A season filled with events is upon us, and so are activities and gatherings of all varieties including weddings, graduation celebrations, and class and family reunions.
Anyone organizing a celebration should do some advanced planning. A primary concern is location. The setting needs to be easily accessible for all attendees and should provide shelter if the weather decides not to cooperate. The location also needs to have adequate space for the size of the group and be appropriately equipped to handle meal preparation and seating, which is generally the central focus of any celebration. Bonuses are scenic and attractive surroundings, and some access to recreational opportunities to keep the group's active members entertained and any children occupied.
Let me introduce you to one option that sits directly on the Adirondack Coast and covers all of the bases for a fair-sized group. In the town of Willsboro, a bit north of the hamlet of Essex on state Route 22 — also known as Lake Shore Road — are fantastic public grounds called Noblewood Park.
In 1999 the town of Willsboro and the Nature Conservancy partnered to create this park and nature preserve, which encompasses 69 wooded and open acres directly along the Boquet River delta and Lake Champlain. You could not ask for a more scenic, genuine Adirondack-Lake Champlain location. The park is open to visitors daily from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. throughout the summer season.
Within the park, sitting on a bluff overlooking Lake Champlain, is the Lodge.
The rustic Adirondack-style exterior of this great gathering space blends beautifully with the surroundings. Views from the Lodge and its grounds are breathtaking. They take in a wide view of Lake Champlain and Vermont’s Green Mountains along the eastern horizon. The building itself contains 1,800 square feet of interior space, a full kitchen, and two restrooms — ideal!
French doors from the central space allow you to invite a bit of the outdoors in, should the weather be enticing. There are enough tables and chairs to accommodate 80 guests and the smooth, polished floor provides a superb surface for dancing should guests want to frolic to music.
Outdoor recreation options abound at Noblewood. Down a well-kept trail from the Lodge is a sandy swimming beach. This beach is open daily through the summer while a lifeguard is on duty from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Be sure to check at the park ranger station at the entrance to confirm beach swimming hours on the day you plan to visit.
Paddling guests are encouraged to bring their equipment. Canoeists and kayakers can paddle Lake Champlain or paddle into the mouth of the Boquet River. In fact, paddling can continue upriver into the town of Willsboro, about a 2.5-mile stretch.
Birders and naturalists love this park. Scientists and biodiversity groups use Noblewood Park to collect data, identify, and inventory the wide variety of plants, animals, and organisms residing in the region. BirdWatchingDaily.com ranks Noblewood Park as the premier birdwatching hotspot in the entire Champlain Valley. Of course waterfowl like loons, herons, and a variety of ducks are frequently spotted near or on the water, but an assortment of other birds like sparrows, woodpeckers, warblers, and even bald eagles are often sighted in the wooded park grounds, along the marsh-like river delta, and in the open areas.
Within the park is a superb hiking trail approximately 1 mile in length. This Noblewood Park Trail is just one in the regional collection of 49 trails promoted by Champlain Area Trails. CATS ranks this trail as “easy,” which means young and old alike can explore nature and the park while stretching their legs on a hike.
Those looking to extend their adventure can continue on to two nearby CATS trails. Approximately two-tenths of a mile away on state Route 22, hikers will find the trailhead for Florence Hathaway Park Nature Trail, another easy 1-mile loop. This trail passes through a pine forest and some seasonally wet areas. Eventually it connects to Sophie’s Lair Trail, yet another 2 miles worth of hiking through a variety of wooded areas, along wetlands, and across small creeks.
Some guests may be traveling from afar or simply want to extend their visit and stay overnight. The park offers six primitive tent sites available for those agreeable to basic, uncomplicated camping and willing to tote along a tent and supplies. Nearby, everything from waterfront cabins and cottages, to delightful B&Bs, to historic inns, can be found within a few minutes’ drive.
Lodge rentals begin at $150 and tent sites $12. Contact the town of Willsboro Parks and Recreation Department for all of the details, to check on availability, and to make reservations: (518) 963-8668 or parksandrec@TownofWillsboro,NY.gov.