Mid-January’s cold snap invited winter sports enthusiasts onto the ice covering the southeastern corner of Otsego Lake last weekend, amazing a few passersby who wondered about their safety.
“That’s as risky a behavior as I’ve ever seen for this time of year,” said Matt Albright, Assistant to the Director of the SUNY Oneonta Biological Field Station. “That ice couldn’t have been more than an inch thick.”
“It might be as early in the season as I’ve ever seen anyone out there,” he continued, noting he watched a pair of intrepid ice fishers as they stepped farther from the edge along the streets of the Lakeland Shores development. “I love ice fishing myself, but these guys must be really devoted to it!”
Why not add a full-line, local-focus gift shop to an already bustling restaurant and boutique in the midst of a pandemic when even the most seasoned merchants can’t be sure of the next set of rules that might change the whole way they have to do business?
That’s indeed what Cory Moffat did in May of this year, when she opened the doors of The Mingo Market, on the grounds of Sam Smith’s Boatyard on Route 80, just outside of Cooperstown’s village limits. It’s the same Otsego Lake location that features the Blue Mingo Grill.
“This building has been a few things,” Mrs. Moffat said as she toured the shop, a structure that once housed the boat shop for her father, Sam Smith. “Cooperstown Christmas, then an antique shop, and a junk shop. When we decided to clear it out for The Mingo Market, we had three dumpsters full of things to throw out.”
PHOTOGRAPHY EXCURSION – 7 – 8 a.m. Enjoy early morning walk and photo lesson all about how to photograph Otsego lake at sunrise. Presented by staff member Kevin Gray providing tips on composition, light & shadow, techniques and more. Cost, $17/non-member. Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown. 607-547-1400 or visit www.fenimoreartmuseum.org
ART BY THE LAKE – 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Join artists of upstate New York to celebrate the beauty of nature and Otsego Lake. On show will be pastels, watercolor, oil, acrylics, photography, and many more mediums with demonstrations throughout the day. On the lawn of the Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown. 607-547-1400 or visit www.fenimoreartmuseum.org
On its editorial page over the past few weeks, The Freeman’s Journal has commented on, among other important issues, the fog-like haze that was smoke from the western wildfires that fell on the lake and village, leaving the air heavily dangerous for long periods of time, and the latest COVID surge that is gnawing, for the most part, on our unvaccinated and younger residents — children — as well as causing new concern among our older population. None of this was any good and all of it is sad and, no doubt to some, depressing.
However, for us here in Otsego County, this distant, remote upstate almost-forgotten (or, perhaps, not yet discovered) place, there is a special glimmer; something that can bring a smile; something to lighten our load and keep us on a happier track. Otsego Lake.
Nine miles of clear, deep water that laps endlessly on steep tree-lined shores and often reflects the changing sky and clouds and forest, the lake is a home to myriad fish and feathered wildlife, a reservoir for the village of Cooperstown and a summer and winter playground for boaters, tubers, swimmers, sailors, rowers, paddlers, divers, fishermen and water, and snow-skiers. Glacier-created during the last great Ice Age, and spring-fed as well as stream-fed, this superb natural resource is the headwaters of the Susquehanna River. In the past it has played a variety of roles in the Leatherstocking novels of James Fenimore Cooper, who called his – and our – beautiful lake The Glimmerglass.
The haunted mansion exudes an atmosphere
that is unlike any other in Otsego County
Hyde Hall brings to mind Shirley Jackson’s famous opening for the Haunting of Hill House. Only in this case, the house stood for more than 200 years and will probably stand for 200 more.
Hyde Hall is something of an anomaly. It’s a relic of the past, which does not exist anymore and was unusual even for the time, at least in Otsego County.
The breathtaking scenery surrounding Hyde Hall is enough to warrant a visit. At the top, where the house stands, you can look down at Otsego Lake and see all the way to Cooperstown.
The limestone house has a cold, intimidating demeanor, which is why it is a surprise the interior of the house feels warmer and much more decorative. Marketing Manager John Aborn describes it as an oyster with a pearl inside.
BOAT PARADE – 3 p.m. Get out for the annual decorated boat parade. This years theme ‘Here Comes The Sun’ song by the beatles. All boats welcome from human powered to motor powered and all in between, decorated or undecorated. Covid protocols will be in effect. Parade assembles at 3 Mile Point and proceeds on West Side of the Lake to Lakefront Park, Cooperstown. Rain or Shine. 518-542-6630 or visit otsegolakeassociation.org for info.
Rowing opportunities have been expanding on Otsego Lake the past few years and a two-time Olympian has been a big part of bringing the sport to Cooperstown and Otsego County.
The Otsego Area Rowing program, under the guidance of Oneonta’s two-time Olympian, Andrea Thies, has been expanding for several summers now as people take up the water sport.
A rower from her collegiate years at Cornell University, Thies aims to offer access to the sport regardless of age, ability or experience.
OAR was established in 2017, in conjunction with the Otsego Land Trust and Brookwood Point, with an emphasis on adolescent rowing opportunities.
The not-for-profit offers classes and opportunities for all ages and abilities. Although many of OAR’s programs were restricted last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, this summer’s rowing opportunities are in full swing with various adult and kid camps.
