpool, Niagara River

Near the whirlpool, Niagara River

Living so close to the Great Lakes (Lake Michigan to be exact), I often take them for granted. Then along comes some­thing new that I hadn’t heard of before. Case in point: The Great Lakes Seaway Trail.

Great Lakes what?” Exactly. If you’ve never heard of it before, the Great Lakes Seaway Trail is a driving/boating byway that par­al­lels the St. Lawrence Seaway and Great Lakes in New York and Pennsylvania. The trail is a  National Scenic Byway that includes includes Niagara Falls; 1000 Islands; 29 light­houses; War of 1812 farm and nature sites; lots of har­bors, world-class sport­fish­ing, bridges and fer­ries to and from Canada, and the Seaway Trail Discovery Center.

So now that you know what it is, let’s get started on what you can actu­ally do along the Seaway Trail dur­ing the remain­ing win­ter months.

Photograph Spectacular Ice Dunes

Waves surg­ing inland from Lake Erie, the Niagara River, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River form spec­tac­u­lar ice dunes all along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail’s shore­line. Presque Isle State Park along Seaway Trail Pennsylvania in Erie is per­fect for pho­tograph­ing the dunes and hearty souls ice boat­ing on Presque Isle Bay, or rent cross-country skis or snow­shoes to explore 11 miles of nat­ural and groomed trails. The Bay also offers out­door skat­ing and fish­ing, but know how to check the ice thick­ness for safety before step­ping out. Check the Winter Report at or call 814–833-7424.

Sleigh Riding and Hot Tubbing

Lake Effect” snows cre­ate Great Lakes Seaway Trail win­ter play­grounds when cold winds cross the warm fresh­wa­ters of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Horse-drawn sleigh (or wagon) rides through Chautauqua Institution’s Victorian-era National Historic Landmark land­scape in Chautauqua, NY, start at 1 pm and run about every half-hour week­ends through January to February 28. Purchase same-day tick­ets after 12 noon at the Institution bookstore.

Tails of the Tundra Siberian Husky dog sled demon­stra­tions, sleigh rides, snow­shoe­ing, win­ter camp­ing and cook­ing will be out­side at Jamestown’s Audubon Center’s Snowflake Festival on Saturday, February 6, 2010, with live bird, hand-quilting, Master Gardener demos and blue­bird box build­ing indoors. A $5 pre-event sale coupon book includes chances for a hand­made Swedish afghan and one week of sum­mer day camp for a child of your choice. For details: 716–569-2345 and

Where can you find 27 slopes and trails for crisp win­try down­hill and cross-country ski­ing and snow­shoe­ing fol­lowed by a warm, relax­ing dip in an out­door hot tub? Peek’n Peak Resort & Spa, 1405 Old Road, Clymer, NY, 716–355-4141,

Send Your Kids to 18th Century Winter Camp

Need your kids to burn energy on their mid-winter break February 16–18? Send them to camp on the Great Lakes Seaway Trail. Old Fort Niagara offers three day-long pro­grams for kids to learn how to light a camp­fire with flint and steel, write with a quill pen, cook a colonial-style meal, snow­shoe and race with fur traders. The 8:30am to 4:30pm pro­gram includes an 18th-century pup­pet show and build­ing a model of the his­toric fort at the mouth of the Niagara River on Lake Ontario. Registration is $40 and lim­ited to first 20 children/day. Call 716–745-7611 for details.

Hockey for Heroes in Buffalo

Travel the Great Lakes Seaway Trail to excit­ing Buffalo Sabres’ National Hockey League action! Military ser­vice mem­bers from Western NY can apply for “Tickets for Troops” to see a game cour­tesy of Sabres’ defense­men Chris Butler. Find appli­ca­tion online at Not mil­i­tary, call 888-GO-SABRES for tickets.

