Wellesley Island

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 Welcome to Wellesley Island

44927 Cross Island Rd, Fineview, NY 13640

We have made several trips to Wellesley Island, summer and winter. Any time of year, you can find something interesting to do. My first time there, was around 1976, on a field trip in elementary school. I remembered being impressed enough to want to go back as an adult. Several years ago, I was able to scratch that off my “bucket list”. Each time after was different- yet enjoyable.

Getting there

The Thousand Island Bridge

To get there by auto, you’ll have to cross the Thousand Islands bridge near Alexandria Bay NY. According to the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority (TIBA), the bridge was started in the spring of 1937, and was finished in August 18, 1938- some ten weeks ahead of schedule. It spans 4500 feet, between the abutments, and has an under-clearance of 150 feet. * http://www.tibridge.com/wp/.  For those adventurous types,there is a walkway up the bridge that offers great views. There is a small toll charge to use the bridge. Unless you continue to Canada, there is no charge on the return trip.

Walkway on the T/I bridge.


The Island has had a long history, much of it related to the Thousand Islands park (T/I park). This was founded in 1875 as a Methodist campground. The community is still going strong, and is kept up immaculately. Most homes and buildings look like they are straight off of a post card. For more information on the T/I park- http://www.tiparkcorp.com/parkhistory.html .

Barbed wire is still visible in this tree. This forest was once all farmland.

Farming was also a big part of the island. Some of which were owned by George Boldt, of Boldt’s castle and Waldorf Astoria fame. In the late 1800’s New York state established the St. Lawrence reservation, some of the earliest purchases for recreational use. These included DeWolf point and Watterson’s point, both on the island, as well as other purchases in the region. Control of these lands was the charge of the Fisheries, Game and Forest Commission. * https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Lawrence_Reservation   During the 1950’s, the Thousand Island State Park Commission started buying up farmland on the island, and in 1954, the Wellesley Island State Park was opened. This is today a very popular destination in the area. Camping, boating and pretty much every other outdoor activity is available there.

The Minna Anthony Common Nature Center

My focus in this piece is going to deal with the Minna Anthony Common Nature Center. This a wonderful outdoor destination, with something for folks of all ages and abilities. In the winter, you can rent skis & snowshoes. They have many activities year around including nature based birthday parties for children. The center was named after a local woman, a naturalist, artist and champion of the regions nature. She summered on Wellesley island, and lived in Watertown NY in the “off” season. For more information on the center, follow this link: http://www.macnaturecenter.com/

Some of the unique rock formations on the Eel Bay trail.

Starting at the center itself, you should make time look around. The many exhibits will give you a better understanding of the what you’ll see outside.There are about 9 miles of trails to choose from.  My favorite is the Eel bay trail, which leads you to the narrows trail. Along here you have views of Eel bay, and the local flora & fauna. There are some interesting rock formations in the early part of the trail. One thing that you do not want to miss are the glacial potholes. These have trails right to them, and are just before you get to the narrows trail.


Glacial potholes
Stone cairns overlooking Eel bay.

The ledges above these (on the left of the trail) are a bit of a scramble- but the views are worth it. We found some great stone cairns on the flat rocks here. The narrows trail becomes rockier and a bit more rugged through this section. It was in this more wooded section that we began to see more wildlife.We saw porcupine, mink, Pileated woodpeckers , ducks and even a beaver at a pond on the causeway trail. From the narrows trail, we took the South bay trail to the causeway trail. From there we took the pond loop trail to the middle trail, which leads you back to the center. This was somewhere in the 3-mile range, give or take (we forgot the pedometer this day).  Here is a link to the trail map:               http://www.macnaturecenter.com/WellesleyIslandTrailMap.pdf

The American mink (Neovison vison)
North American Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum)
Pileated Woodpeckers ( Hylatomus pileatus).

 Rock Island Lighthouse


The Clayton Islands Tours boats get you up close to things that the bigger boats can’t.

While you are in the area, there is plenty to do. Clayton Island Tours offer several packages and with smaller boats than some of the others in the region, and get you to some otherwise inaccessible areas. They have one cruise that takes you through the narrows and past the T/I park. The trip is fully narrated, and you will learn plenty. Also, a stop at the Rock Island lighthouse is included.  http://claytonislandtours.com   The lighthouse was commissioned in 1847, and has been through many changes. Today it is under the care of the New York State office of Parks, recreation and historic preservation. http://www.rockislandlighthouse.org/

Rock Island Lighthouse.

Heading south will bring you to Clayton NY- home of the Antique Boat museum. This is a favorite for everyone.  http://www.abm.org/

Tibbett’s Point Lighthouse


From here, it’s a short trip to the Tibbetts Point lighthouse. This is where Lake Ontario flows into the St. Lawrence river. The drive there is almost as nice as the lighthouse itself. http://www.capevincent.org/lighthouse/lighthouse_001.htm

Boldts Castle


If you decided to head north, Alexandria Bay has loads to offer- the main point being Boldt’s Castle. (I could go on for pages about this- in another article perhaps?). http://www.boldtcastle.com/visitorinfo/

Further down the river

Stone windmill in Morristown NY

Chippewa Bay,  Morristown and Ogdensburg are also to the north, all offering plenty to see and do. The old windmill in  Morristown should not be missed if you are in the area.All these places are steeped in history and get you into the outdoors. There are many other fine places & and activities- these are just some of my favorites, and go along well with the rest of the trip. Enjoy, and please leave me a comment if you like!

Ships are a common sight on the St. Lawrence river.


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About the Author

  I  am a life-long resident of the north country, calling Edwards my home.I have always had a passion for the outdoors, and for local history.  I recently started this site to share places that have been  part of  our local history and heritage. I hope you get a chance to hike some of these trails for yourself, and reflect on the rich history of those that walked here before you. And if not, sit back and experience  these from where ever you are right now.  Either way, enjoy!
The author William Hill

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