Saratoga Spa State Park is famous for its mineral springs, but I’ve always liked it for the crayfish.
Countless childhood picnics at the park included a foray into Geyser Brook, a slippery rock in hand. Nearly up to my knees in the brisk current, my dad taught me how to tap my rock gently on larger, partially submerged ones. Often, as if answering the door, a crayfish would emerge from beneath. I got pretty good at catching them, holding the angry little crustaceans up proudly for the folding-chair-sitters on the bank to see before returning them to the stream.
As the years went by, the park became a go-to place for preconcert cookouts, bike rides and cross-country skiing excursions. I’ve attended parties there, gone to plays and concerts on the grounds and shopped at the farmers market that sets up shop on-site.
There’s so much more to do in the park, too, especially during summer. Here are some more great reasons to go:
• The Island Spouter — This active geyser, which can be viewed from the path along Geyser Brook, sends a spray of water up 10 to 15 feet in the air. It shoots skyward from a large, orange mound made from built-up mineral deposits. Walk upstream a ways and you’ll see the massive, orange mineral dome deposited by Orenda Spring. Sometimes you can find leaves and sticks crusty with the minerals the spring leaves behind.
• The mineral spring water — The park has six springs that can be sampled. Each has its own unique taste due to the minerals in the mix. The water is clear and cool, but watch out — some of the springs have a taste reminiscent of rotten eggs. For a map of the springs, visit www.saratoga.com/things-to-do/springs.
You can submerge yourself in the spring water at the Roosevelt Baths and Spa, also located in the park. For details, visit www.gideonputnam.com/Spa.aspx.
• Outdoor sports opportunities — The park has about 12 miles of trails for hiking, running and biking. Some trails are paved and others are dirt paths that wind through the woods. There are also tennis courts, two pools, a championship 18-hole golf course and a challenging 9-hole one.
• Culture — The park is home to Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Spa Little Theater, Saratoga Automobile Museum and the National Museum of Dance.
• Food — The Gideon Putnam Resort and Spa offers upscale fare, while Catherine’s in the Park provides a more casual dining experience. On Sundays and Tuesdays, the Spa City Farmers’ Market sells locally grown and produced fare. For more information on the market, visit www.spacityfarmersmarket.com.
If you decide to picnic at the park, there are tables all over the place — some beneath pavilions — and bathrooms are located throughout the grounds.
There is an $8 per car fee to enter the park. Gates are typically open from dawn to dusk.
For more information on all Saratoga Spa State Park has to offer, visit www.nysparks.com/parks/saratogaspa or call 584-2535.