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Hemlock Lake

Coordinates: 42.711°N 77.608°W

Elevation: 950 feet/289.5 meters

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Autumn storm clouds gather over Hemlock Lake.

Hemlock Lake is named for the tall, gracefully eastern hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis) that are common to the Finger Lakes. A conical tree with small cones, short needles, and lacy branches, hemlocks reach about 75 ft/23 m. tall and 3 ft./1 m. in diameter. Preferring cool, moist locations, they are usually found growing under taller trees. The bark of the hemlock was used in the tanning of hides in the 1800s, so much so that most of the really large specimens were eliminated from the region's forests. Today hemlocks are threatened by the wooly adelgid (Adelges tsugae), a small, fuzzy white insect introduced in the United States in 1924 from Asia. The adelgid colonies suck the sap of the young branches of the trees, usually killing the trees within several years. Hemlocks are favorites of many of the warbler species, especially during migration.

 

A sign board at Hemlock Lake's parking area provides information about the lake's geolgy and water quality as well as boating rules and regulations.

The Lake

Hemlock Lake is 6.7 mi./10.8 km. long, .5 mi./.8 km. wide, and 90 ft./30 m. deep. It covers about 2,800 acres. Along with Canadice Lake, to which it is connected at the northern end by a spillway, Hemlock Lake supplies water to the City of Rochester, Henrietta, Rush, and Livonia. Consequently, access to the lake is by permit only with outboard motors restricted to those under 10 horsepower. Gravel ramps for boat access are available only at the northeast corner of the lake off Rix Rd. and the southeast corner of the lake off Rt. 15A. Restroom and picnic facilities are available at Hemlock Lake Park at the northern tip of the lake, however, the water in this area is restricted to City of Rochester personnel, so there is no boating or swimming allowed.

 

Hemlock Lake Park at the northern end of Hemlock Lake in the Finger Lakes, New York USA.

Aquatic Residents

Besides turtles, frogs, and aquatic insects, there are some interesting fish species residing in the lake, including salmon; cisco (lake herring); lake, brown, and rainbow trout; smelt; bass; perch; bluegill; pumpkinseed; and whitefish. Unfortunately, most of these are non-native, stocked fish. 

 

Autumn storm clouds gather, making the lake water appear to be a lead-gray color. The wind pushes the water toward the marsh at the southern end of Hemlock Lake.

Other Wildlife

Because the area has not been encroached upon by humans, you should be able to find a variety of reptiles and amphibians such as salamanders, turtles, frogs, and snakes, as well as many of the woodland mammals from mice and voles to weasels, foxes, and deer. Birds are plentiful, especially woodland species like warblers, thrushes, tanagers, hawks, owls, woodpeckers, nuthatches, titmice, and chickadees, as well as water birds like herons, geese, ducks, and on rare occasions a loon or two. A pair of bald eagles breeds in the area--descendants of New York's only pair to survive DDT. The Canadice-Hemlock lakes watershed had been designated as part of the state's Important Bird Area Program. A brochure describing the area can be found at a kiosk at the northern end of the lake or visit http://ny.audubon.org/iba/hemlock.html.

 

The southern end of Hemlock Lake in the Finger Lakes (New York State) is marshy and home to many species of wildlife.

Hiking

Hemlock Lake has a beautifully wooded shoreline and hillsides free of development. There are several short, mapped dirt and grass paths, however, many people strike out in the coolness of the morning from the parking lot of the park with their backpack and a lunch to hike the entire 12 mi./16 km. around the lake before it gets dark. Don't forget your binoculars and something to drink.

 

EAST SIDE OF LAKE

In addition to the walk around the lake, there are a number of trails nearby. One is the Johnson Hill Road trail. Park on the south side of Johnson Hill Rd. just east of Old Bald Hill Rd. on the east side of the lake. Here you will find a difficult 1.5-mi./2.4 -km. grassy trail with a loop that takes you past the 50-ft./15.24-m. high County Line Falls.

 

You may also want to visit Reynolds Gully. To access it, park on the east side of State Route 15A in a dirt parking area just south of the bridge over Reynolds Gully. (The entrance to Hemlock Lake is immediately across the road.) You can walk the gully and experience many of its cascades and the lower falls, which is about 120 ft./36.5 m. high. Beyond the lower falls is private property that is closed to the public. Both the Johnson Hill Road falls and the Reynolds Gully falls are in the watershed. Consequently, you will need a watershed permit to walk to either falls.

 

WEST SIDE OF LAKE

To access Bear Trail, park on Blank Rd. The trail is a difficult 3.5-mi./5.6-km. loop in and out of wooded gullies that should take about 2 hours. There is a waterfall that can be found if you make several right-hand turns as you walk the path from the parking area.

 

NORTH END OF LAKE

To access Big Oaks Trail, park on Rix Hill Rd. The trail is a moderate 3.2 mi./5.1 km. on the former Lehigh Valley Railroad right-of-way that is now mowed grass. A sulphur spring crosses the trail at one point. The trail can be wet in the spring or just after a heavy rain, so make sure you come prepared.

Old-Growth Forest

As you hike through the woods in the southwestern quadrant of the lake, take a look at the trees around you. This is a 415-acre parcel of old-growth forest, one of the largest tracts in western New York. Some of the trees in this area are thought to be more than 500 years old.

 

Kayaking is a popular activity on Hemlock Lake.

Boating

Boating is a popular activity on the lake. If you're using a motor, you should have no problem. But if you're paddling, watch out for winds that cause choppy water. The lake is fed at the southern end by Springwater Creek. Although there are no boat launches into the creek, it is navigable when the water is high and leads into a cattail marsh at the southern end of the lake. Watch for bitterns, marsh wrens, and red-winged blackbirds here. This is also a good spot to hone your skills at identifying Odonates--dragonflies and damselflies. Don't forget to bring something to eat and drink as the trip around the lake may take you a good 12 hours.

 

The road leading to the parking area at Hemlock Lake.

Public Access

1. Northeast corner of the lake off East Lake Rd. Access to lake by permit only from City of Rochester. Parking for 15 vehicles. Brochure.

 

2. Southeast corner of the lake off Rt. 15A. Gravel ramp. Access to lake by permit only from the City of Rochester. Parking for 10 vehicles. Brochure.

 

Updated 7 May 2009

 

 

 

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