Running along the western edge of the Adirondacks, the Black River Trail traverses 111 miles of beautiful scenery and striking history from Rome to Ogdensburg's gateway to Canada. Along the way view picturesque gorges, majestic river valleys, and the Tug Hill Plateau - an area that receives a greater yearly snowfall than anywhere else east of the Rocky Mountains.
Rome to "The Gorge"
The tour begins on Route 46 in Rome, where, in 1817, the first shovel of dirt was turned for the engineering marvel known as the Erie Canal. Rome's Fort Stanwix, which was laid siege to by the British during the Revolutionary War, is the first of many historic sites you'll encounter on the Black River Trail. Visit the museum, and watch an interpretive film, and see men and women dressed in period costumes.
A few miles north of Rome, you can stop and feed the fish at the Delta Fish Hatchery. A stone's throw from the hatchery is Delta Dam, which controls water flow from Delta Lake. When the water level is low, look for the rooftops of Delta City, which according to legend was flooded over by the lake many years ago. Delta Lake State Park offers swimming, campsites, and boat launches. A left turn in Westernville will take you to more camping and fishing.
Continuing along Route 46, you will soon be in "The Gorge." The road cuts through rock and winds around dramatic natural formations resulting from glacial activity thousands of years ago. The views are gorgeous. Along this stretch of highway, ruins of the Black River Canal are visible on the right. At Pixley Falls State Park, take a minute to explore the Five Combine Locks of the Black River Canal, once part of the feeder canal system for the Erie Canal. As you near the end of the gorge, the canal towpath crosses the road, just south of Booneville. The towpath is great for hiking and cross-country skiing. Taking the next left turn at Jackson Hill Road will take you to a weather station and a network of cross-country ski trails.
Booneville to the Black River
In Booneville, take time to visit the Dodge-Pratt-Northam Art Institute. Tour the magnificent home and pick out a gift made by local artisans. Stop by the historic Hulbert House, a dining establishment famous since 1812. Pick up Route 12 to remain on the Black River Trail. as you enter Lewis County, you'll pass the remains of some of the original locks of the Black River Canal. During the 1800s, the Black River Valley thrived with industries of logging, lumbering, agriculture, and tanning. The Village of Carthage at the northern end of the canal was a bustling port, shipping and receiving all manner of freight. Lumber was the most common commodity shipped on the river and canal. Farm products, such as grain and potatoes, were shipped to markets in New York City. The entry of rail transportation, with its greater speed, brought an end to the use of the Black River Canal. State funding for the operation and maintenance of the waterway ended in 1922.
Route 12 runs parallel to the Black River to Lowville. There are canoe and boat launches and picnic areas at Lyons Falls, Glenfield, and Beach's Landing. Look for interpretive signs with river maps and historical and recreational information at each launch. The Black River offers some of the best fishing opportunities in the North Country, including walleye, smallmouth bass, pike, and rock bass. For the canoeist, the smooth waters of the river provide endless hours of relaxing paddling. The Annual Riverfest in July features fun activities for the whole family.
While in Lyons Falls, check out Gould Mansion, a mile from the Black River Trail. The Richardson Romanesque structure was built at the turn of the century for G.H.P. Gould, founder of the Gould Paper Company. The mansion, which features vintage furnishings and architectural design, is open May to mid-October.
Lyons Falls to Tug Hill
Continuing north on Route 12 will bring you to Constableville, home of the Constable Hall.