Chautauqua Lake, at 1,308 feet above sea level, is one of the highest navigable waters in North America. It offers exceptional fishing for walleye, bass, muskellunge and several species of panfish.
Located in the southeast corner of Chautauqua County, Chautauqua Lake is about 17.5 miles long and has a surface area of 13,156 acres.
The lake is divided into two basins of nearly equal size by Bemus Point. The north basin of Chautauqua Lake averages 25 feet deep, with a maximum depth of 75 feet. The south basin is considerably shallower, with an average depth of 11 feet and a maximum depth of 19 feet.
The water from the lake drains to the south, emptying first into the Chadakoin River in Jamestown, New York before traveling east into the Conewango Creek. The creek goes south, entering the Allegheny River in Warren, Pa. and the Ohio River in Pittsburgh and drains into the Mississippi River.
The Chautauqua Lake Watershed has likely been inhabited for 10,000-12,000 years. The first significant impacts to the lake and watershed, however, did not occur until the 19th century when deforestation and overfishing were at their peak. Warner Dam was built in 1919 and is currently used to partially regulate lake levels. Chautauqua Lake has a long history of water quality monitoring. The lake was first sampled by the New York State Conservation Department as early as 1937.
According to the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, 90 percent of Chautauqua Lake’s shore is now developed.