“In Massena?!” This is pretty much the reaction the customs officer had when I told him that I was going to hike in Massena. Which is a normal reaction, I guess. When you find yourself so close to the beautiful Adirondacks region, it’s hard to believe that you could choose to go hiking in Massena instead.
But I had a good reason for wanting to go to Massena. I recently signed up for the St. Lawrence County Great 8 Challenge, which aims to help people discover a few trails in this county of Upstate New York, south of the St. Lawrence River. This challenge has three categories, each highlighting 8 trails to explore in the county. And one of those trails is at Robert Moses State Park in Massena.
As Massena is the American city located closest to my home, I’ve already been there a few times, most of the time to go shop and buy products that you can’t find in Canada (hello coconut and caramel flavoured Oreo!), but I had never before visited the state park there.
A side note: there are two State Parks in New York State named after Robert Moses (an American urban planner who had considerable influence in New York). In addition to that of Massena, there is also a Robert Moses State Park in Long Island. I mention this because I entered the wrong address in Google Maps and I panicked a little when I saw the number of kilometres I had to drive (don’t worry, I realized my mistake before ending up in Long Island).
Robert Moses State Park in Massena is located on the shore of the St. Lawrence River. It has several campgrounds, cabins, a marina and a beach, but I was there to explore its hiking trails, which can be accessed near the Nicandri Nature Center. There are a few trails there, and the Great 8 Challenge doesn’t specify which ones need to be hiked as part of the challenge, so I decided I would just try to explore the area as much as possible. After looking at the map at the parking lot, I decided to start by following the Upper Loop.
The trails of Robert Moses State Park go through different types of habitats and offer some viewpoints on the St. Lawrence River. There are also many interpretation signs with information on the fauna and flora of the park. The trails are wide, flat, and well maintained (so it really wasn’t a challenging hike).
Interestingly, there were previously many farms and residences in the area. But with the construction of the power dam on the St. Lawrence River (dam that can be seen from the park) in the 1950s, the water level rose, and hundreds of people had to be relocated. Once the farms were gone, the forest went back to its natural state.
After completing the Upper Loop, I continued my hike on the Lower Loop. There too, the trails pass through different habitats, including an old ski slope (the old ski cabin now houses bats), marshy fields and a swamp. And there too, many interpretation signs. It’s not a very difficult hike, but it’s definitely an educational hike!
The Lower Loop eventually brought me back to where I started. In all, I hiked nearly 5 kilometres, and I enjoyed my visit. Proof that hiking in Massena was really not such a crazy idea!