Canandaigua Lake – its name derived from the Seneca Indian Tribe language for “Chosen Place” – is fitting as it is arguably the most popular Finger Lake being only 29 miles southeast of Rochester and offering the full complement of water and land-based activities. Its waters cover more than 10,000 acres. The lake is 15.5 miles long and 1.5 miles at its widest – making it one of the largest Finger Lakes. It goes as deep as 275 feet, and its water is so clear you can often see the bottom from the surface to lake beds at 50 to 75 feet. The lake’s north shoreline is covered with summer homes – many worth more than a million dollars, while much of the remaining shore is reserved as farmland.
In 1794, Canandaigua was the site where Colonel Timothy Pickering, on behalf of President George Washington, signed the Treaty of Canandaigua with the Grand Council of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. This established peace between the current inhabitants and white settlers of the newly formed United States.
The lake once featured steamboats, 14 of them to be exact, between 1827 and 1935. They shuttled passengers to and fro, beginning with the Lady of the Lake and ending with the Idler. You can still ride the Canandaigua Lady today – a 19th-century double-decked, replica paddleboat.
What It is Known For
Canandaigua Lake features Squaw Island on the north end of the lake – one of only two islands on all of the Fingers Lakes. It gets its name, Squaw Island, from the Seneca Indian tribe whom used the island to hide women and children during the Sullivan Expedition in the late 18th Century.
Windsurfing, paddleboarding, and towed water sports like skiing and wakeboarding are popular on the lake (in warm months!). You can rent a boat from a number of places along the lake, like Sutter’s Canandaigua Marina. From an angler’s perspective, Canandaigua offers plenty of lake, brown and rainbow trout, large and smallmouth bass, among other panfish species.
Want to get off the water for a night? You don’t have to be a music junkie to enjoy listening to good tunes in the great atmosphere at the Constellation Brands-Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center (or “C-MAC”). National acts like Dave Matthews, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Santana, The Avett Brothers and many others roll through in the spring, summer, and early fall months. Check the schedule for latest dates.
If music isn’t your thing, head out on the Canandaigua Lake Wine Trail for tastings; or enjoy the countless breweries, restaurants, shopping destinations and more. If you want more nature than sipping, visit the High-Tor Wildlife Management Area for hiking adventures, access to hunting and fishing, and beautiful views of wetlands, hills, meadows. Or swing by the hamlet of Naples, known for the grape pies.
- The Seneca tribe used to burn tobacco around the shore of the lake, giving thanks for a plentiful harvest. That tradition continues today, every summer, as residents of the shoreline light a small fire to create what is known as the Ring of Fire
- Despite its popularity and wide usage, the lake does provide drinking water for 48,000 citizens in the area. In April 2013 its water was actually voted the best in New York state
- It is also recorded that Casablanca actor Humphrey Bogart spent summers with his parents at their cottage on Canandaigua Lake
- Canandaigua Lake State Marine Park is located on the north end of the lake, offering a boat launch facility, and fishing access