Little Finger Lakes
West of the six major Finger Lakes extend what are known as the Little Finger Lakes: Honeoye (pronounced Honey-oy), Canadice, Hemlock, and Conesus. Honeoye sports a village of the same name at its northern end, and Conesus—closest to Rochester—is crowded with summer homes. Canadice and Hemlock serve as reservoirs for Rochester and remain largely undeveloped. Set in deep, wooded valleys with no towns nearby, these are also the highest of the Finger Lakes—1,100 and 905 feet respectively.
Harriet Hollister Spenser State Park
At the southwestern end of Honeoye lies the largely undeveloped Harriet Hollister Spenser State Park (Canadice Hill Rd. [Rte. 37], 585/335-8111). Set on Canadice Hill, the park offers great views of the lake and—on a clear day—the Rochester skyline.
Wizard of Clay
Another quirky stop outside Honeoye is the unusual Wizard of Clay (7851 Rt 20A, Bloomfield, 585-229-2980 www.wizardofclay.com), where the Kozlowski potters use 100,000 pounds of clay each year hand-throwing the family’s functional creations. The workshop is open to tour and see each stage of the process, even that of his unique patented Bristoleaf collection, made by pressing locally collected leaves into the soft clay before firing, leaving the imprints to be glazed for a final vase or picture frame. A densely pinned map on the wall shows the hometowns of thousands of visitors.
Letchworth State Park
Along the Genesee River at the far western edge of the Finger Lakes plunges one of the most magnificent sights in the state: the 17-mile-long Letchworth Gorge, now part of a state park (off Rtes. 36 and 19A, Castile, 585/493-3600, 6 a.m.–11 p.m. daily, $6–8 for parking). Dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the East,” the gorge is flanked by dark gray cliffs rising nearly 600 feet. All around grows a dense, thicketed forest; through the center of things sparkle three thundering waterfalls. Excellent hiking and snowshoeing are available through the wild terrain.
Much of the Letchworth Gorge was purchased by industrialist William P. Letchworth in 1859. A conservationist and humanitarian, Letchworth bought the gorge both for his own personal use and to save the falls from becoming Rochester’s hydroelectric plant. Before his death in 1910, he deeded the gorge to the people of New York to be used as a permanent park.
One main road runs through the park alongside the gorge, affording scenic views. At the southern end stand the Glen Iris Inn, a favorite luncheon spot, and the Letchworth Museum. Recreational facilities include 20 hiking trails ranging from one-half to seven miles in length, two swimming pools, 82 cabins, and a 270-site campground.
The park can be entered from Mt. Morris (off Rte. 36), Portageville (off Rtes. 19A or 436), or Castile (off Rte. 19A); the Portageville entrances are closed in winter. For camping reservations, call 800/456-CAMP.
Across from the Glen Iris Inn is a rambling museum (585/493-2760, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily May–Oct.) haphazardly packed with exhibits on the Seneca, William Letchworth, and the gorge’s natural history. Note especially the exhibits relating to Mary Jemison, the “white woman of the Genesee.”
The daughter of Irish immigrants, Jemison was taken prisoner by the Seneca at the age of 15 and lived the rest of her life among them. She married first a Delaware warrior and then, following his death, a Seneca chief; she bore seven children, and became a Seneca leader in her own right. Under the Big Tree Treaty of 1797, she was granted close to 18,000 acres along the Genesee River. Eventually, however, Jemison was moved to the Buffalo Creek Reservation with the rest of her people, where she died at the age of 91.
Letchworth moved Jemison’s remains to the gorge in 1910 when her grave was in danger of being destroyed, and today, the Mary Jemison Grave stands on a hill behind the museum. Also on the hill is the Council House in which the last Iroquois council on the Genesee River was held on October 1, 1872. In attendance were the grandchildren of Red Jacket, Joseph Brant, and Mary Jemison; and William Letchworth and Millard Fillmore.
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition