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Fingers Lakes Region New York

THE FINGER LAKES

The Finger Lakes are a chain of 11 glacially-formed freshwater lakes located in Western and Central New York State. It is not hard to imagine why these lakes reminded the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) people of giant, liquid phalanges. The region boasts more than 100 wineries, is the home to a wealth of notable history, and contains geographical beauty that will make you want to throw on your hiking boots and get lost! This article is intended to highlight the attractions in the small towns around the six major Finger Lakes. For information on larger cities in or near the Finger Lakes Region such as Rochester, Ithaca, or the Corning/Elmira area, please see Trekker Time’s corresponding links.

The Finger Lakes that are considered to be minor members of the chain include Conesus, Hemlock, Canadice, Honeoye and Otisco.

HISTORY

Perhaps it is foolish to say that the Fingers Lakes Region is an unlikely hotbed of history—after all, history can be made anywhere—but so much history traces its roots back to this region, it is almost as if there is a magnet in the sky that draws heroes, tragedies, and miracles. Finger Lakes Region bears witness to the honoring of an enslaved peoples’ newfound freedom, the crippling of Native American culture, the birth of new faiths, and the start of a new social movement.

Harriet Tubman House

When the pioneer of the Underground Railroad Harriet Tubman retired from her work, she was encouraged by William H. Seward (who spearheaded the motion for the United States to purchase Alaska from Russia) to settle in Auburn, New York. Still not through performing her good works, Tubman opened a home for elderly blacks in the city, which visitors now tour. The Harriet Tubman House is open Tuesday through Saturday. More information can be found on the Harriet Tubman House Web site, http://www.harriethouse.org/.

Burned Over District

In the early 1800s, a religious fervor spread across the still “wild” west-central region of New York State, but the region suffered from a lack of trained clergy. It was perhaps this mix of spirituality and rough frontier spirit that encouraged the up-cropping of various new religions. None are more well-known today than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which traces its roots to Palmyra, north of Canandaigua Lake. It is there, on Hill Cumorach, where Joseph Smith says he was instructed by the Angel Moroni to dig up inscribed golden plates, from which came the Book of Mormon. An annual outdoor theater performance commemorating this takes place annually in early July.

The Birthplace of Women’s Rights

The Seneca Falls Convention, an influential women’s rights convention which is often cited as a huge step toward female equality in politics and civil rights, took place in Seneca Falls, New York (located, oddly enough, just west of Cayuga Lake, not Seneca Lake) in 1848. The Women’s Rights National Historical Park is located at five sites throughout town. More information for visitors can be gleaned from the park’s Web site: http://www.nps.gov/wori/index.htm.

Glenn Curtiss Museum

Fans of airplanes and aviation should stop by the Glenn Curtiss Museum, located in the aviator and aircraft builder’s hometown of Hammondsport, New York, on the southern shore of Keuka Lake. Check out the Web site at http://www.glennhcurtissmuseum.org.

WINERIES

The depth of the Finger Lakes has created a macroclimate that is conducive to effective wine-growing. The deep waters retain warmth from the summer sun throughout winter, preventing young grape plants from dying in the frosts of springtime. Since the 1800s, humans have enjoyed this special gift from the Finger Lakes.

The Finger Lakes are home to an impressive number of wineries, so listing them would either be exceedingly arduous or unfair, as some terrific wineries are sure to be overlooked. There are four major wine trails in the Finger Lakes region, (appropriately named Keuka, Canandaigua, Seneca and Cayuga for the lakes to which they are in closest proximity) and countless wineries are situated outside of the properly recognized trails. The best bet for professional vintners, wine enthusiasts and beginners alike would be to research the wineries and pick a tour that matches your desired experience. The following two Web sites are terrific sources: http://www.fingerlakes.org/wineries.htm and www.fingerlakeswinecountry.com.

ACTIVITIES

Around Canandaigua Lake (largest town/city: Canandaigua)

Canandaigua Lake is the fourth-largest in the Finger Lakes chain at 16 miles long. Autumn travelers will enjoy beautiful views of the yearly foliage that frames the lake. The lake contains Squaw Island, one of only two islands in the Finger Lakes. According to the Town of Canandaigua Web site, legend states that the island was used to hide the Seneca women and children during the Sullivan Expedition against the Six Nations in 1779. This shrinking island (within the past 200 years it has lost 75% of its space) is home to one of the only places on Earth where the creation of the geological formation known as “water biscuits” is known to occur.

