A Lake Like No Other
“While the other famed Finger Lakes are slender and straight, Keuka is a crooked prize, that also happens to be one of the only Y-shaped lakes in the entire world.” – Perri O. Blumberg, Country Living
Spend a moment along the water’s edge—or better yet get out on or in the water—and you’ll understand just how life-changing Keuka Lake can be.
The most unique and arguably the most stunning of all the Finger Lakes, Keuka (pronounced Q-KA) is the only Finger Lake not shaped like a finger as it is one of the few Y-shaped lakes in the world. It’s also the only Finger Lake to empty into another, as its waters flow into Seneca Lake.
On the Keuka Outlet Trail, you can hike beside the stream that, at one time had been used as a canal, connecting the two lakes. You’ll even see remnants of bygone mills, now the site of scenic waterfalls, and a railroad that had once run there.
After your hike, you’ll want to work your way back to the pristine waters of the “Crooked Lake” for an abundance of splash-worthy activities.
Lake Life Fun in the Sun
Don’t have your own cottage or boat? No problem! We’ve made it easy to experience the best of lake life.
Enjoy the warmth of a bonfire at a waterfront inn, go for a dip near shore at Depot Park or Champlin Beach, or rent a pontoon boat and explore wonderful coves that make perfect swimming holes.
Fish from a dock or charter your own fishing excursion and search the crystal depths for trout, bass, even land-locked salmon.
Savor a great meal at a lakeside restaurant or take in a stunning sunset on an evening cruise.
Rent kayaks, paddle boards, jet skis, or simply unwind with a picnic at Depot Park or Champlin Beach. Prepare yourself for incomparable views of the region’s most spectacular lake with a seaplane ride. What are you waiting for?
Legend Has It
If you search the Internet in an attempt to learn about the Finger Lakes, doubtless you’ll encounter numerous websites sharing a similar claim. A story appearing in newspapers and books for the past century alluding to a Native American legend that says the lakes were the result of divine intervention as "the Great Spirit left hand prints" on the land. An act that is conveyed as a blessing.
While certainly a romanticized and enticing story, there seems to be no concrete evidence to suggest that the legend is actually rooted in Native American lore. In essence, it appears to be a legend about a legend.
Be that as it may, the story suggests a few things that are relevant.
The First Nation inhabitants of the region were closely connected with nature and the lakes played a role in their lives, as it has for those who have come after them. And the majestic beauty of these lakes intimates that they are the result of something very special. Their beauty (and impact on the land and people around them) is worthy of appreciation and awe.
This is one destination that has been millions of years in the making. But, hey, you can’t rush perfection!
Millions of years ago, what are now the long slender Finger Lakes were rivers and streams that ran through narrow valleys. Then, around two million years ago, glaciers moved south and “gouged the bottoms and sides” of those valleys, deepening and widening them into the steep-sided flat-bottomed valleys found here today.
During the most recent glacial advance which occurred about 21,000 years ago with glaciers advancing and retreating for over 10,000 years leaving behind debris that formed “moraines.” Basically, these deposits blocked the flow of the rivers, acting like damns, and helped to create the lakes we know and love today. The moraine south of the four main Finger Lakes (Cayuga, Seneca, Keuka and Canandaigua) is called the Valley Heads Moraine.
At nearly 20 miles in length and an average of three-quarters of a mile in width, Keuka has several unique features like its picturesque bluff (a vineyard covered promontory where the lake splits into two northward branches, one ending at Branchport the other in Penn Yan).
Look around the lake today and you’ll find a patchwork of forest, farmland, and vineyards which makes for quite the panoramic views especially in the summer and autumn months. But did you know that prior to Prohibition, there were more acres of grapes grown around Keuka Lake than there are today in the entire Finger Lakes wine region?
It’s really no surprise, that Hammondsport is where the wine region first began nearly two hundred years ago. That’s right. The first grapes were planted here in the early 1800’s.
Of course, long before that, the land was covered in virgin timber. According to some sources, “at the time of settlement in the 1780s and 90s, the land was heavily forested. The original forests were principally sugar maple, beech, hickory, red and white oaks, tulip poplar, and black walnut, though many other hardwoods and softwoods were common.”
A century later, approximately 90% of those forests had been cleared. The land was then farmed, though over time many of those early farmsteads faded, returning to the land, to new-growth forests. Today, the trees you’ll find are second or third growth stands.
Whether traveling for sport (the region is known for trout fishing and Keuka is home to trout, bass, landlocked salmon and several other species), for other forms of recreation, or simply for relaxation and rejuvenation, Keuka Lake has been a destination for leisure travelers since the mid-late 1800’s when resorts lined it’s shores and steamboats carried passengers up and down the calm water.
Boat building became an important craft and an integral business throughout the region, including around Keuka Lake. Not far from the lake’s southern tip, in the charming town of Hammondsport you’ll find the Finger Lakes Boating Museum which helps to preserve this significant aspect of local history as well as the culture of boating that allowed the region to grow and become a world-class tourist destination.
“Keuka Lake, which lends its name to wines across the region, is one of the more picturesque, less-traveled lakes, surrounded by countryside dotted with vineyards, cabins and unobstructed views.” - Kennth R. Rosen, The New York Times