October 2012

Our Towns: Canada Lake

“Such a catch as we made that night I have never seen equaled since,” a visitor wrote of an 1819 trip to Canada Lake, when a pack of trout “fell ready victims” to his crew. His glowing report may not have been hyperbole—the southern-Adirondack waterway was once known as Fish Lake.

But entrepreneur Alfred Dolge was exaggerating when he invented Aughstagradi, the-chief-who-catches-many-fishes, to market vacation cottages around the lake. Dolge hatched the sprawling plan in 1897; within a year he was bankrupt. He shouldn’t have needed a fancy fib—by then tourists had been falling ready victims to the Canada Lake mystique for more than a decade.

Starting in 1868, with the first Canada Lake House, resorts offered islands of luxury in a region dominated by the timber and tanning industries. Wood-burning steamboats dotted the water, toting goods and lumber as well as guests to favorites like the posh Fulton’s Canada Lake House, built in 1888, and the 100-room Auskerada Hotel, built in 1893. The latter catered to the cocktail set, since Fulton’s deed stipulated no alcohol be sold on his property. The Auskerada’s wet ways carried into the 1920s, when the site of that former hotel—which burned in 1921—hosted a dancehall and speakeasy.

By the early 20th century Canada Lake had become a haven for a fun-loving community of artists, including illustrators Paul Bransom and Clare Dwiggins, painter Charles Sarka and filmmaker John Russell, who staged wild Westerns along the shore. The gang’s rowdy parties became legendary social events.

Today the social center of this summertime hot spot is the century-old Canada Lake Store, where folks can fill their boat tanks with fuel and their bellies with fresh-from-the-oven scones.

You can find Canada Lake on Route 29A, in Fulton County.

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