Rural landscapes, country fairs and endless trails. They’re all found in a sparsely populated swath that stretches from the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains to the eastern shore of Lake Ontario. The dozen or so communities in this area offer an alternative to the hustle and bustle that comes with summer weekends up along the St. Lawrence River or Lake Ontario shoreline.

Here, things slow down and there’s plenty of time and space for leisurely recreation and laid-back fun.

Black River Communities

The Black River flows for more than 100 miles from the lower Adirondacks to Lake Ontario. Along the way, it passes through places such as Carthage, Felts Mills and Herrings. This stretch of the Black is slow, smooth and tranquil. There’s none of the whitewater rapids that are found downriver in Watertown. Here, access points are used by flatwater paddlers seeking a leisurely canoe or kayak ride. Find access points, swimming spots and more at the Black River NY website.

people walking on a bridge

Bird watchers enjoy this stretch of the Black River for its ample public parks, walking trails and boat launches. Popular riverside recreation areas are Turning Point Park and Long Falls Park in Carthage and Getman Park in West Carthage.

Just west of the Black River is the Pickney State Forest, part of the Tug Hill Region and its vast, open characteristics. At more than 2,000 acres, Pickeny is a great spot for hiking, camping, bicycling and fishing.

A little further west toward Lake Ontario is Washington Park and Trails, a lesser-known recreation area in the town of Lorraine with trails, a stream and picnic facilities.

Food and Drink

Busted Grapes Winery is located in Black River – the town, not the actual river – and offers a dozen wines produced on site to be enjoyed in a rural, barn-style tasting room. On the opposite end of Southern Jefferson County lies Gram’s Diner, one of those out-of-the-way gems that ranked No. 2 in a recent list of Upstate New York Diners.

The communities along the southern portion of Jefferson County offer a stark contrast from the vacation experience along the more populated St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario areas. For those looking to slow down, take a swing through and see what you discover.