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Findley Lake is a friendly hideaway in New York's Chautauqua-Allegheny Region. This 292-acre lake was created in 1815 when Revolutionary War veteran Alexander Findley built a small dam over a brook to power his mill. The resulting impoundment joined two smaller existing ponds and created the lake named in his honor. Although his mill is long gone and the power his dam produced is no longer needed, Findley Lake remains much loved by the many residents who built homes along its shores.
The village of Findley Lake is centered near the dam at the north end of the lake, with homes and cottages lining the lakefront on nearly all sides. A small marina rents pontoon boats, paddle boards and kayaks, along with offering repairs and a full line of supplies such as water skis and tubes. One commercial campground shares shore space with the cottagers and a church retreat camp. Residents and their guests enjoy swimming, water skiing, canoeing, sailing and kayaking. The small-town atmosphere makes it easy to find companions for activities and to join together to make improvements to benefit 'the neighborhood'. Bicycles are rented locally, and a canoe race is held on the lake nearly every year. All of the village roads are marked as accessible by snowmobiles, making this winter activity easy to participate in.
Fishing is popular at Findley Lake. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation operates a boat launch for hand-carried boats on the north end of the lake. A second boat ramp that can handle trailered boats is also located on the north side of the lake. Owned by the Findley Lake Watershed Foundation, the ramp is open to the public on weekdays. Northern pike and walleye are the biggest angling targets, but the lake also holds largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, black crappie, bluegill and pumpkinseed. Tiger muskie, a cross hybrid between male northern pike and female muskellunge, were planted as fingerlings for several years, ending in 2008. Because the tiger muskie are long-lived, they are still being caught. Fingerling muskellunge have been stocked annually since 2009. All New York fishing regulations are in effect, and a fishing license is required. Ice fishing is allowed, with primarily panfish caught.
Although Findley Lake lies within the larger Town of Mina, much of the surrounding countryside is small farms and woodlands. Findley Lake has its own volunteer fire department, library and local small businesses, including a grocery store, restaurants and ice cream shop. The lake is located in southwestern New York near the Pennsylvania state line, west of better-known Chautauqua Lake and south of Lake Erie. Both Erie, PA and Westfield, NY are less than 20 miles away. The lake is easy to get to from both east and west as it lies just south of the Southern Tier Expressway. Hotels can be found along the highways at major intersections. Several private residents rent their lakefront properties to short-term guests and make sure that their vacations are memorable.
Findley Lake and the larger Chautauqua County are ideally located in one of western New York's favorite tourist regions. This is the heart of wine country, and vineyard tours, winery tours and wine tasting events are common during much of the year. Antique shops, unique artisan galleries, bed & breakfasts and quaint country inns are located everywhere near here-and often open for business year-round. Less than five miles away, one of the area's prime ski resort areas has several downhill slopes, cross-country trails, a luxury spa, two noted golf courses and several types of accommodations for lodgings. Another campground and events center hosts several 'clothing optional' events throughout the year, with large gatherings celebrating New Age arts, natural medicine and spiritual mindfulness. Only three miles away, the new Lake Erie Speedway offers NASCAR sanctioned racing events. The Great Blue Heron Music Festival occurs each July in nearby Sherman. Within 20 miles, Lake Erie beaches beckon, while Erie, PA holds a water park that will excite the kids. There is never a shortage of things to do and see near Findley Lake.
The Findley Lake Watershed Foundation works to control aquatic weeds and invasive plant species, carefully monitoring water quality. The foundation owns and maintains the dam, one of the biggest issues to face lake dwellers in recent years. As with many older dams, major maintenance sometimes needs to be completed and funding becomes a problem. In recent years, sinkholes have developed near the dam which was rebuilt in 1900. An engineer's survey found that water was leaking under the dam break wall, endangering properties below the dam. Because the dam is owned by the foundation, it is difficult to get assistance from the state as many grants are not available to private organizations. New environmental regulations have driven repair costs higher, which the foundation cannot handle alone.
As of 2016, a plan has been created and grant proposals submitted to the proper authorities for additional funding to fix the dam and alleviate all hazards. Water levels will be lowered to allow the work to begin, once funding is approved. This will temporarily curtail many of the water-based activities on Findley Lake. A shortage of funds is an all-too-common issue that faces many smaller reservoirs across the country. However, the Findley Lake Watershed Foundation is optimistic that funding is forthcoming and that the dam will be repaired soon. Findley Lake will survive-and is waiting for your visit.
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