Nature Lovers Retreat – St. Michael’s Mission
St. Michael’s Mission in Conesus New York, is a perfect getaway for nature lovers. While officially located in Conesus one of the Finger Lakes, the spacious grounds of the former St. Michael’s Seminary and latter St. Michael’s Mission are located on the slopes above Hemlock Lake. Nestled in an area of forest and farmland, the 50 plus wooded acres of the Mission is a nature haven in itself. Add in that it is adjacent to land owned by the nature conservatory and a state forest. The Eagle Crest Vineyards, a leading vineyard with historical ties to St. Michael’s Seminary, is just a short walk away.
If you love nature, then you will find that St. Michael’s Mission is the perfect place to live, have as a weekend retreat, or to have as your vacation base. Just thirty minutes from Rochester the mission sits near the shore of Hemlock Lake, one of the famous Finger Lakes. The Finger Lake region of New York is known for the lakes and rolling countryside created during the retreat of the last ice age. The region is within the Allegheny Plateaus which is a portion of the Appalachian Plateau.
Hemlock Lake — A Special Finger Lake
Hemlock Lake and it’s smaller sister Canadice Lake are unique among the different Finger Lakes. These two lakes are the water supply for the City of Rochester and no development has been allowed along their shorelines. A number of years back the State of New York purchased the land from the city and created a 6,684-acre state forest.
Hiking Finger Lakes Style
If hiking is your way of getting your dose of nature, then this is the right place for you. St. Michael’s Mission is perfect place for hikers. You can walk around the 50 wooded acres or take a trail that leads to the lake from the picnic pavilion. A short walk along the lightly used Mission Road will lead you to three parking areas for the Hemlock-Canadice State Forest each have a number of trail heads. Other State Forest trails are a short drive away.
The Finger Lake region is well-known for hiking and other outdoor activities. There are hundreds of miles of trails near-by. The Hiking near Hemlock Lake, a Finger Lake webpage has more details on local hiking.
Fishing Hemlock and Canadice Lakes
Hemlock and Canadice Lakes are outstanding places to fish. The lake is about seven miles long and maybe a mile wide. It has a depth of 90 feet and an average depth of 35 to 40 feet. This allows for a variety of fish in the lake. The lakes are in the Hemlock-Canadice State Forest and have some restrictions. Most of these restrictions favor the fisherman who enjoys a peaceful day of fishing.
You can fish from the shoreline or a boat except for the northernmost mile of the lake. No high power boats nor personal watercraft, you know this jet ski guys that scare away the fish. Small boats with trolling motors and kayaks are the craft you will see.
Hemlock Park at the very north portion of Hemlock lake is not a part of the state forest. You may not launch your boat nor kayak here, however, fishing from the shore is allowed.
This is from the DEC website for Hemlock lake:
Lake trout historically provided the most significant sport-fishery on Hemlock Lake. In 1957, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation conducted the first biological survey of Hemlock Lake. DEC records show that stocking of lake trout, landlocked salmon and cisco(lake herring) into Hemlock Lake began more then one hundred years ago. Later stocking efforts included rainbow trout, brown trout, smelt, walleye, and lake whitefish.
Currently, Hemlock’s salmonid fishery consists of lake trout, brown trout, rainbow trout and landlocked salmon. All these fish may be taken year-round-check your Fishing Regulations Guide for size and bag limits.
Good populations of smelt and alewives provide excellent trout and salmon growth. Annual stocking by DEC sustains the lake trout, brown trout, and landlocked salmon populations. The rainbow trout fishery is supported by natural reproduction from Springwater Creek.
Hemlock’s warm water sportfishery includes smallmouth bass, largemouth bass and chain pickerel. The latter are noted for their large size. Significant opportunities are also available for panfish including bullhead(especially in spring), yellow perch, rock bass, bluegill and pumpkinseed.
You can read about the State forest here.
Hunting is a sport that polarize many people. Many people are highly in favor of it, while others think it should be stopped. Hunters present the point that then help keep the deer population under control. That without game management, many animals will starve over the winter. I would say that without hunting, the deer population would be out of control in this area. On an average day, it is common to see a dozen deer. My record, was 25 deer in the recreation field and another 125 in four fields between the Mission and Conesus, about 8 miles.
The State Forest allows deer hunting. Here is some additional information on deer hunting and deer conservation programs in New York.
Kayaking the Finger Lakes
If you are a nature lover, and enjoy the water, then consider Kayaking. The Finger Lake Region has hundreds of locations for you to explore. Beyond the major and minor Finger Lakes there are many more small lakes, ponds, rivers and streams just waiting for you.
Hemlock Lake and Canadice Lake each has two launch points for small boats. Small motorboats with trolling size motors are allowed, however, jet-skies and more powerful boats are not. The majority of the craft on these lakes are kayaks. These lakes are only minutes away from St. Michael’s Mission.
Conesus Lake has four boat launches, three of which are for hand launches. Two are at the north end of the lake in Lakeville, one is near the south end of the lake on the west side, and there is a trailer launch site on the east side of the lake. That site is always busy with boaters.
The Erie Canal is closer to Rochester than Conesus, however, it is a world-class kayaking destination that deserves a look. The NYS Canalway Water Trail comprises 450 miles of canals and interconnected lakes and rivers. It includes the Erie, Cayuga-Seneca, Oswego, and Champlain canals. Their official website is amazing. You can download maps and guides of the waterway. You can also purchase them in a hard copy for the cost of shipping.
Another great resource for local kayaking, as well as other activities, is the Day Tripping Rochester website. They have an article 58 Places to Explore Rochester’s Waterways.
Here is some more detailed information about local kayaking. One of the positive things to come out of the COVID-19 situation, is that many people are reconnecting with nature. Kayaking has been one outdoor activity that has gain from social distancing.
As you look out towards the lake at night from St. Michael’s, the only light you will likely see is a blinking red one on a cell tower about 5 miles away. There is little or no light pollution in the area. This leads to outstanding star watching. Both the north and south buildings have an open patio on the third floor that makes for outstanding star gazing.
The recreation field across Mission rd, also makes for a good location to watch the stars.
You can classify skiing into Alpine (downhill) or Nordic (cross-country). Both of these styles are available in the Finger Lakes. There are three Alpine resorts nearby. Bristol mountain and Hunt Hollow are about a half hour away and Swain is 45 minutes. There are other places to ski an hour or two away.
Nordic skiing is alive and very well in the Finger Lakes Region. Depending on your skill level, the hiking trails of the State Parks and Forest are available to you. The Rochester Cross Country Ski Foundation, RXCSF, maintain trails in four areas including the Harriet Hollister Recreation Area and Mendon Ponds Park.
Having a snowmobile is great, however, it is often difficult to find places where you can ride them. Not some much in the Finger Lakes. New York’s has 10,500 miles of funded trails. The NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has a Snowmobile Unit, whose purpose is to promote snowmobiling. Many of the local state lands, including Hemlock- Canadice State Forest and the Harriet Hollister Recreation Area, have snowmobile trails.
The New York State Snowmobiling Association (NYSSA) has 230+ Clubs and County Associations that make up invite you to enjoy this winter. You can visit their interactive map to see the trail network and find contact information for local clubs.
If you plan on snowmobiling in New York’s Finger Lakes Region download the state’s guide to snowmobiling.
Bring on Winter in the Finger Lakes
While the Finger Lakes is often looked on as a summer destination, the winter has lots to offer as well. Where will you play this winter?