View from Stow, NY towards Bemus Point
|Location||Chautauqua County, New York|
|Primary inflows||Big Inlet|
|Catchment area||180 sq mi (470 km2)|
|Basin countries||United States|
|Max. length||17 mi (27 km)|
|Max. width||2 mi (3.2 km)|
|Surface area||13,000 acres (5,300 ha)|
|Max. depth||78 ft (24 m)|
|Shore length1||41 mi (66 km)|
|Surface elevation||1,308 ft (399 m)|
|1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.|
Chautauqua Lake is located entirely within Chautauqua County, New York, USA. The lake is approximately 17 miles (27 km) long and 2 miles (3.2 km) wide at its greatest width. The surface area is approximately 13,000 acres (53 km2). The maximum depth is about 78 feet (23 m). The shoreline is about 41.1 miles (66 km) of which all but 2.6 mi (4 km) are privately owned.
While the lake has a similar geologic structure (a very long, narrow valley) to the Finger Lakes in the east, it is not considered one of the Finger Lakes. Chautauqua Lake runs perpendicular to the westernmost of those lakes (much like an opposable thumb), lies in a different watershed, and was likely formed by a different process.
The lake's name has various meanings based on a variety of translations of the original native words of the Seneca Indian tribe. One translation means Bag Tied in the Middle, referring to the narrow portion between shore lines halfway down the lake. Other translations include Place Where Fish are Taken as well as Place of Easy Death.
The water from the lake drains to the south, emptying first into the Chadakoin River in Jamestown, New York before traveling east into the Conewango Creek. The creek flows south, entering the Allegheny River in Warren, Pennsylvania and the Ohio River in Pittsburgh, instead of moving north into the Great Lakes. The drainage area is about 180 square miles (470 km2).
At the southern end of the lake is the City of Jamestown while the Village of Mayville is located at the northern end. Other villages located on the lake are Bemus Point, Maple Springs, Lakewood, Celoron, and Chautauqua, the site of the influential Chautauqua Institution founded in 1874. There are many other settlements located on the lake, including Fluvanna, Greenhurst, Dewittville, Stow, and Ashville Bay.
The lake is used primarily for recreation, such as boating and fishing, and tourism. The majority of tourists flock to the Chautauqua Institution, which contains a wide variety of stores, restaurants, and live music entertainment. Chautauqua Lake is known worldwide for its excellent muskellunge fishing and sailing. There are two very popular boat "hang outs" on the lake, "Sandy Bottoms", and Long Point State Park, located near Maple Springs. On busy, warm weekends, it is not uncommon to see nearly 100 boats in this area of the lake.
There is one bridge that connects the opposite sides of the lake, the Veterans Memorial Bridge (also known as the Chautauqua Lake Bridge). The structure was completed on October 30, 1982 and joins Bemus Point to Stow on I-86 (at the time known as Route 17). Prior to the construction of the bridge, the only means for cars to cross the lake was facilitated by the Bemus Point-Stow ferry, a nine car cable guided ferry, which still operates during the summer months and has become more of a tourist attraction. The cost of the ferry ride is free, a donation is appreciated and is operated by the Sea Lion Project Ltd.
The lake is the home of the Chautauqua Belle, an authentic Mississippi River-style sternwheel steamboat, one of only a few left in North America. The Chautauqua Belle is the last of the original large fleet of steamboats that once operated on Chautauqua Lake, before the railroads, and were later replaced by the automobile.
The Summer Wind, The Italian Fishermen, and The Village Casino are also very appealing attractions during the summer months. Visitors or those who do not have a personal watercraft can schedule a ride or dinner cruise on "The Summer Wind." This floating leisure shuttle departs from Celoron, at the southern end of the lake, and can take anyone looking for a relaxing day or evening on an excellent sightseeing tour. Bemus Point offers The Village Casino mentioned above, a very popular restaurant and bar that is easily navigatable from boat. Boaters are able to park at the Casino's dock where waitresses will serve them from their location. This establishment also has historical value in the area and offers nightlife on the lake. The Italian Fishermen, also in Bemus Point, offers fine dining and a floating stage during the summer with live bands and events scheduled at various times throughout the warm season.
The Lake in Fiction
Chautauqua Lake is mentioned in at least one episode of I Love Lucy. Lucille Ball (a native of nearby Celoron, New York), playing the role of Lucy Ricardo, finds a stuffed and mounted fish in a trunk in her attic and recalls that Ricky caught it at Chautauqua Lake, and was so thrilled that he had mounted and kept it.
Chautauqua Lake is of major significance in the novel Wish You Were Here by Stewart O'Nan (Grove Press, 2002). The German translation of the title was Abschied von Chautauqua, which means "A Farewell from Chautauqua."
- For further information, see Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center and SaveLucyDesiCenter.org.