Old Fort Niagara entrance cover

Old Fort Niagara

In Fort Niagara, at the mouth of the Niagara River on Lake Ontario, visitors can enjoy hiking, swimming in the pool, exploring the nature center, and, on a clear day, taking in the spectacular view of Toronto’s skyline. The fort was vital to military success, controlling access to the Great Lakes and resources in the frontier. Fort Niagara was occupied by French, British, and American forces during its complex 300-year history. Before you go, read up on its history.

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Fort Niagara State Park sign

Fort Niagara State Park

Old Fort Niagara is located in the northwest corner of Fort Niagara State Park. Admission fees are separate for the park and the fort.


Old Fort Niagara Visitor Center

Start your visit at the Visitor Center, where you can explore a small history museum and watch a video about the history of the Fort before heading out to explore the grounds.

Old Fort Niagara entrance
Old Fort Niagara State Park New York
Old Fort Niagara castle
Old Fort Niagara trunk
Old Fort Niagara desk
Old Fort Niagara bed

The French Castle

As per the information available on the Old Fort Niagara website, the architectural collection at the site comprises six buildings from the 18th century, which are the oldest standing structures of any kind in the entire Great Lakes region. The oldest among these is called the French Castle, which was built in 1726 and holds the distinction of being the oldest building in North America, located between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River.

Fort Niagara boasts a rich military history, tracing back to 1726. As you explore the area, guides dressed in period costumes will narrate the story of the place. You can climb up two towers to enjoy an extensive view of the Fort and Lake Ontario. Additionally, the castle offers even broader views, giving you a unique glimpse into life within a colonial fort.

soldiers standing guard

Battle Reenactments

The organizers of battle reenactments center their events around various wars, such as the Revolutionary War, French-Indian War, Civil War, and Soldiering through the Ages. To keep up with their events, I follow them on Facebook. During major events, they provide guided tours to the battlefields where the reenactments are held.

Fort Niagara served as a vital stronghold for 300 years during several significant wars, including the French and Indian Wars, the War of 1812, the American Revolutionary War, and the American Civil War. As a result, the historical reenactments could depict battles between France and England or between England and the United States.

native American allies
Old Fort Niagara Native American reenactors

There are several historical events that are reenacted at different times throughout the year. For instance, the French and Indian War Encampment showcases the siege of 1759, while the Patriots Day Weekend commemorates the start of the American Revolution in 1775. Additionally, the War of 1812 Encampment is a night battle that recreates the British assault of 1813.

During battles at Old Fort Niagara, the walkway between the visitor center and the fort is closed. However, you can still watch the battle from the fort on an embankment or from next to the visitor center. When I visited on Independence Day weekend, I decided to observe the battle from the visitor center.

Not only were we near the restroom, drinking fountain, and air-conditioned building, but we were also right next to the soldiers and Native Americans fighting for the British to retake the fort from the French.

Old Fort Niagara lighthouse
Old Fort Niagara lighthouse

Old Fort Niagara Lighthouse

The 1872 lighthouse at the mouth of the Niagara River is the fourth of its kind, but it is not open for tours.

Old Fort Niagara State Park

More information about Old Fort Niagara

Cost: Admission fee

Located in Youngstown, roughly 90 minutes / 100 miles from Rochester (get directions)

More information: oldfortniagara.org

Old Fort Niagara is the northernmost stop for the Discover Niagara Shuttle, the southernmost being Niagara Falls State Park.

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Old Fort Niagara tunnel
Old Fort Niagara

When is your favorite time to visit Old Fort Niagara?

Your insights and experiences are valuable. Please share them in the comments.

Debi Bower, Day Trips Around Rochester NY

Debi Bower is the founder and creative director of daytrippingroc.com and author of the award-winning book Day Trips Around Rochester, New York.

People often ask me if I get free access to places while exploring. The answer is no unless I’m invited to previews or granted behind-the-scenes access as part of my media role. Generally, I don’t mention my project, Day Trips Around Rochester, NY, because I want the same experience you would have. I create and share content simply because it brings me joy. I would appreciate your support—a cup of coffee or two to help fuel future field trips—if you have found valuable information here that has helped you explore the Rochester area.

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