Big Moose Lake

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Big Moose Lake
Big Moose Lake NY USA.JPG
Big Moose Lake, as seen from its outlet
LocationWebb and Long Lake,
New York
Coordinates43°49′01″N 74°51′17″W / 43.81694°N 74.85472°W / 43.81694; -74.85472Coordinates: 43°49′01″N 74°51′17″W / 43.81694°N 74.85472°W / 43.81694; -74.85472
Primary outflowsNorth Branch Moose River
Basin countriesUnited States
Max. length3 mi (4.8 km)
Max. width1 mi (1.6 km)
Surface area1,242 acres (5.03 km2)
Average depth23 ft (7.0 m)
Max. depth85 ft (26 m)
Surface elevation1,824 ft (556 m)
Echo Island
SettlementsBig Moose

Big Moose Lake, at the head of the Moose River, is a large lake about five miles (8 km) north of Fourth Lake in the Adirondacks in upstate New York. The lake is part of Herkimer and Hamilton counties,[1] covering portions of the towns of Webb and Long Lake. Located southwest of the lake is the hamlet of Big Moose.[2]

The lake's popularity derives from its remoteness, climate and beauty, as well as its notoriety as the location of the murder of Grace Brown in 1906. Alleged ghost sightings and subsequent media attention have added to the allure.

Geography and climate[edit]

Located in the central-western part of the Adirondack region, Big Moose Lake covers 1,242 acres (5.03 km2) in surface area.[3] It is approximately three miles (4.8 km) long and almost one mile (1.6 km) wide, running in an east-west direction along its major axis.[4] The lake ranges in depth from 30 to 70 feet (9 to 21 m) in its deepest parts, with an average depth of 23 feet (7 m).[3]

In the summer, temperatures average from nightly lows of 45 °F (7 °C) to daytime highs of 75 °F (24 °C). In winter, the lake completely freezes over and temperatures during the day reach an average high of 20 °F (−7 °C) and an average nightly low of 5 °F (−15 °C).[5]

Communities and recreation[edit]

Located southwest of the lake is the hamlet of Big Moose; other nearby communities include Eagle Bay, Inlet, Old Forge, and Thendara. With minimal road access, the lake's shore is not heavily populated, experiencing its peak during the summer months when vacationers arrive at their summer homes or stay at local resorts.

The lake and its surrounding region are a popular spot for tourists year-round; boating, water-skiing, hiking and train rides from Thendara are available in the summer, and cross-country skiing and snowmobiling take place in the winter. It is home to the Big Moose Water Ski Club that consists of residents of the region.

The 50,100-acre (203 km2) Pigeon Lake Wilderness Area lies just east of the lake.


Big Moose lake also offers sport fishing opportunities for brook trout, lake trout, yellow perch, brown trout, and splake. There is a no state owned boat launch, however there is a commercial marina with a ramp on the south shore of West Bay.[6]


Vertical, half-log (palisade) architecture at Covewood Lodge

The lake's region was settled primarily during the late 19th and early 20th centuries by people arriving on the first railroad through the uninhabited Adirondack wilderness. Early trappers and hunters of the Adirondacks became guides there, eventually establishing permanent camps and hotels. Businessmen, in the style of the Great Camps of the Vanderbilts and Morgans, built private summer homes and brought their families. Some of these lodges still exist and the Big Moose Lake area is historically significant for its unique architecture utilizing vertical half-log construction in lodges and cabins.

The Glenmore, from a 1907 Postcard.

Big Moose Lake was the setting of An American Tragedy, a novel by Theodore Dreiser. It is based on the true story of Chester Gillette, who was convicted and executed for the drowning of Grace Brown in the South Bay of Big Moose Lake in the first part of the 20th century. (The name Dreiser gave the lake where the murder took place was Big Bittern Lake, although he did visit Big Moose Lake and used it as a model for his fictional version.) The Academy Award-winning film, A Place in the Sun, starring Elizabeth Taylor, Shelley Winters and Montgomery Clift, is based on the book. The murder of Grace Brown continues to gain notoriety as claims of ghost sightings around the lake occur. In 1996, the television series Unsolved Mysteries aired an episode reenacting the tragedy, focusing on two such reported sightings. On July 11, 2006 a wreath-laying ceremony took place on South Bay in observance of the centennial of Brown's death. A small flotilla of watercraft participated.

A historical novel by Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light (2003), also takes its plot from the murder, but is told from the perspective of a young girl working at the Glenmore (a lodge) on the lake. The lake and the surrounding community also play a prominent role in Robert Tucker's 2013 novel, Sasquatch Camp.

Buildings of the palisade architectural style (built from vertically positioned half-logs) can be found in the area.[7]

Historic Places[edit]

The following places are listed on the National Register of Historic Places:[8]



  1. ^ "Big Moose Lake". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved October 14, 2016.
  2. ^ "Big Moose". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved October 14, 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Big Moose Lake Contour Map" (PDF). New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Retrieved October 14, 2016.
  4. ^ Big Moose Lake, Adirondack Lakes Survey Corporation. 2005. Last accessed September 2, 2006.[dead link]
  5. ^ Average High/Low Temperatures for KGTB Weather Underground. Last accessed September 2, 2006.
  6. ^ Sportsman's Connection (Firm) (January 1, 2004), Western Adirondacks New York fishing map guide: includes lakes & streams for the following counties: Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida, St. Lawrence., Sportsman's Connection, ISBN 1885010672, retrieved May 2, 2017
  7. ^ Barlow, Jane (Editor) (2004). Big Moose Lake in the Adirondacks. Syracuse, NY: Big Moose Lake History Project. pp. 22, 23. ISBN 0-8156-0774-1.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  8. ^ National Park Service (July 9, 2010). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  9. ^ Barlow, Jane A. (Editor) (2004). Big Moose Lake in the Adirondacks The Story of the Lake, the Land, and the People. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press. ISBN 0-8156-0774-1.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]