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New York Scenic Drives: Lakes to Locks Passage

        Adventure | North

Highlights of Lakes to Locks Passage
©Byways.org Ausable River and Chasm are visible from Lakes to Locks Passage.
©Byways.org Ausable River and Chasm are visible from Lakes to Locks Passage.

Part of the fun of driving New York's Lakes to Locks Passage is the variety of landscapes and terrains you pass along the way. Lakesides and forests are accented by historic buildings and quaint towns of America's early days. In the setting of lakes and agricultural countryside, the occasional colonial building or fort can be spotted. Meanwhile, the open valleys and rolling landscape of the passage provide a route for cyclists and visitors who are interested in a scenic walk. The road gently curves past rivers and through bits of northeastern mixed forest to bring you to destinations such as Lake Champlain, Ausable Chasm, and Adirondack Park.

The passage begins in a place where canals and rivers converge, and then it follows the path of the Champlain Canal where visitors and residents are boating and canoeing. You will definitely want to stop at Fort Ticonderoga and, before you leave, obtain directions to nearby Mount Defiance, where an incredible vista of Lake Champlain, Fort Ticonderoga, and Mount Independence in Vermont are visible.

At the north end of Lake Champlain, you can catch glimpses of Valcour Island and drive to Plattsburgh for a historic tour and scenic views of the lake. At Point Au Roche State Park, enjoy the Lake Shore Road that guides you through scenic farmland and views of the northern lake islands in Vermont. To make the journey through the Lakes to Locks Passage even more interesting, information and signs are placed all along the route to provide an extra story or two about the history of the land and the development of the lake, the canal, and its locks.

Begin the Lakes to Locks Passage in Waterford, and make your way north to Plattsburgh and Rouses Point.

Waterford Historical Museum and Cultural Center: Head north from Troy on Route 4. At the town of Waterford, stop at the Waterford Historical Museum and Cultural Center, located in an 1830 Greek Revival mansion overlooking the Mohawk River and the old Champlain Canal. The museum has exhibits about Waterford, the oldest continually incorporated village in the United States.

Saratoga National Historical Park: About five miles north of the town of Stillwater, watch for Saratoga National Historical Park, site of a 1777 American victory that marked the key turning point of the Revolutionary War. A ten-mile auto tour runs through the battlefield.

Saratoga Springs: To visit the historic resort town of Saratoga Springs, take Route 29 west from Route 4 a few miles farther north. Saratoga Springs is the site of the beautiful Saratoga Race Course, the nation's oldest thoroughbred racetrack, and a public spa where the rich and famous have long taken the waters.

Adirondack Park: Continue north on Route 4 to Route 22 north. Off to the left are the southeastern fringes of 6.1-million-acre Adirondack Park, the largest park in the lower 48 states. The multi-use park covers much of eastern upstate New York, encompassing dozens of towns as well as recreational lands that include 46 mountain peaks more than 4,000 feet high, some 1,000 miles of rivers, and more than 2,500 lakes and ponds. The byway passes near the eastern shores of resort-lined Lake George, and then continues north along the eastern edges of the park for much of the rest of the route.

Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Defiance: Occupying a strategic location at the outlet of Lake George and above the southern tip of Lake Champlain is Fort Ticonderoga, built in 1755 by the French. Americans later captured it from the British in 1775, the first major victory of the Revolutionary War. Daily ceremonies (May to mid-October) feature fife and drum parades and cannon firings. A scenic road leads from the fort up to the summit of Mount Defiance, for great views stretching into Vermont.

Lake Champlain: East of the byway lies Lake Champlain, the sixth largest freshwater lake in the United States. The byway continues along its western shores for most of the rest of the route. The lake is a natural wonderland, ideal for fishing, boating, scuba diving, bird-watching, and bicycling.

Crown Point State Historic Site: Farther north just off Route 9N/22 is Crown Point State Historic Site, where the ruins of two Colonial era forts, St. Frederic and Crown Point, are preserved. They were occupied by a succession of French, British, and American soldiers during the French and Indian and Revolutionary wars.

Ausable Chasm: Continue north (following Routes 22 and 9) to Ausable Chasm, a tourist attraction since 1870. The chasm, more than a mile long and up to 50 feet wide and 200 feet deep, was carved by the Ausable River, which plunges in falls and rapids past sandstone cliffs and huge rock formations. Paths and bridges crisscross and line the chasm, and river rafting trips are available.

Plattsburgh: Nearing the Canadian border, the city of Plattsburgh is worth a stop. Among the historic homes is the Kent–Delord House Museum, which served as British officers' quarters during the Battle of Plattsburgh in the War of 1812. Ferries leave for Vermont from Cumberland Head north of town, 24 hours a day year-round.

Lakes to Lock Passage transports byway enthusiastis through a land rich with history and activities. Enjoy eveything from boating, camping, and ferries to cycling, lighthouses and watching for a glimpse of a lake monster named "Champ" when you take thie New York scenic drive.

Find more useful information related to New York's Lakes to Locks Passage:

  • New York Scenic Drives: Lakes to Locks Passage is just one of the scenic byways in New York. Check out the others.
  • Glens Falls, Ticonderoga, Plattsburg: Find out what there is to do in these cities along Lakes to Locks Passage.
  • Scenic Drives: Are you interested in scenic drives beyond New York? Here are more than 100 scenic drives throughout the United States.
  • How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.
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