First published in The Freeman’s Journal on March 24, 1976:
“If at first you don’t succeed,” must have been mouthed by many Cooperstonians as they left the lakefront without having witnessed the scheduled launching of the Mohican. They did try again, and on the 4th of July, 1905, the good ship Mohican began its long career on Otsego Lake. The following reports from the Freeman’s Journal of that year tell the story:
June 29th 1905:
“Miss Marie Anheuser Busch to Christen Boat Thursday.”
“Thursday afternoon at 4 o’clock the new boat Mohican of the Otsego Lake Transit Co. will take her initial dip in the waters of Otsego Lake. As soon as the boat is free to move, Miss Marie Anheuser-Busch, daughter of August A. Busch and granddaughter of Adolphus Busch, will christen it with champagne and the words, “I christen thee Mohican.” The public is cordially invited to witness the ceremony, which will take place at the Corporation dock.”
This week’s wind and temperatures in the low 60s broke up the ice block on Otsego Lake Tuesday, and Wednesday – with the lake open but the coves still iced up – folks, inset, headed down to Cooperstown’s Lakefront Park to take in the Sleeping Lion, considered by some to be among the most famous views in the world. This afternoon, high winds pushed the remaining ice onto the beach at the village’s Three Mile Point Park, giving it the look of a giant icemaker. Thad Wheeler and spouse Francesca Vanasco, Town of Middlefield, were up there checking it out. (Tara Barnwell, Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com
ICE FISHING – 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Bring the kids out to learn ice fishing from State park staff and NYS DEC ‘I Fish NY.’ Free, registration required due to Covid. Glimmerglass State Park, 1527 Co. Rd. 31, Cooperstown. 607-547-8662 or visit www.facebook.com/GlimmerglassStatePark/
PHOTOGRAPHY – 6:45 a.m. Take a camera to explore Otsego Lake at sunrise with photographer Kevin Gray providing tips on composition, lighting, more. Registration required. Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown. 607-547-1400 or visit www.fenimoreartmuseum.org
PHOTO EXCURSION – 5 p.m. Join photographer Kevin Gray for a walk through the historic village during the Golden Hour at sunset, after the museum is closed to take gorgeous photos. Gray will provide tips on composition, lighting, camera techniques, more. Cost, $17/non-member. Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown. 607-547-1450 or visit www.facebook.com/farmersmuseum/
SUNKEN ISLAND – At 2:41 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22, just north of here, one of Sarah Coney’s worst fears was realized.
There in a sieve that was straining a bucket of mud from Otsego Lake’s bottom was a
tiny mussel the SUNY Oneonta biology master’s candidate immediately recognized.
It was a quagga mussel, even more feared than the zebra mussel that arrived in 2008, clogging water pipes and filtering algae from Glimmerglass’ waters that cold water Otsego bass and other valued species depend on for survival.
The quagga is lighter than the zebra; also, the zebra can be placed upright on a tabletop, the quagga rolls over.
“I really didn’t want to see it,” said Coney, a native of Neversink who is preparing her thesis on the return of the American eel to the Upper Susquehanna Basin.
Sunken Island is on the lake’s north end, in a direct line between the Town of Springfield boat launch and the BFS boat house, but the new invasive is expected to spread, and fast.
In five years, “fishermen won’t have much to fish for,” said SUNY Oneonta Biology Lecturer Paul Lord, a researcher at the Otsego Lake Biological Field Station, who was aboard the BFS research craft Anodontoides when Coney made her discovery. “The lake will just get clearer and clearer.”
Both the zebra mussels and quagga mussels are filter feeders, filtering a liter a day of lake water, in the process removing plankton and algae, which other species need.
“These guys are going to filter the water so all biological activity will occur on the bottom and not in the water column,” Lord said. (The water column is the portion of the lake between the bottom and the surface.)
As is its mission, “BFS will be studying the changes that will follow this newest invasive colonization,” said Lord, and will keep the state Department of Environmental Conservation apprised of what it concludes.
When the zebra mussel arrived in 2008, normal visibility in the water was 3 meters “on a really clear day,” he continued, the relative murkiness indicating nutrients that keep a range of lake species healthy.
Since the zebras arrived, that visibility has increased to 6-7 meters, and, the other day, Lord measured 10.3 meters of visibility.
While the clarity may please some swimmers, the way the zebra mussels encrusted shallow water along the lake’s western shoreline created a danger for barefoot swimmers. They also clog water lines and engines.
The zebra has been limited the shallow water, Lord said; the quagga can inhabit the whole lake bottom, even the deep eastern shore that’s been largely free of the zebra variation now.
The lake floor “will look like a broken-up coral reef,” said Lord, “dead shells everywhere.”
The quagga is native to the Dneiper River in the Ukraine, and is believed to have arrived in North America in a freighter’s bilge sailing up the St. Lawrence River.
It was first discovered in 1989 in Port Colborne, on the Canadian side of Lake Ontario, and has since populated all the Great Lakes and hopscotched eastward through the Finger Lakes, Cayuga, Seneca.
It’s said a female quagga mussel can produce one million eggs per year; 99 percent die, but 1 percent (10,000) remain.
Lord said it’s likely microscopic mussels were brought to Otsego Lake in a bait bucket, or the bottom of a kayak or canoe that had been in, for instance, Cayuga Lake.
Despite the boat-washing program at Cooperstown’s boat launch at the end of Fish Road, Coney said boat can still enter the lake from hotels around the lake that provide directed access.