Black River Trail

New York

13 Reviews

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Black River Trail Facts

States: New York
Counties: Jefferson
Length: 4.5 miles
Trail end points: Dead end of Walker Ave., just east of NY 3/Eastern Blvd. (Watertown) and State Route 3/Rutland St. (Village of Black River)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6032227

Black River Trail Description

This paved scenic trail, converted from the New York Central Railroad, follows a small portion of the Black River’s 114-plus miles. Originating in the Adirondack foothills, the Black River flows west to empty into Lake Ontario, near the Thousand Islands region between northern New York State and southeastern Ontario.

If you are starting your trip at Watertown and heading east to the village of Black River, consider exploring the downtown area before you set out. Watertown reached its peak during the Gilded Age, when it was rumored to have a higher percentage of millionaires than any other city in the United States thanks to its status as a manufacturing center. Nature lovers can explore the urban Thompson Park, designed by Frederick L. Olmsted and donated to the city by industrialist John C. Thompson in 1889. The park includes walking trails and houses the New York State Zoo.

Near the heart of downtown Watertown, the western endpoint of the Black River Trail can be found behind an apartment complex at the dead end of Walker Avenue. The western trailhead includes a small parking lot with an information panel and a map.

The Black River Trail is smooth, flat, and well maintained, making it ideal for a relaxing stroll or bike ride following the river east. It has numerous scenic views and overlooks, as well as several drop-in points for canoe and kayak portage or fishing. In winter, the path is also suitable for snowshoeing.

After 4.5 miles, your journey ends at the eastern endpoint in the village of Black River. The small community began in the early 1800s with the erection of a mill on the south side of the river. Today, it includes two small river islands and a park that overlooks the town and river. Just before NY 3/East Rutland Street meets the river, the trail ends at the Black River Trailhead, where parking can be found.

As you approach Black River, you’ll be greeted by a picturesque view of the Brookfield Power dam, nearby rapids, and the Poors Island Recreation Area. Poors Island is located 1 mile northeast of the eastern trailhead, heading toward the village of Black River, and boasts the best views of the river and dam. To top it off, an area complete with grill, picnic tables, and additional parking makes Poors Island the perfect spot for a picnic lunch.

Parking and Trail Access

Parking is available at either end of the trail. An additional trailhead with parking is located 0.5 mile east of the western endpoint, where the trail intersects Ridge Road.

To access the western endpoint in Watertown from I-81, take Exit 45 toward Arsenal St./Watertown/NY 3. If heading northbound, turn right onto Arsenal St.; if southbound, turn left onto NY 3 E/Arsenal St. In 1.8 miles, continue onto Public Square, which turns into NY 12/State St. in 0.2 mile. In 1.4 miles, turn left onto NY 3 E/Eastern Blvd., heading toward the river. In 0.2 mile, turn right onto Ohio St., then take an immediate left onto Walker Ave. Follow Walker Ave. through the apartment complex until it dead-ends at the parking lot for the trail.

To access the eastern endpoint from I-81, follow the above directions to the intersection of NY 12/State St. and NY 3 E/Eastern Blvd. Turn left and follow NY 3 E/Eastern Blvd. 4.8 miles (during which Eastern Blvd. becomes Rutland St. and Rutland St. crosses the Black River into the village of Black River). Parking at the eastern trailhead is on the right immediately after crossing the bridge.

Black River Trail Reviews

This trail is really nice and especially beautiful this time of the year. Leaves were everywhere. The views of the river were very nice.

This trail is really nice and especially beautiful this time of the year. Leaves were everywhere. The views of the river were very nice.


The views along the river are beautiful and the trail is really well maintained

Great for skateboarding/longboarding

I went here recently and it was a skaters dream the roads are super well taken care of and it’s very scenic, I highly recommend coming here


This trail was amazing just to walk.


I have walked this trail for years and it it always fascinating. Very well maintained. Heavily trafficked but the width of the trail is large enough for runners/walkers coming and going.

I have walked this trail for years and it it always fascinating. Very well maintained. Heavily trafficked but the width of the trail is large enough for runners/walkers coming and going.

Black River trail extended 2017

My total mileage measured 4.5 from the parking lot off Route 3 in Black River to the new addition on parking lot on Walker Ave., located in the city of Watertown. This trail now has three parking lots. It also crosses three roads with road crossing right-a-way lights. It is well maintained. On the new addition in the city of Watertown area, there is a Good will .. food share box and when in season, a vegetable garden that is shared with those using this trail. Future plans are to extend this trail to downtown Watertown where it will once again follow the black river!

Beautiful trail

Nice flat asphalt trail, beautiful surroundings, mike markers, 3.5 miles from end to end. As a petite woman, I felt a little isolated at first but I felt very safe on the trail once others were on the trail also. It's was easy to do a 9 mile run. Can't wait to go back.


I grew up in Black River and have frequent home visits yet never explored the trail until this Thanksgiving day. What a treasure! I ran the trail end to end glorifying in the beauty of the river and the trail. It was mostly snow covered. I loved the little bridges over the running water, the abandoned farm equipment, the rock formation, the wooden rail fence at Huntington St. I took many photos and will plan to frequent it more often.

Great Experience

Ran this trail in July while on vacation.Beautiful scenery,asphalt pavement was very smooth considering how severe winters are in Watertown,and trail was quite uncrowded.It was summer and my run was accompanied by large biting bugs that left welts.Bring bug spray!Overall,a great running trail.

a popular and beautiful trail

This is a heavily used trail, with lots of dog-walkers, cyclists, joggers, and some skaters. It is beautiful and well maintained, with good fishing spots at both ends. The Black River end has lots of places to walk down to the river and fish or picnic on the rocks, and also to portage kayaks or canoes for a 3.5 mile paddle down to the dam and the next portage spot off of rte. 3. Mornings and evenings I've seen deer, porcupines, foxes, beaver, and once a snapping turtle laying eggs next to the trail. Lots of chipmunks and birds--at least one pileated woodpecker has a nest near the trail. This is a great trail for a walk after dinner or an early bike ride before work!

Black River Trail

This is good to know about. I'm up in Watertown twice a year and didn't know this existed. I'll check it out in May while I'm there and give a review. Sound like a great trail.

D. Larrabee 2/9/11

The trail is now completed, being paved between both parking lots. It's nice to see so many people who would not have left their home if it were not for this great trail. Those with dogs have done and excellent job being sure their pet doesn't deposit their waste on the trail. Good for all seasons!!

A well used, well loved trail.

You can tell from the number of people on this trail that it is well loved. Paved most of the way, with the State planning to finish the paving this year, it's a great trail for any off-road use that requires a hard surface.

My ride notes:

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