Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Lake Ronkonkoma

Location:   Long Island
Year:   1740s

Lake Ronkonkoma is the largest lake on Long Island. A so-called "kettle lake" scoured out by glacial action, Lake Ronkonkoma is nearly round and measures a half mile across. 

"Ronkonkoma" means "the fishing place on the boundary" in Algonkian, and the lake was shared by local Native American tribes, who had villages around the lake's circumference. In the 1740s, Richard Smith, the founder of Smithtown, took title to the lake, but it was notable mostly as a local fishing hole for most of its history. 

In the 1890s, the lake (and the adjacent village also known as Lake Ronkonkoma) became a popular summer retreat and spa. Several upscale hotels were built to service the New York City elite who flocked to the area. Bass fishing also became a popular pastime. 

As the area shifted from exurban to suburban the town lost its spa quality. Nowadays, Lake Ronkonkoma is a typical Long Island bedroom community. 

Several urban legends exist about the lake being bottomless (its maximum depth is 95 feet), about the lake supporting a school of pirhana (reports that keepers of odd game fish may release them into the lake have not been verified), about pirates having used the lake for nefarious purposes (the lake has no surface outlets),  and about a Native American spirit, The Lady of The Lake, that haunts the area, drowning unsuspecting swimmers.   

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