Lake Ontario

Camp Beechwood Remains

An abandoned Girl Scout camp deep in the woods is something from a horror movie, and you can experience it yourself in Upstate New York. Though it feels like you’re trespassing through these eerie ruins, they’re actually part of a public park enjoyed by thousands of visitors a year. Beechwood State Park, along the shore of Lake Ontario, is located about 20 miles east of Rochester, New York near the small town of Sodus.

In 1929 the Girl Scouts of America purchased 150-acres between Maxwell Bay and Sill Creek for use as a summer camp. A bluff overlooking Lake Ontario, called Sprong Bluff, was an attractive focal point for gatherings. The camp had an in-ground pool, enclosed dining hall, sleeping cabins, and other amenities. Unfortunately, rising tax rates, declining membership, and environmental factors led to the camp’s closure and sale in 1996.

New York State bought the land but budget cuts forced it to designate the site as a preserve. The buildings were left to rot. In 2010 a partial solution was found when the Town of Sodus took over management and operation of the park. It now has several miles of trails and is popular with hikers and fishermen, and of course the curious who come to see the camp ruins.

There are two parking lots off Lake Road: one leads to a camping and fishing access site adjacent to Salmon (Maxwell) Creek. The other is located about 200 yards west near the ruins of the old caretaker’s house. A former road, now a trail, leads straight back to the Girl Scout camp’s remains.

The camp is remarkably well preserved for having been abandoned and accessible to the public for over two decades. I think the presence of other visitors, often heard but not seen, added to the eeriness of this place. It’s certainly worth a detour if you ever find yourself near Rochester.

Sackets Harbor Battlefield War of 1812 Weekend

On August 5 and 6, Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site in Jefferson County, New York held its annual War of 1812 weekend, complete with military encampment, an English Country Dance, Sea Chanteys, and of course reenactments of the Second Battle of Sackets Harbor.

The Second Battle of Sackets Harbor was fought on May 29, 1813 between British forces under the command of Colonel Edward Baynes and American forces under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Electus Backus of the Regular Army and Brigadier General Jacob Brown of the New York State Militia.

Sackets Harbor was a principal port and shipbuilding yard for the upper St. Lawrence River Valley and Lake Ontario during the War of 1812. The British wanted to take advantage of the American fleet’s absence to seize and destroy the shipyard and supplies at Sackets Harbor.

American forces put up a tenacious defense on land and eventually drove the British away. Thirty British soldiers were killed, 200 wounded, and 35 taken prisoner in the attack. The Americans sustained 157 casualties, including 26 missing or captured.

The battle reenactment took place on a portion of the actual battlefield and attracted a variety of reenactors from across the United States and Canada.


War of 1812 Reenactment at Sackets Harbor

The Second Battle of Sacket’s Harbor was fought on May 29, 1813, during the War of 1812. Americans repulsed a British attack on the naval yard. To commemorate the battle, Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site held a reenactment August 5 & 6, 2017. This footage is from Saturday, August 5th. Music is “Assembly: Spumoni: the Red Joke, the White Joke March, Green Joke” by Middlesex County Volunteers Fifes and Drums. I apologize for the poor audio quality, but it was incredibly windy and I tried to minimize it as best I could. Watch in HD for full effect.

War of 1812 Skirmish at Sackets Harbor

War of 1812 skirmish at Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site, New York, August 6, 2017. Forsyth’s Company, U.S. 1st Regiment of Riflemen led by Major Benjamin Forsyth fought a delaying action against the British at the Second Battle of Sacket’s Harbor, May 29, 1813. Skirmishers fought in open ranks using the Harpers Ferry Model 1803 rifle and deliberately picked targets rather than rely on massed fire. Music by Middlesex County Volunteers Fifes and Drums. Watch in HD for full effect.


War of 1812 Artillery Demonstration

War of 1812 artillery demonstration at Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site, New York, August 5 and 6, 2017. Gun is a small naval cannon mounted on a wooden carriage. Sunday’s weather was much better and less windy – you can probably tell which shot was filmed on Saturday! Watch in HD for full effect.

Battle of Big Sandy Creek

Lake Ontario was strategically vital during the War of 1812. Over water, the British could easily send men and supplies from their Canadian colony into the other Great Lakes or use waterways to strike inland. Likewise, the Americans could use the lake as a route to attack Canada. Sackets Harbor in Upstate New York was an important naval yard and key to American control of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

The quickest way to transport vital ship-building supplies from the Brooklyn Naval Yards on Long Island to Sackets Harbor was by river to Albany, from Albany to the Mohawk River, to Wood Creek and Oneida Lake, and finally the Oswego River to Lake Ontario. British destruction of Fort Ontario at the mouth of the Oswego River complicated things, however. The supplies had to be transported at night past patrolling British ships in Lake Ontario.

On the night of May 28, 1814, Major Daniel Appling and Lieutenant Melancthon Taylor Woolsey were transporting supplies north to Sacketts Harbor in 19 boats, along with 150 riflemen. A contingent of 120 Oneida braves accompanied the shipment along the shoreline. A boat somehow floated off course and was captured by the British.