One visit to Old Fort Niagara and you can see why this spot at the mouth of the Niagara River was strategic gold. The fort was vital to military success, controlling access to the Great Lakes and resources in 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.
Skip the Thruway and take the back-roads to Old Fort Niagara. You’ll drive through small towns and rural countrysides and there are plenty of places to stop and pick in-season fruit. Old Fort Niagara is located at the mouth of the Niagara River on the shores of Lake Ontario. You can imaging the views are incredible, and on a clear day you can see the Toronto skyline. Take NY-18 (The Lake Ontario Seaway Trail) through Lyndonville to check out the Shoe Trees. Or NY-104 down the Cobblestone Trail.
The State Park
Old Fort Niagara is located in the north-west corner of Fort Niagara State Park. There is a vehicle entrance fee for the park, and that cost is deducted from your Old Fort Niagara ticket. The park has a Nature Center, woodland hiking trails, two boat launches providing access to the Lower Niagara River and Lake Ontario, picnic grounds, playgrounds, a water slide and swimming pools (additional fee).
There have been multiple lights on the land here at the mouth of the Niagara River. The first Fort Niagara Light was established on the roof of the stone fort in 1781. The 1872 lighthouse that still stands is the forth iteration. Visitors are able to observe the lighthouse from the grounds, but the tower is closed.
The Visitor Center
Enter through the Visitor Center, stroll through a small history museum, watch a video about the history of Fort, and then you’re off to explore the grounds.
Fort Niagara has a diverse military history dating back to 1726. Interpreters in period costume and manor tell the story of place as you wander. There are two towers you can ascend to take in the view of the Fort and Lake Ontario. The “castle” affords even wider views, and a unique perspective on life in a colonial fort.
According to the Old Fort Niagara website, “The architectural collection includes six 18th-century buildings, the oldest extant structures of any type in the entire Great Lakes region. The earliest, known as the French Castle, was built in 1726 and is the oldest building in North America situated between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River. “
Battle reenactments are themed by Revolutionary, French-Indian War, Civil War, and Soldiering through the Ages. I follow their events on Facebook to see what’s coming. During major events, they do guided tours out to the battlefields where the action is.
Fort Niagara was active for 300 years as a strategic stronghold during the French and Indian Wars, War of 1812, American Revolutionary War, and American Civil War. Therefore, the reenactments could reflect battles between France and England, or England and The United States.
For example, French and Indian War Encampment features the siege of 1759, Patriots Day Weekend commemorates the beginning of the American Revolution in 1775, and War of 1812 Encampment is a night battle that recreates the British assault of 1813.
When battles take place, they close the walkway between the visitor center and Fort Niagara. You can observe the battle from the fort on an embankment, or next to the visitor center. We decided to watch from the visitor center when we went on Independence Day weekend. Not only were we right next to the soldiers and Native Americans fighting for the British to retake the fort from the French, we were also near the restrooms, drinking fountain and air conditioned building!
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 northernmost stop for the Discover Niagara Shuttle, the southernmost being Niagara Falls State Park.
Venture into one of these New York State Parks within a 2-hour drive of Rochester and discover what makes them each unique!
When is your favorite time to visit Old Fort Niagara?
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