When you’re the Middle Finger, you have a certain responsibility! After all, most people associate you with defiance, with not simply going with the flow. We’re so committed to embracing the essence of that role, and that responsibility, that our middle finger was willing to break itself just to make the statement, “Different is beautiful!”
Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. Or is it?
The fact that eleven is an “odd” number is fitting because the Finger Lakes region, which is comprised of eleven slender lakes, is unlike any other in New York State. With five fingers to the left and five to the right, you might be surprised to learn that Keuka is the one smack dab in the middle. And that is quite fitting as well.
You might say, while all the other Finger Lakes lined up, conformed, were willing to be variations of each other—long, lean, finger-shaped lakes formed by glaciers millennia ago—Keuka Lake just had to be different.
Believe it or not, Keuka (the ugly duckling of Finger Lakes, the one most unlike the others) has been a destination for travelers searching for relaxation, rejuvenation, and uninhibited adventure since the mid-19th Century.
“No swamp land nor malaria is to be found . . .”
That’s how J.M. Washburn, proprietor of the Keuka Hotel described Keuka Lake in a tourism booklet back in 1898. Washburn also wrote, “Wearied denizens of the city can while away the long and delightful summer hours by sailing, rowing, fishing, and bathing.”
From the mid-to-late 1800’s, steamboats played an important role in the development of the area as a haven for tourists and also as a wine region. First used for transporting grapes (for eating and later for making wine), by the latter half of the century steamboats were also used for transporting locals and tourists. “In the 1870s, the first summer cottages were built on the lakeshore - some were accessible only by steamboat, others could be reached by roads or by the electric trolley running between Penn Yan and Branchport”. By the turn of the century, Keuka Lake and Hammondsport were popular destinations for wine lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, and leisure travelers.
Nicknamed “Lady of the Lakes” for its natural beauty, and known as “Crooked Lake” during those early years of tourism, Keuka Lake is unique for a number of other reasons. Third largest of all the Finger Lakes, Keuka is the only one that empties into another Finger Lakes (Seneca). It is also the only Finger Lake with water that flows both north and south. Meaning “canoe landing” in the Iroquois language and “lake with an elbow” in the Seneca language, Keuka is also one of the few Y-shaped lakes in the world. While still quite deep, it is the shallowest of the big three, making the water warmer and perfect for swimming and other water activities.
Keuka is home to brown trout, rainbow trout, landlocked salmon, smallmouth and largemouth bass, pickerel, perch, and various panfish. With its distinctive shape and panoramic landscape of steep hills dotted with vineyards, farmland, and forests, there are so many ways Keuka Lake can take your breath away.
Don’t have your own boat? No problem. Take a tour or enjoy a water taxi ride to excellent lakeside restaurants. Rent paddle boards, kayaks, jet skis, and pontoon boats. Experience the freedom of swimming in open water or enjoy the safety of lifeguarded swimming close to shore, or simply sit at the water’s edge and relax.
Come see for yourself why so many people return year after year to the Broken Finger for FU Fun!
While you’re here, learn more about the importance of boating in the Finger Lakes (steamboats, trout boats, and others) at the Finger Lakes Boating Museum which preserves the legacy of the remarkable vessels that were built here with a number of beautiful vintage wooden boats on display. Explore the most unusual of all the Finger Lakes with a scenic seaplane flight and discover of Glenn Curtiss transformed the lake into a runway over 100 years ago (link to Defying Gravity or Taking Flight).
“Seen from above, the Finger Lakes look like claw marks on the landscape. . . . The Iroquois believed they were of divine provenance. Farmers and loggers flocked to the area for the fertile land around their shores. The lakes are central to the region’s identity and its economy. Everything here leads back to water.”Rohan Kamicheril, United Hemispheres Magazine