A Gem in the Midwest

Have you ever been to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin?

I had not either.  But, boy, what a beautiful spot.

I have been to Geneva in the Finger Lakes region in upper New York State, and I have been to Geneva Switzerland.  But this is different.   To be clear, Lake Geneva WI is the town on the eastern most end of Geneva Lake, but I am calling the whole experience Lake Geneva.

Just north of the Illinois state line, just 65 mile northwest of Chicago, this place has been a get-a-way spot for Chicagoans for some time, especially wealthy Chicagoans.  Second home for many, but now more and more are living in their homes on the lake year round.

Wrigley has a huge complex on the lake.  The Schwinn’s do too.  And many others as well.  The mansions of the well-to-do sprinkle the lake front.  They are something to behold.  Some call it the “Newport (RI) of the West”.

Interestingly, Lake Geneva was also the retreat and rest area for some bad guys.  For example, the Dillinger gang frequented the lake.  Others included George “Baby Face” Nelson and George “Bugs” Moran.

The lake itself is a little over 7 miles long, about 2 miles wide at spots, covering some 8,439 square miles.

I managed to see it from three different vantage points.  One, drove around it in my rental car.  Two, took an excursion tour on a boat around the lake.  And three, hiked a portion of the lake front.

The last way was by far the most amazing.  Imagine being able to hike around the entire lake, all the while walking right next to the water, never more than 3’ from the water’s edge.  This lake shore path is totally open to the public, yet it crosses the private property of thousands of lake front home owners.  This is so rare.  I don’t know of any other such lake front hiking path that allows you to cross each home owner’s property right near the water.  It is truly unbelievable.

And what a treat. To be able to see the variety of homes up close.  To be able to see the variety of boats and other water toys on the docks that dot the shoreline.  To be able to view the plantings, gardens and flowers that each home has spent effort growing.  All the while hearing and seeing the lapping water of the lake just 3 feet away.

All I can say is WOW!  It is 26 miles to walk this path all around the lake.  I hiked 4 of the 26 miles and loved it.

Two other really interesting facts about Geneva Lake that just surprised the heck out of me.  One, in the winter the lake freezes over!  Holy cow!  This is not a small lake.  But, as a result of this, all the boats, pilings and docks along the 26 mile shoreline of the lake have to be removed.  And then, the next spring, they are all replaced.  This is a massive effort.  There are probably almost a thousand docks on the lake.  Imagine…

The other fact which is so cool is that it is the only place in the world where mail jumping is practiced, a very unusual mail delivery system maintained as a local tradition since 1873.  About 60 homes on the lake receive their mail every day from the US Postal Service by a boat that has “mail jumpers” on board.  These young men and women literally jump from the boat as it comes close to each home’s dock, place their mail in the mail box on the person’s dock, retrieve any outgoing mail, and jump back on the boat.  They do this all while the boat never stops.  It continues to move at a very slow and steady pace of about 5 mph.

All of this, I say to myself, and I had not even heard about Lake Geneva, much less been there.  My first surprise in my visit to the Midwest.

6 thoughts on “A Gem in the Midwest”

  1. Wow is right! I can tell already that this is going to be another fun trip to follow along with! Adding Lake Geneva to my bucket list!

  2. My brother Reuben drove a Chris Craft around the lake for visitors during summers in college. It really is a jewel.

  3. Missed that one. Looks beautiful. Now added to my bucket list. Love the idea of the path all around the lake.

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