Bomoseen State Park is on the Vermont, New York border right off Route 4. The park is in the Taconic Mountains and on the shores of a lake by the same name. A fun fact about Lake Bomoseen is that it is the largest lake entirely within Vermont’s borders.
The Taconic range is part of the larger Appalachian Mountains and runs 150 miles from lower New York state through both Connecticut and Massachusetts and ending in mid-Vermont. The name Taconic is believed to be an Algonquian word meaning a tree, a wood, or a forest. I think it’s quite fitting for any mountain range in the northeast.
The Taconic Mountains have a rich history in the state of Vermont because of their ties to the slate industry. There are slate rubble piles in the area which is what we first spotted as we drove to the park.
The name Bomoseen is from the native Indians, it means “keeper of the ceremonial fire.” However, some historians believe the original name may have been Bombazine. But no one argues that native Indians had camps in the area.
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The History of Bomoseen State Park
Bomoseen State Park is part of the old West Castleton Slate Company. Now the area is a quiet recreation park but back in the early 1800s however, it was a thriving slate mill town. The area is rich in both purple and unfading green slate, two of five varieties of slate.
Vermont has very high-quality slate and in the 1840s the expansion of the railroads created a booming market for more slate companies. Out of this new demand came the West Castleton Slate Company.
Slate was used for roofing tiles, fireplaces mantles, billiard tables, and blackboards. In Vermont, they also used it for foundations and steps.
West Castleton Slate Company also made marbleized slate. This is a process that takes inexpensive slate and makes it resemble marble. This allowed the middle class of the day to have ‘marble’ fireplace mantles in their homes for less.
A New Slate Company Emerges
In 1868 a new mill was build specifically to process purple and green flooring, billiard tables, sinks, and washtubs. The dam powered this mill and all its saws. However, in 1870, there was a fire and burn the mill. It was rebuild but on a smaller scale. This is the remains you can see today.
In 1880 the former treasurer took over running the company and changed the name to Lake Shore Slate Co. In the late 1950s, the owner’s stepdaughter donated over 350 acres for a recreation and wildlife sanctuary which is the start of the park.
Part of the land donated for Bomoseen State Park still has remnants of slate buildings and foundations. Glen Lake along with the camping area known as Half Moon State Park as well as the slate company makes up Bomoseen State Park.
Self-Guided Walking Tour of the Slate History Trails
What I find most interesting about Bomoseen State Park is its as well as the area’s ties to the slate industry.
One activity you should make time for during your visit is the Slate History Trails. This is a self-guided walking tour where you will discover slate walls, rubble piles, and an old quarry, now filled with water. In addition, there are several slate buildings you can explore. There is also an old Mill and Dam but we weren’t able to see it well because of the overgrowth.
Our family really enjoyed following the map and finding the different locations on the ruins. Honestly, if I didn’t know better I would have just thought the old quarry was a pond. There are a few foundations clinging to the hillside which is part of the worker’s homes. Yes, during the heyday of the slate industry the workers lived right here so they didn’t have to travel far.
However, I think the high light of the tour is the old 1870 slate mill. The building is at least 80 feet long and made of slate. The majority of the walls still remain with openings for windows. There is a wide opening at the end like a garage door side and someone added a log to the top so it looks complete. It was amazing to see the sizes of the slate used to make this building. The fact that it is still standing in some capacity is amazing.
There are also 3 beautiful slate houses along the road behind the parking area at the park entrance. These are spectacular examples of the slate work done in the area.
Hiking in Bomoseen State Park
We were lucky enough to visit in late June and we got to enjoy 3 fields full of wildflowers during our hikes. We hiked in a few different directions and found some interesting things to look at. Use this map for all the hiking trails at Bomoseen State Park.
I’m not sure which hike I enjoyed most since they were all so different but yet so interesting. The first ‘hike’ was really only a walk. We went to the beach area along Lake Bomoseen and over to the camping grounds. There is a bridge to cross over a small marshy area of the lake. Being on the bridge you feel like you are in a different world. The marsh was full of water lilies and reeds. Simply beautiful.
Our second hike was into the woods behind the old slate houses. These slate houses are pretty amazing. First passing through a wonderful wildflower field with the crickets and insects buzzing. The hike was an easy walk through old and new growth and some areas where the slate is coming up there the ground. Although not along the water this hike was really fun.
Our third hike was over to Glen Lake to explore that lake which was also part of our slate history trail.
Another hike we didn’t do but would be lovely is the hike to Half Moon State Park and campgrounds. This longer hike to Half Moon is approx. 3-1/2 miles but well worth the trip. The trail has some great areas to spot wildlife. Next time we’ll have to leave time so we can hike this trail.
For more fun, you can hike to Vermont’s waterfalls as well.
With a nice sandy beach, it’s easy to spend the day enjoying the lake without much effort. There is a concession stand, picnic pavilion, and a restroom for use as well.
You can also rent either canoes, kayaks, rowboats, or even paddle boats to go out onto the lake. Due to COVID, however, this was closed. I definitely want to go back and go onto the lake in a kayak. I think you really can explore when you are paddling around on the lake.
We saw many people fishing off the dock at Lake Bomoseen as well as over at Glen Lake. One of the kids even caught a small fish, too small to keep but still, the look on his face was priceless.
Camping at Bomoseen State Park
There are 55 campsites at Bomoseen State Park as well as 10 lean-tos. The sites are for either a tent or an RV. There are three different location types for your camping pleasure. You can choose between wooded, open, and grassy, or my favorite the lakeshore.
The facilities are quite nice as well. They offer flush toilets in the restrooms, which by my kid’s standards is a must. As well as hot and cold running water and coin-op hot showers. The campsite also has an RV sanitary station for your convenience.
Vermont State Junior Ranger Badge
My kids love earning National Park Junior Ranger Badges so finding out that Vermont has its own State Park Junior Ranger Badge was pretty special. There are two levels to earn the badge. Salamander is for the 4-8-year-olds and the Beaver is for 9 years old and up. To earn the Vermont State Junior Ranger Badge fill out the required part of this packet and return it to any ranger in a state park.
Pin for Later
Where you come just for the day or stay for a while I hope you find Bomoseen State Park as fascinating as we did. Have you explored any state parks? Which ones? Let me know in the comments.