Central New York is a beautiful place. This central Illinois girl hasn’t had much eastern US exposure. So I was delighted at the opportunity to take part in the Brews & Views tour. This was a tour that was part of the North American Travel Journalist Association (NATJA) conference held this year in Syracuse. One of my favorite things about this travel writer conference besides the professional learning sessions, is the chance to experience the place where the conference is. Here in the Syracuse I found both fascinating history and breathtaking natural beauty.
Green Lakes State Park is filled with natural beauty
There was a lot to love about Green Lakes State Park. Entering the park is a lovely golf course designed by professional golfer Robert Trent Jones. This “masterpiece” golf course made me think of my father, an avid golfer. He would have loved to shoot a round of 18 on this course!
I loved our hike around Green Lake and on to Round Lake. These are glacial lakes surrounded by an upland forest. In 1973, Round Lake and the 100 acres surrounding it were deemed a National Natural Landmark. There are fewer than 600 National Natural Landmarks in the National Registry, and only 26 are located in New York State.
Trail walking around Green Lake
Once we got off the bus, Rose Hammitt and I took a 2.7 mile trail. We walked with Danny Liedka, President and CEO of Visit Syracuse. Danny told us that this mineral enriched lake that is turquoise green is so deep that some divers have never been to the bottom.
The color is turquoise because both Round and Green Lakes are meromictic lake. This means there is no fall and spring mixing of surface and bottom waters. Such lakes have a high potential for evidence of ancient plant and animal life. Because of this phenomenon, no outside boats are allowed on the lakes. We were supposed to take a glass bottom boat ride, but sadly that didn’t happen.
One interesting fact that Danny shared was, “Rumor has it that during WWII they housed prisoners of war here.”
Trees and flowers along the trail
Danny Liedka told us about some of the natural beauty, the plant life Rose and I were seeing along the trail. He mentioned Whispering Pines and maple trees. “There are ferns and just about anything you can imagine. The only thing you won’t see here are oak trees. In the back is an old growth forest where the trees are over 225 years old.”
Lots of wild life is also in the park as well. Although we only saw some fish and a wild journalist or two!
Pratt Falls is part of Onondaga County Park
After leaving Green Lake and Round Lake we traveled onto the lovely Pratt Falls.
Rose and I walked to a trail identified as “somewhat steep stairs” to the lower water falls. “Somewhat” is a rather general term for those that must walk stairs all the time. However, the view was well worth the trek. I was glad I made it to view the 137′ waterfall.
Pratt Falls were formed by retreating glaciers. I was interested in learning that this was also the site of Onondaga County’s first mill operation in 1796.
Heritage Hill Brewhouse Kitchen
Our last stop filled the Brew part of the tour. Heritage Hill Brewhouse & Kitchen is a lovely place. Set on a hill in Pompey, New York not far from Syracuse, you can see eight counties and three lakes — Onondaga, Oneida and Ontario from this farmland perch.
At Heritage Hill you can have a variety of experience. You can visit the brewhouse, dine in the restaurant, and shop in the farm store. With each visit comes the opportunity to see the amazing Heritage Hill view!
These are the sites of natural beauty that we had a chance to enjoy during our stay in Syracuse!
If you enjoyed this article about a natural experience during a NATJA conference, you might also like my story about nature in Pueutro Vallarta.