Canandaigua Lake State Marine Park

This park is located in Canandaigua on the north end. It offers a boat launch, and fishing access from May to mid-October.

Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park To experience breathtaking horticultural beauty, make a visit to this beautiful park in Canandaigua, which boasts gardens, greenhouses, and an aviary. http://www.sonnenberg.org/.

Around Keuka Lake (largest town/city: Penn Yan)

This lake’s Y-shape makes it the most uniquely shaped of all the Finger Lakes, and earned it the nickname, “Crooked Lake.” A hiking and cycling trail now exists at the former site of the Crooked Lake Canal, which connected Keuka Lake to Seneca Lake.

Wine Museum

The New York State Wine Museum of G.H. Taylor is located at the Bully Hill Winery, north of Hammondsport. The museum features wine industry artifacts, artwork, films and memorabilia. More information on the museum can be found here: http://www.bullyhill.com/museum/museum.asp.

Around Seneca Lake (largest town/city: Geneva)

Seneca Lake is the second longest of the Finger Lakes, and the largest in terms of total area. It is the second deepest lake in New York State. Due to the lake’s extreme depths and constant feeding by underground springs, Seneca Lake has only frozen over nine times since records have been kept. Seneca Lake is home to more wineries than any other Finger Lake.

The Smith Center for the Arts in Geneva (www.thesmith.org) hosts theatrical shows, concerts, special events and even boasts an Opera House. The center calls itself the artistic hub of the Finger Lakes region. Be sure to check it out!

The Robert Green Ingersoll Museum, which celebrates Secular Humanism, is located in Dresden, New York, on the west shore of the lake. It is a featured location on The Freethought Trail, which is described on its Web site as “a collection of locations in West-Central New York important to the history of freethought.” This museum and other sites listed on the trail are sure to provide a wealth of information and history to visitors. For more information on the Robert Green Ingersoll Museum, visit: http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=ingersoll&page=museum. For more information on The Freethought Trail, visit: http://www.freethought-trail.org.

Watkins Glen State Park Route 14, Watkins Glen Watkins Glen State Park

This heartbreakingly beautiful park features 19 waterfalls, 200-foot cliffs and trails that cut through gorges, as well as campsites, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, picnic areas, and tours through the gorge. For more Finger Lakes area parks, check out the New York State Park Web site: http://nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/142/details.aspx.

Around Cayuga Lake (largest town/city: Ithaca)

Cayuga Lake is the longest and second largest of the Finger Lakes. For information on its largest city, Ithaca, please see Trekker Time’s corresponding page.   Taughannock Falls State Park 2221 Taughannock Road, Trumansburg

Taughannock Falls plunges 215 feet past rocky cliffs that tower nearly 400 feet above the gorge. Gorge and rim trails offer views from above and below the falls. The park also features a beach, boat launch, trails, and organized activities.

Robert H. Treman State Park 105 Enfield Falls Rd., Ithaca

Robert H. Treman State Park contains 12 waterfalls, beautiful rock-walled hikes through gorges, spectacular views over the glen, and a beach decorated by a beautiful natural waterfall.

For more Finger Lakes area parks, check out the New York State Park Web site: http://nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/142/details.aspx.

Around Skaneatles Lake

Skaneatles Lake was called by William H. Seward “the most beautiful body of water in the world.” The lake is a popular place for sailing, and is hosts an annual Antique and Classic boat show. Skaneatles is home to the John D. Barrow Art Gallery, which opened in 1900.

Around Owasco Lake (largest town/city: Auburn)

The Harriet Tubman House is located in Auburn, on the north shore of Owasco Lake.

Fillmore Glen State Park 1686 St. Rte. 38, Moravia

The features of this park includes a replica of the log cabin birthplace of our thirteenth president, Millard Fillmore, a swimming pond, campground, playground, hiking trails and several waterfalls.

For more Finger Lakes area parks, check out the New York State Park Web site: http://nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/142/details.aspx.


 
 
 
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