to live, work and raise a family as well as to visit.
The presence of beautiful Chautauqua Lake, with
its 45 miles of shoreline, has been a key factor in
driving the economic growth and development of
the region dating back to the first settlers in the
early nineteenth century when, in 1810, the first
log cabin home was built in what would later
become the City of Jamestown along the
Chadakoin River off the southern end of the lake.
This location was chosen as the birthplace of the
city because the rapid river water current was the
ideal energy source for powering the grist and
sawmills making up the first business activity in
As Jamestown was growing in the first half of the nineteenth century into a viable commercial center – fueled by furniture manufacturing and a skilled labor force made up largely of Swedish immigrants – tourism on Chautauqua Lake was also beginning to take shape. Summer season hotels were built at several locations around the lake. Transportation to reach them was provided by rail lines running up both sides of the lake between Jamestown and Mayville and by major railroads that made the Chautauqua region accessible from most major cities in the country. Also, within the limits of lake navigation, travel to the hotels and other lake destinations was made possible and enjoyable by fleets of steamboats that docked at the large piers in front of many of the lakefront hotels. During much of the nineteenth century, growing recreational and social “life” on the lake placed Chautauqua amongst the leading summer tourist destinations in the country. From the beginnings of the earliest resort hotel on the lake – The Fluvanna House (1836), to the founding of Chautauqua Institution (1874), to the opening of Celoron Park (1894 – modeled after other parks at Coney Island and Atlantic City), to the opening of Midway Park at Maple Springs (1898 – still operating today as one of the oldest amusement parks in the country), Chautauqua Lake was positioned to evolve into the extraordinary crown jewel and four seasons destination that we know today.
Local residents and vacationers alike have come to
expect the best in recreational and cultural
opportunities in the Chautauqua region. During the
summer months, the lake is the primary focus of
activity. It supports a wide variety of boating – both
power and sail – and water sports including
swimming, waterskiing, and some of the finest
freshwater fishing to be found anywhere.
Chautauqua Institution, with its nine-week summer
season, offers diverse programs in education,
religion, music and the arts. In the lakeside villages
of Mayville, Lakewood, Bemus Point, Celoron and
Westfield, one can find shops, restaurants, and
entertainment to please any taste. A floating stage just offshore in Bemus Point is a summer-long venue that features movies, live musical groups, the annual Chautauqua Lake Idol competition, and the Bemus Bay Pops orchestra – all free of charge.
Located throughout Chautauqua County are several golf courses open to the public. These include two 18 hole tournament level courses each at Chautauqua Institution and at Peek ‘n Peak in Findley Lake and many other 9 and 18 hole courses for every experience level. The quality and availability of these courses to the public led Golf Digest Magazine to label the Jamestown/Chautauqua Lake area as the “Best Little Golf Town in America”.
The winter months bring a blanket of unmatched beauty and tranquility to the region and with it, seasonal activities in the snow. Western New York – both Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties – is the home to ski resorts that draw skiers from throughout the northeast and Midwest. These include Peek ‘n Peak in Findley Lake and Holiday Valley in Ellicottville – rated as a Top 10 Resort in the Eastern United States by SKI Magazine. Within Chautauqua County, there are more than 600 miles of snowmobile trails, expertly groomed and maintained for the enjoyment of thousands of snowmobile enthusiasts each winter.
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