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The Secrets of Seneca    

by Chris Poh

Boats on Lake Seneca in Watkins Glen, NY as seen in American Public House Review

The Seneca Legacy on the lake in Watkins Glen, New York

Kids on a Lake Seneca dock in Watkins Glen, NY as seen in American Public House Review Views of Lake Seneca from Watkins Glen, New York

A brief midsummer excursion brought me back to one my favorite bodies of water in all of North America. And as usual I spent a disproportionate amount of my time away seeking that perfectly situated establishment from which to indulge my deep appreciation of those amassed liquids that contribute to the general health and wellbeing of humankind—whether their volume is measured in ounces or in feet. So after a near circumnavigation of New York’s Seneca Lake, I made the much anticipated stop at Two Goats Brewing in Hector with the hopes of wrapping my hands around a pint of the Goat Master Ultra Pale Ale, while awaiting the arrival of my friend George from Ithaca. That explicit desire would be denied by a simple sign that read “closed on Wednesday.” So with a groan and a grumble, I reluctantly put the car on a southerly heading, and after a quick call to George, it was agreed that we would take our evening’s libations at The Village Marina in Watkins Glen.

The Village Marina in Watkins Glen, New York
The Village Marina on Lake Seneca in Watkins Glen, New Yor

During my six or seven trips over the last several years to this area of the Finger Lakes, I had driven passed the now agreed upon point of rendezvous many a time, and there was nothing in terms of curb appeal that had tempted me to make the stop. And George, knowing my penchant for mahogany, stone, good stories and a unique history, had an almost apologetic tone when suggesting the location. But he did assure me that while The Village Marina did not offer the elevated panoramic vista of the lake afforded one at Two Goats Brewing, there would be a decent selection of beer, and a reasonably good view from the tavern’s rear decking.

Near the entrance to the bar was a posted story that instantly drew my attention. It was a report of a supposed encounter between the Serpent of Seneca and the crew of the side-wheel steamboat, Otetiani, which occurred on the night of July 14, 1899. As the tale was related to the local press, that which was first thought to be an overturned boat in the distance, was in actuality a large reptilian like animal. The captain decided to ram the creature in the hopes of either stunning or killing it, so that its body could be towed to the boat’s ultimate destination, the city of Geneva on the northern end of the lake. After two attempts, the bow of the steamer dealt the creature a mortal wound. But its size and weight proved to be too much for those passengers and crew attempting to secure the remains, so the serpent slipped through their hands, and was forever lost to the great depths of Seneca.

Bar at The Village Marina on Seneca Lake in Watkins Glen, New York
A cozy bar with an excellent selections of beers

The same account also made mention of the “Seneca Drums,” a puzzling inexplicable phenomena of loud sonic like booms that have been experienced by the inhabitants of the area for hundreds of years. One theory on these occurrences suggests the possibility of trapped gases being released from the bottom of the lake that explode upon reaching the atmosphere above the surface. To those area residents that have had their wine glasses rattled on those perfectly clear and calm summer days, this geological anomaly of an explanation just doesn’t hold water.

As I stood outside pondering these bits of local lore, I thought to myself, if nothing else The Village Marina had already provided me with some rather unique history and a damn good story. The interior of the bar was also in keeping with my brand of discernment. It was a very appealing and well-appointed space. But my focus was still that stretch of blue that lay just beyond the back door. So I grabbed a pint of Southern Tier IPA, and headed out to the deck.

The rest of the evening would offer that rare recharge and respite for both the soul and the senses. I delighted in the smell of the slightly salted air, the taste of a fine ale, the sight of children at play against a backdrop of passing sailboats in the changing light of day, and the sound of kind words from caring friends. And while Seneca was not about to give up her secrets on this particular day—I felt that I had moved somewhat closer to unraveling some of those ever elusive secrets to a good and rewarding life.   

Sunset above Seneca Harbor in Watkins Glen, NY as seen in American Public House Review

The Village Marina

  2 Seneca Harbor
Watkins Glen, New York 14891





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