How the lakes were born...
Carved by the enormous glaciers that covered the area over 2 million years ago, the Finger Lakes encompass over 9000 square miles. The eleven Finger Lakes range in size from the 6 mile long Otisco to Cayuga Lake which is over 38 miles long. The two largest lakes, Seneca and Cayuga, are accessible from any of the world's ports via the Seneca-Cayuga and Erie Canals and are among the deepest lakes in the United States with Seneca Lake at 618 feet deep and Cayuga Lake at 435 feet. Many of the names of the lakes come from the Iroquois nation who inhabited the area in the 1700's.
Native American History
By 1722 they had formed a confederacy of Six Nations called the Haudenosaunee, or “People of the Longhouse”, which included the Senecas, Onondagas, Mohawks, Cayugas, Oneidas and Tuscaroras. Native Americans lived in the Finger Lakes for thousands of years before European Settlers reached the continent. European settlers knew these people as the Iroquois, or the Five (and later six) Nations. The confederacy of Iroquois tribes called their union the "extended lodge," as the groups of Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca and other tribes viewed themselves as a kinship that enjoyed the fruits of the land, not exercising dominion over it. Many Finger Lakes towns and villages, and all of the lakes themselves bear names derived from Native American languages.
Red Jacket, also known as Sagoyewatha, was a chief and orator born in eastern New York. He derived his English name from his habit of wearing many red coats provided to him by his British allies.
Drawing of a Iroquois Longhouse
The Finger Lakes have been the nation's playground for over 150 years. In the 1800's steamships were the primary mode of transportation. With names like Onondaga, Ontario and Schuyler the ships took passengers to many of the communities in the Finger Lakes. While stopped at the port the ships would drop off and pick up passenger, transfer commerce and also take on coal for the boilers that produced the steam they ran on.
Samples of the steamships are the ONTARIO and the ONONDAGA (above) that cruised on Seneca Lake and the YATES (lower picture) which ran on Keuka Lake.