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Skaneateles Lake

A day in the Finger Lakes and Mohawk Valley, New York
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(c) Copyright 2002 Andrew Alden, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Skaneateles is one of the Finger Lakes, about 20 long north-south trending lakes that were excavated by the ice age glaciers in central New York. Down below is part of the New York geologic map that covers the Finger Lakes region. Some of my grandparents' relatives used to live around here. I shouldn't give away a local secret, but you pronounce this lake's name "skenny-AT-aless." This park at the north end of the lake, where it drains to Skaneateles Creek, is in the charming town of Skaneateles, right on Route 20.

The lakes were once north-south avenues of commerce, linked to the Erie Canal. Thus a large agricultural region arose here in the 1800s based on water transport. Today the canals serve tourists, and the lakes that were once avenues running north-south are now barriers to rail and truck transport running east-west. The historic landscape, however, is well preserved.

The shores of this lake are Middle Devonian limestones of the Hamilton Group. It was here that my great-aunt Lily once collected a box full of fossil horn corals.

Part of the New York geologic map

The Finger Lakes have an intricate history. They were once ordinary river valleys, then were widened and deepened by the continental glaciers. As the glaciers retreated and the land rebounded from their enormous weight, the lakes occupied different levels and drained first one way, then the other. In a few more millennia, some of them might disappear entirely until the next glacial age descends.

My route took me past Owasco Lake then due south to Ithaca, at the south end, or head, of Cayuga Lake.

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