Most visitors to Oswego County, NY are drawn by the area’s spectacular salmon and trout fishing. But the same pristine waters that support this world-famous fishery – Great Lake Ontario and its tributary streams – provide miles of waterways for glorious paddling adventures. 

Oswego River

The Oswego River is one of a few rivers in the U.S. that flows north. Part of the NYS Barge Canal System and the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, the 23.7-mile waterway provides a critical connection to Lake Ontario and other Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River, and the Erie Canal.  

This waterway provided the inspiration for James Fenimore Cooper’s “The Pathfinder” and was the site of military skirmishes in the French and Indian War and War of 1812. Paddlers can travel through seven locks from Three Rivers to Oswego Harbor, which is the oldest freshwater port in the U.S. 

Along the way look for Pathfinder and Battle Islands, waterfront parks and restaurants, fishing spots, and a variety of architectural styles that reflect the river’s importance as a commercial waterway. 

Local color – 

The Phoenix Bridgehouse Bratsare the youngest ambassadors of the NYS Canal System. Volunteers ages eight to 18 greet boaters, run errands and tend to the area around Lock 1 in the village of Phoenix.

Bordering the east side of the river north of Phoenix is Great Bear Springs Recreation Area. A sandy beach offers a nice spot for a picnic and a swim. Paddlers can explore several sections of the original Oswego Canal locks, towpath and other old structures on the stretch from Phoenix to Minetto.

Look for the H. Lee White Maritime Museum, the only U.S. maritime museum on Lake Ontario, on Oswego’s West Side Pier. Exhibits focus on the area’s diverse history including the Oswego Canal and Lake Ontario. 

For information about paddling the NYS Canal System visit

Deer Creek

Deer Creek is one of several winding tributary streams that flow into eastern Lake Ontario. Paddlers enter the creek from a NYS launch site on Route 3. The channel meanders more than two miles through a maze of flatwater wetlands before entering sand dunes that separate and protect the marshland from the waters of Lake Ontario. The area is abundant with wildlife including deer, muskrat, beaver and waterfowl. 

Salmon River:

The Salmon River is considered a Class III whitewater course, navigable by canoe or kayak during scheduled recreational releases, typically held in June, July, August and September. 

For release schedules and water level information visit call 1-800-452-1737; code 365123.

Salmon River Reservoirs:

Located in northeastern Oswego County, the Redfield Reservoir is nearly seven miles long and comprises more than 2,600 acres. Look for bald eagles, herons, deer and other wildlife at this scenic and remote waterbody. Primitive camping is permitted on the eastern side of the reservoir.

The Lighthouse Hill reservoir is northeast of the Salmon River Fish Hatchery. This smaller reservoir is also popular with paddlers and anglers. Look for osprey nests on the power line poles along the edge of the reservoir.

Visitor information:; 1.800.248-4FUN (4386)

Whitewater rafting:

Guided kayak tours:

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