A grand tour of the lake is best made by boat says the visitor sign in Lakefront Park on the southern, i.e., “town” end of Otsego Lake. We couldn’t agree more! On the last day of our trip, we got to circumnavigate glacial Otsego Lake, the area’s dominant feature that figures in legend, romance and history. (Take that, Baseball Hall of Fame.)
In the late 19th century, this area was a lively pleasure ground (don’t you just love that term?). Steamboats such as the Mohican ran 3x daily, and the local boat livery rented “double-enders” (simple wooden rowboats made on Otsego Lake).
The steamers linked the railhead at Richfield Springs with Cooperstown so tourists could travel the last 7 miles of their journey by water. Most camps along the lake had docks from which the campers could flag the boat to stop.
This map shows the Cooperstown historic district; the black diamonds indicate settings in Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales.
Back when people used words like “pleasure grounds,” they also built structures called “follies.” One example is Kingfisher Tower, a “castle” built in 1876 by Edward Clarke to “beautify the lake and add an attraction which must be seen by all who traverse the lake or drive along its shore.”
In addition to delighting all who traverse shores, it also delights those who roost in window ledges.
Several miles and one lunch later, we came upon a very different lakeside getaway—a Mohawk “bark” house.
Oh! And about that music festival… add this to our list of Cooperstown discoveries: bass-baritone Ryan McKinny is THE sexiest ghost-ship captain around (Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman).
We also saw the musical theater piece, Camelot. DON’T ASK which we preferred…. Jean will only say this: In a “musical,” they might be burning someone at the stake and yet there they are skipping merrily around in C major singing tra la la la as if they were DECORATING A MAYPOLE instead of putting a torch to the kindling under poor Queen Guenevere!! It makes ZERO sense. Which leads us to our second eureka moment of the trip. The difference between the two genres comes down to this: In opera, the PLOT might not make sense, but the MUSIC always does. In “musicals,” it’s just the opposite.
We completed our loop at Glimmerglass State Park beach. The horse-and-buggy Amish families there were as astonished by our kayak rolling as we were by their swimming fully clothed! We marveled at each other in the parking lot—they stared at the fiberglass kayaks on the good ol’ Subaru, and we admired their horses. No doubt the same thought balloon floated over all of our heads: “Now THERE’S something you don’t see every day!”