The state of New York does it again. Like Niagara Falls State Park, the state restored the Saratoga Springs area from an industrial wasteland back to a more natural state: Saratoga Spa State Park. I enjoyed the day hiking around and visiting 9 0f the 13 springs in the park. I tasted the waters at each of the springs, and they were not my favorite. The water was very salty – all different sorts of salty based on the depths of the springs. I did like the bubbles, and I rinsed my hands and arms in the water and my skin was soft afterwards. I found a few “art in the park” pieces. Tomorrow I am going to indulge myself in a mineral bath and massage at the Roosevelt Baths & Spa.
During the 14th century the Iroquois were initially attracted to the area for its hunting. The high salt content in the waters attracted animals to the site. They guarded the springs with secrecy. It was their belief that the springs had special healing powers and that the spring were a gift from the great spirit. Eventually the Iroquois introduced the early settlers to the springs as a cure for ailments. By the mid 1800s bathing in the mineral waters had become a popular treatment and several bathhouses came into operations. Saratoga had become the seasonal “watering hole” for the rich and famous. By 1880, private industry also discover also discovered a use for the springs. Over 200 mineral water wells were in operation, may used for the extraction of carbon dioxide gas, Inevitably, this process became abused by 1908 and the state of New York stepped in and passed the anti-pumping legislation, followed by the formation of a state reservation to protect the mineral waters.
I visited both the North Shore (Turtle Point Provincial Park – ON) and South Shore (Fairhaven Beach State Park, NY) of Lake Ontarion the smallest of the Great Lakes. In the Huron language, the name Ontarí’io means “Lake of Shining Waters”. The last in the Great Lakes chain, Lake Ontario serves as the outlet to the Atlantic Ocean via the Saint Lawrence River. It is the only Great Lake not to border the state of Michigan.
I have spent the last 7 weeks around the Great Lakes. I am going to miss them as I head east to New England and eventually the Atlantic Coast.
I went to Seneca Falls to visit the Women’s Rights National Historical Park. I sat in the Wesleyan Methodist Church, which was the site of the Seneca Falls Convention, the first women’s rights convention that Elizabeth Cady Staton read the Declaration of Sentiments (a must read IMHO). I could feel the presence of all those women before me who helped pave the way for women’s rights. Wow!
I stayed and discovered that my ancestor, Henry Palmer Westcott (1808-1896) started up the Westcott Rule Company in this city. I bet you all had a Westcott ruler at some point in your life. The Seneca Falls Visitor Center had a whole corner dedicated to Westcott. They also directed me to the factory building, now converted to apartments.
The icing on the cake was discovering that Seneca Falls was an inspiration for the town Bedford Falls in the movie: It’s a Wonderful Life. I visited the “It’s a Wonderful Life Museum. Each year, the town celebrates with an It’s A Wonderful Life Festival the second weekend in December. They directed me to the bridge that was the inspiration for the Bridge George Bailey jumped off to save Clarence.
I came to Niagara remembering 2 things: It was the Honeymoon destination and a place where people travelled over the falls in a barrel. I came away from Niagara learning 3 things.
- Niagara State Park was the very first state park in America. In 1885, New York State signed the Niagara Appropriations Bill into law, creating what is now Niagara Falls State Park and is claimed to be the oldest continuously-operating state park in the US and the first established via eminent domain. (One of the things I am most proud of our country is our dedication to preserving natural wild spaces)
- The first recorded person to survive going over the falls was school teacher Annie Edson Taylor, who on her 63rd birthday, October 24, 1901, went over the falls in a barrel in 1901. Her motives were financial but she never made much money from her adventure. (I have no plans to do anything quite so daring on my 63rd birthday next year. I more likely will be sitting on a beach birdwatching)
- The water flow over the falls is regulated. The normal flow of water volume flowing over the Horseshoe Falls is approximately 100,000 cubic feet/second. From November to April, the water in the river below the Falls does not fluctuate substantially because the water flow remains constant at minimum 50,000 cubic feet/second. From April to November the water level below the Falls rises an average of 3 feet each morning between 8 and 9 am. Similarly, the water drops an average of 3 feet each night between 8and 9 pm. At night, when Hydro Control Dam gates are lifted for diversion of Niagara River water into the hydro tunnels, the flow over the Horseshoe Falls drops to a minimum 50,000 cubic feet of water/second. (While I appreciate the need to manage water flow and provide clean electricity to New York and Ontario, I am saddened by the taming of a mighty river)
My Canadian visit to Lake Erie was to Turkey Point. This beach had a few treasures. I had a relaxing stay reading my book and people watching. I had to find a spot in the wind, because the mayflies were swarming. My umbrella was covered with them. I had to take it down and move upwind to a shade tree. When it was time to leave, I found my truck covered with mayflies as well. Of course there was no way to get in the truck without a few of them following me in. Which of course they did. I drove back to the campsite in various stages of windows and sunroof open. I hate things flying around in my vehicle when I’m driving. (Shudder)
Lake Erie is the fourth-largest lake (by surface area) of the five Great Lakes in North America. It is the southernmost (yet I visited from Canada), shallowest, and smallest by volume of the Great Lakes and therefore also has the shortest average water residence time.
I was excited to visit my 3rd Great Lake on my Journey. Staying in the “thumb” of Michigan, Lake Huron surrounded me in 3 directions. I went to Caseville County Beach. I practically had it to myself. What I really liked about the beach was all the wetlands behind the sand. I enjoyed watching the wind surfers. Although the sandy beach offered up no beach glass treasures, it was lovely to walk both the beach and the pier.
Lake Huron has the largest shore line length of any of the Great Lakes, counting its 30,000 islands. Lake Huron is separated from Lake Michigan, which lies at the same level, by the 5-mile-wide, 20-fathom-deep Straits of Mackinac, making them hydrologically the same body of water. Aggregated, Lake Huron-Michigan, is technically the world’s largest freshwater lake.
An old Ojibwa legend claims that a water monster lives in the Lake Huron. The monster, Mishebeshu, is said to live in a den at the mouth of the Serpent River.
It was a novelty for me to watch the sunset over Lake Michigan. Growing up as a child in the Chicago area, Lake Michigan was my internal compass for all points East. When I moved to the Seattle area it took me years to get used to Puget Sound being West. All my life the big body of water was East.
My home for 4 days on the east side of Lake Michigan was Muskegon, the largest populated city on that shore. The name “Muskegon” is derived from the Ottawa tribe term “Masquigon,” meaning “marshy river or swamp”. My campsite was just steps to the stairway over the dunes to the lake.
The state of Michigan is home to the largest dune system in the world, associated with a freshwater lake. The impressive sand dunes along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan were created by the prevailing westerly winds blowing the sand deposited along the beaches into the dune formations.