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A laid-back atmosphere mixed with amazing activities make astoundingly beautiful Lake Geneva one of the most perfect relaxation and recreation destinations in Wisconsin. Lake Geneva is located in southeastern Wisconsin's Walworth County within easy driving distance of Milwaukee, Madison, and Chicago. The lake is often referred to as the "Newport of the West" because it has been a popular resort community for more than 150 years.
The myriad of attractions at this large Wisconsin lake are suitable for all age groups. They include the beaches at Library Park, Big Foot State Park, golfing at over 20 splendid area golf courses, water skiing and jet skiing. Visitors and residents enjoy canoeing, fishing, boating, hiking at the Pottawatomie Trail, and swimming at one of several beaches along the seven-mile long lake. Other one-of-a-kind opportunities include lake cruises, horseback riding, exceptional specialty shops, galleries, spectacular festivals and fairs. The Lake Geneva shoreline is dotted with homes and buildings from earlier times which represent the frontier, pioneering and later periods. The quaint town and its yesteryear homes and buildings are breathtakingly beautiful.
Thousands of years ago, the final glaciers retreated north after having gorged out and depressed the Geneva lake basin leaving rolling gravel hills. The geological formation of Lake Geneva began with the melt-off of a glacial lobe known as the "Troy Valley". The cascading water from the Troy Valley's outlet formed connecting channels creating three lakes, one of which is Lake Geneva.
The Oneota Tribes of the lost Hopewell Culture Indians inhabited the area. They built effigy mounds in what is now Library Park. Soon migrating forest tribes, known to be great hunters and fierce warriors, drove out the earlier inhabitants. The lake was discovered in 1831 by an Army party under the command of Major John Kinzie. Treaty arrangements in 1833 evicted Chief Big Foot and the Potawatomi Tribe.
John Brink, a government surveyor, began mapping the area in 1834 and named it after the lake in his home town of Geneva, New York. Immigrant settlers from New England and New York flooded into Lake Geneva attracted by the number of gristmills and sawmills and later, flouring and wool carding mills. Many other enterprises developed including furniture, wagon and typewriter manufacturers. After the Civil War, the lake town became a resort for wealthy Chicago families. These families constructed enormous, elegant mansions on the lake. By the beginning of the 20th century, the area's magnificent vistas and easy access via railroad lured Victorian-era millionaires. Soon the town became well known among its residents and people from afar as "The Hamptons of the Midwest" and "The Newport of the West".
Lake Geneva remained in a natural state until settlers constructed a dam on the eastern end of the lake at the White River outlet in 1836. Beginning in 1897, the Lake Level Corporation Inc. controlled and maintained the lake level. In 2003, the dam was reconstructed with the cooperative efforts of the communities surrounding the lake.
With a population of more than 7,500 residents, Lake Geneva offers a great assortment of relaxation and recreational activities. Swimming, boating, jet skiing, canoeing, and kayaking are popular pastimes. If you choose not to bring your own boat or rent a watercraft, narrated boat tours offer up-close views of striking lakefront summer mansions, including several Victorian estates. The cruises will enlighten and delight you with the history of the mansions. Available sight seeing tours include the famous US Mailboat Tour, Geneva Bay Mansions Tour, Full Lake Mansions Tours and the famous Ice Cream Social Tour. Whether you choose a restored historic yacht or a replica of a paddle wheel steamer, the cruises provide a unique opportunity to see one of the most fabulous residential locations in the country.
Remember your most comfortable walking shoes to explore the 21-mile Geneva Lake shoreline, and bring a camera for snapshots of the gorgeous surroundings. The path is divided into seven segments, each offering views of the landscaped estates dotting the shoreline. Landlubbers can take hikes around the perimeter of the lake, walking through the backyards of opulent century-old mansions and some of the most beautiful landscaping in the west. There are plenty of fun activities including museums, a water park for kids, the Belfry Music Theater, or greyhound racing. Yerkes Observatory is home to the world's largest refracting telescope. The telescope is inside a 90-foot dome, and the 73-foot wooden floor surrounding the telescope is actually an elevator that raises star gazers to the eyepiece for an eyeful of the Milky Way. The East Troy Electric Railroad runs the rails through October, offering extraordinary scenic rides through Southeast Wisconsin's beautiful Kettle Moraine State Forest. Take a step back in time at Old World Wisconsin -- America's largest rural outdoor living history museum. For an exciting bird's eye view of Geneva, opt for an unforgettable parasail ride. Experience the thrill of flying like an eagle and floating like a butterfly while viewing the Lake Geneva area from the air.
The quiet winters are also filled with fun and excitement. The city of Lake Geneva is host to the United States Nationals Snow Sculpting Competition. The lake is also a popular ski spot with close to 20 ski trails to choose from. Other activity choices include horseback riding, ice skating, ice boating, sleigh rides and even hayrides.
Every season brings outstanding fishing for anglers of all ages to enjoy. The serenity and beauty of the many mansions lining the shore enhance the experience. There are abundant amounts of walleye, bluegills, brown trout, northern pike, lake trout, brown and white bass, rainbow trout, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, crappies, bluegills and perch. The lake also offers exciting night fishing opportunities. Walleye, lake trout and northern pike have outstanding growth rates. Lake Geneva has produced many trophy walleyes over 10 pounds, Northern pike up to 30 pounds, and trout exceeding 15 pounds. The smallmouth bass population is excellent, making Lake Geneva the premier Southern Wisconsin Smallmouth Lake. Largemouth bass have been increasing in record numbers with an average size of 2 to 3 pounds, and 5 pound bass are also common. Fishing is certainly an exhilarating experience at Lake Geneva.
Lunch and dinner options are plentiful in the Lake Geneva area with choices ranging from pizza to paprikash at some of the best restaurants in the state. Enjoy your meals outside as sunsets can be magical as the sun disappears behind the shimmering lake.
So, take a long, deep breath as you enter this charming, year-round resort town, home of one of the most beautiful lakes in Wisconsin. It continues to delight visitors and residents with its magnificence while offering an unforgettably relaxing yet fun-filled atmosphere with rolling hills and spectacularly sparkling clear water. It truly is an exceptional treasure waiting to be explored and enjoyed.
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