June 25, 2019

Northampton Beach Campground - "The Lake is My Happy Place"

We’re back.  Again.  Due to a complete revision of our spring travel plans, Alan and I ended up at Northampton Beach Campground in Mayfield, New York, almost immediately after we arrived home from our recent round trip to the Florida Keys.  We did cancel the first week of our stay at Northampton Beach, because we simply didn’t arrive home in time from the Keys.  As disappointed as we were to miss that first week, we were thrilled to have been able to continue what has become an annual tradition for our family.

A hint of sunrise on the lake

Throughout most of my adult life, I didn’t understand why families would return to the same place for vacation year after year.  While Alan and I had been collecting favorite destinations that we would occasionally return to over the years, we never wanted to be tied down to one place because there is so much to see and do throughout this great country of ours.  Ten years ago this summer, we built a summer camping trip in the Adirondack Mountains of New York around the only three days we could get a lakefront site at the Northampton Beach Campground.  We’ve been back every year since, fitting in at least one week at the lake around our other travels.  Now, finally, I understand.  Until we started camping at Northampton Beach, there had never been a place that worked itself so deeply into my heart that I needed to return.  Every.  Single.  Year.  
Do you see that white trailer on the right?  That's us at our first campsite in 2009.

Northampton Beach Campground is located directly on the shore of Great Sacandaga Lake in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains in central New York. According to the web site Visit Sacandaga (link HERE), the lake is 29 miles long with a maximum width of 5 miles and an average depth of 40 feet.  It was formed in 1930 when the Conklingville Dam was finished and the Sacandaga Valley was flooded to create a lake in an effort to control flooding in the valley and along the Hudson River.  I have no doubt that emotions ran as high as the valley’s waters, since many residents were bought out by the state and relocated, family farms were lost and entire cemeteries had to be moved.

Northampton Beach Campground, on the northwestern shore of Great Lake Sacandaga, is large – over 200 sites – and operated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).  The DEC maintains a number of excellent campgrounds in the state, and we’ve been quite impressed with the ones we’ve stayed at due to the beautiful locations, helpful staff members and well-kept facilities.  I’ve posted about our stays at Northampton Beach Campground (simply known as “Sacandaga” to our family) in the past and, I have no doubt, will continue to do so in the future.  Although it’s not near our home, we think of it “our lake,” as do a great number of other people, I’m sure.  With its clear, clean water surrounded by low rolling mountains, summer homes and family camps, lovely year-round homes, marinas, RV parks and small town restaurants, all in all it’s an absolutely gorgeous but low-key setting, and it’s not difficult to understand why these waters draw so many visitors.  Great Lake Sacandaga is a place where outdoor enthusiasts engage in all kinds of water play, families turn fun-filled adventures into lasting memories and those who seek solitude in nature can find a deeply restorative peace.

Boating our way toward the Conklingville Dam under cotton candy skies

This time around, Alan and I spent about a week at the lake.  It wasn’t our most enjoyable stay since showers and rain dominated much of the week, and we were working hard to fit in our favorite activities – usually not such a difficult task.  Sadly, we ended up suggesting that Kyra, Ryan and Anya (our daughter, son and our son’s girlfriend) not make a trip to the lake based on the forecast for the Father’s Day weekend.  So, Alan ended up with phone calls from our kids rather than visits.  Even so, the lake is magical no matter what the weather, and we appreciated a chance to wind down from the often hectic 4,000+ mile trip we had just concluded.  Savoring our morning coffee while taking in life on the inlet through our big back window never gets old, and it remains a perfect way for us to start the day no matter what the weather.

The view out our back window

Certainly, our activities at Sacandaga center around the lake itself.  We usually bring our power boat and our kayaks since the 29 mile length of the lake and its countless coves and inlets provide plenty of opportunity to explore by both.  Had Ryan joined us for the weekend, he would have trailered his jet ski along on the trip and enjoyed riding with Anya and Kyra.

Ryan and his jet ski in 2018

Bikes, too, always accompany our trips to the lake due to the access to both local bike trails and the Erie Canalway Trail.  Plus, the large, level campground with plenty of gorgeous lake views provides a place for leisurely rides to take in the sights and check out other camping rigs and set ups.  (One family had an awesome set up to beat back the rain . . . Directly in front of a large family tent, was an EZ-Up canopy protecting their picnic table and supplies.  Covering both the tent and the EZ-Up was a large rain fly, neatly situated and adequately secured.  The whole thing looked way too professional to be a first time contraption - those campers knew what they were doing!)

The Erie Canalway ~ Lock E-15 in Fort Plain, New York

Just outside Northampton Beach Campground is a small but fun-to-play miniature golf course with a spectacular view of the lake and one of the boat-filled marinas that can be found along its shores.  With a little too much water dripping from the sky, we passed on mini-golf this time around.  That was fine by me because the last time I got creamed.  However, we did visit our favorite ice cream stand several times during our stay.  It is, literally, “Udderly Delicious.”  To be fair, we also checked out “Zippy’s,” a new ice cream stand in the neighborhood, and found it to be quite acceptable, as well.  In other words, “Yummy, yummy!”  Relaxing at the campsite, we watched the resident ducks swimming by, boats being launched, kayakers paddling across the inlet, and fishermen and women waiting patiently for the catch of the day.  It was a virtual kaleidoscope of life that let us know all was right with the natural world, and it brought with it a quiet contentment.

Some of our adventures begin at the boat dock.

There is something about this lake that allows me to relax completely and enjoy life at its simple best.  In no way do I lead a stressful life, but here amid nature’s beauty and wildlife and with the happy sounds of other camping families around us, any tension and worldly cares just seem to slip away.  Many people find exceptionally restorative destinations in the wilds of Alaska, the desert Southwest or on a beach of sparkling sand.  For me, that special place is Northampton Beach on Great Lake Sacandaga.

Kyra and Anya on the Campers' Beach in 2018

Two or three years ago, Ryan and Anya gave me a plaque that reads, “The lake is my happy place.”  And so it is.  Although it took many decades to do it, I’ve found a destination that I love to return to year after year.  Here I can enjoy the outdoor activities that recharge my batteries and refresh my soul.  Gliding by a great blue heron when it’s fishing in the inlet, biking along the Erie Canalway where we can watch boats traverse a lock along the river, tying on lines and fenders as we get ready to slip our own boat into the water for an afternoon of exploration – these are the activities that we love and live for.  But, even more meaningful than the activities we enjoy at Great Lake Sacandaga, is the pure pleasure we get from sharing the lake and our traditions as a family.  The teasing and laughter, outdoor activities and water sports, bacon and egg breakfasts and toasted marshmallows around the campfire – heck, even the crazy photos the kids sneak onto my camera – are all diamonds on my necklace of memories, representing moments in time and our treasured experiences at Northampton Beach.  The lake is, indeed, my happy place.   And I wear that happiness well.

How about you?  Do you have a special refuge or vacation spot that you like to return to?  Please do share in the comments section below!


  1. Hi, Mary,
    Great pictures! Sorry that the rain dampened things down a bit, but at least you're in your happy place. We have traveled most of the country and love to discover new places and experience new things, but when we just want to sit and enjoy nature and each other's company, we always return to our favorite campground in Cherokee, NC to sit by the creek and soak up some mountain air. Hope you're doing well. Joe

    1. Joe, I remember your favorite campground from the photos you've posted on your blog. I'm liking that one a lot, too, and I haven't even been there! We're in a summer travel lull right now, but it feels good to catch up on home projects and fit in a little front porch sitting. Thanks for stopping by. Hope you and Helen have a delightful Fourth of July!


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