Location and Geography
The Finger Lakes Region of Central New York is named for 11 lakes within a defined bioregion – and for those of you who didn’t study geology in college, a bioregion is an area defined by certain geographic characteristics or boundaries. The lakes vary in length, width and depth, and include (from East to West): Conesus; Hemlock; Canadice; Honeoye; Canandaigua; Keuka; Seneca; Cayuga; Owasco; Skaneateles; and Otisco. Oneida is sometimes referred to as the “thumb” because of its proximity to the other bodies of water in the region, but is usually not officially counted as one of the Finger Lakes.
The region is comprised of small towns and farmland in between Rochester to the West and Syracuse to the East, and Lake Ontario to the North and Pennsylvania to the South.
The geographical founding of the Finger Lakes is quite astonishing, and not just to people who study rocks. The lakes were originally rivers before the Ice Age, which settled in some two million years ago, and formed a series of continental glaciers that moved southward from the Hudson Bay. The back and forth movement (or migration) of these glaciers formed deep gouges in the river valleys that ultimately filled with melted ice water from the last glacier in the state 11,000 years ago.
The region is not just comprised of geological history. Generations of local residents have added to the fabric of the state and nation, including Native Americans, religious leaders and suffragettes. From the founding of Mormonism to women’s rights, the Finger Lakes was and is, home to people pushing for the spiritual, social and cultural rights of Americans – and tourists can visit museums and landmarks that tell these important stories.
What it is known for
The region is known for tourism, agriculture, outdoor and water activities, a booming alcohol (wine, beer, spirits, cider) industry, and local food scene. The region has something for everyone (families as well as solo travelers), and tourism is a year-round endeavor with visitors taking advantage of: skiing (winter and water) in winter at one of the region’s resorts; boating and hiking in Spring, Summer and Fall; and national events like NASCAR races at Watkins Glen.
Many Americans have never heard of these lakes but they have characteristics that set them apart from other U.S. waterways. For instance, Seneca and Cayuga lakes are two of the deepest in America; both with lake beds below sea level, and measuring 618 feet and 435 feet deep, respectively. These two lakes are also the longest of their peers (both are narrower than 3.5 miles wide), with Cayuga measuring 38.1 miles long and 66.9 square miles of total area.
Come for the wine tasting or skiing, and stay for the shopping and a trip through America’s geographical and national founding. No matter your reason for visiting, the Finger Lakes provides many entertainment options for families, friends and solo travelers.