Gateway to Snow-Cruising and Snow Strolling through Historic Landscapes

Snow-cruising aboard a snow­mo­bile is a refresh­ing way to expe­ri­ence the byway’s beau­ti­ful win­try land­scape and its his­toric archi­tec­ture. For exam­ple, 8 miles west of Albion, NY, ride the only road that passes under the Erie Canal. Culvert Road is a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not high­light. Check out Trailwide snow­mo­bil­ing and win­ter trail resources at (Note: As of this writ­ing, the web­site seemed to be down. You could also try

Ancient glac­i­ers helped cre­ate a 19th cen­tury dolo­stone wall and extinct water­fall at the Nature Center at Genesee Country Village. On Saturdays and Sundays, for $5–10 rent skis and snow­shoes, some small enough for 3-year-olds, to explore 6 miles of trails through chick­adee– and deer-filled mead­ows and wood­lands. Enjoy self-guided “snow strolling” 12 noon-4pm past the 40-plus his­toric build­ings rep­re­sent­ing American pio­neer life from 1795 to 1920. Call ahead to 585–538-6822 x262 to con­firm con­di­tions are right. Find more details online at

Bavaria on the Byway

Check out Bavarian Ski Day on January 24, 2010 at Brantling Ski Slopes where now-retired Olympian down­hiller Diane Roffe-Steinrotter once trained. The spe­cial event fea­tures music, tra­di­tional Bavarian food and drink: sausage, sauer­kraut, German pota­toes, German beer and wine.  Lift, les­son and rental pack­age is avail­able for $33-$46. You can also snow­board here, 4051 Fish Farm Road, Sodus, NY, 315–331-2365,

Outdoor Fun Galore

What’s your win­ter recre­ation plea­sure? Fair Haven Beach State Park on Lake Ontario on Route 104A has it all — from cross-country ski­ing, snow­shoe­ing, snow­mo­bil­ing, ice fish­ing and win­ter bird­watch­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties along trails and 1500 feet of beach. This his­toric park dates to the 1930s when the Civilian Conservation Corps built cab­ins and pavil­ions here. Call 315–947-5205 or check for details.

Ice Climbing at Salmon River Falls

Play It Again, Salmon; Mate, Spawn & Die; Shale We Climb — all names of ascents, some as high as 100 feet — for ice climbers at Salmon River Falls Natural Area in Altmar, NY. When crisp win­ter tem­per­a­tures set, the frozen falls become a mecca for ice climbers. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation man­ages the area and requires that climbers observe strict safety pre­cau­tions and reg­is­ter daily to climb. Call 315–298-7467 for ice con­di­tions — gen­er­ally best in February-March. Find more details and pho­tos at

Are You Crazy? Polar Bear Dipping in the St. Lawrence River

Ready to jump into freez­ing water for a good cause? The 20th annual Friends of River Hospital Polar Bear Dip is February 27, 2010. Hearty, and har­nessed, souls from all over the U.S. will plunge into the St. Lawrence River through a hole cut in the ice off the Rum Runner’s Dock at Bonnie Castle Resort at Alexandria Bay, NY. Minimum entry is $100; funds raised pur­chase equip­ment for the hos­pi­tal. Prizes are awarded for Best Costume, Best Dipping Technique, and Most Money Raised. The Bay’s resort hotels offer pre­ferred or reduced rates. The cel­e­bra­tion includes a Feburary 21st Snolf (snow golf) Tournament, and has raised more than $50,000 in a sin­gle year. More info: 315–482-5421,

Re-enacting The War of 1812

On February 20–21, 2010, the British Crown forces will slip across the St. Lawrence River to attack the Americans at Ogdensburg in a recre­ated bat­tle of the War of 1812. Reenactors bring to life Forsythe’s Rifles Regiment at the future site of the recre­ation of his­toric Fort de la Presentation. Watch for details as the event approaches.

Tunnel Your Way Under the Seaway

To reach Robert Moses State Park at Massena, NY, drive under­neath the Eisenhower Lock that allows six-story-tall freighters to travel the Saint Lawrence Seaway. The Park’s Nature Center offers cross-country ski and snow­shoe rental for explor­ing 25 km of tran­quil trails along the St. Lawrence River. Park entry is free. Call 315–764-5630 or check for dates for moon­light ski­ing, fam­ily snow­shoe hikes, and indoor “snowy meadow” paint­ing and carv­ing classes.

Learn more about trav­el­ing the Great Lakes Seaway Trail in your time, at your pace, in your style at or call 1–800-SEAWAY-T. (Note: As of this writ­ing, the web­site seemed to be down. You could also try

Photo by Ken Lund

Related posts:

  1. New Itineraries For Great Lakes Seaway Trail
  2. Tall Ships Challenge Coming to the Great Lakes in 2010
  3. Great Family Island Vacation Getaways on the Great Lakes
  4. Escape to Minnesota’s Northwoods and expe­ri­ence a majes­tic win­ter won­der­land at The Historic Grand View Lodge
  5. Camping Michigan in the Fall and Winter

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