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Crazy Facts About Lake Ronkonkoma

LongIsland.com

Learn more about this geographic wonder on Long Island.

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Photo: Lake Ronkonkoma, North beach, 1901. Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions]

Impressive in its size and depth, and the legends that surround it, Lake Ronkonkoma has attracted people to its shores for various reasons for hundreds of years, starting with the four Native American tribes who shared its shores up to modern times when the lake area became a resort for the rich and famous.

 

Here we present some interesting and crazy facts about Lake Ronkonkoma. For more information check out the Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society website.
 

  • It’s Long Island's largest freshwater lake with a circumference of 2 miles and has an area of 243 acres
  • Portions of its irregular basin are unusually deep for Long Island (65 feet). A soundings map shows various depths
  • Lake Ronkonkoma is called a kettle lake and was formed by retreating glaciers
  • Ronkonkoma comes from an Algonquian term that means "boundary fishing-lake"
  • It has also been written as “Raconkumake” and “Raconkamuck”
  • Lake Ronkonkoma served as a boundary between four Native American tribes: Nissequogues, Setaukets, Secatogues and Unkechaugs
  • Native Americans thought the lake was bottomless
  • People also believed that the lake contained secret underwater connections to other bodies of water like the Great South Bay or the Long Island Sound
  • People living around the lake have always been perplexed by the tendency of the water level to rise and fall with no relationship to rainfall

Lake Ronkonkoma photo... by stevan [Public Domain]

  • Today, the land around the lake is in three different towns - Smithtown, Islip and Brookhaven - but the lake itself is owned by Islip Town
  • One of the first reports of settlers living in the area is from a 1795 survey that reported five houses north of the lake
  • The Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society does say that people lived on the Smithtown side of the lake in the 1740s and has reports of property sold near the lake in 1734
  • Claims that the waters had special healing powers led to it becoming a popular spot in the 1800s
  • Lake Ronkonkoma became a summer resort area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries attracting the rich and famous to its shores
  • Celebrities like Greta Garbo and Jackie Gleason were said to have come to Lake Ronkonkoma to stay at one of the resorts
  • The legend of the Lady of the Lake says that a Native American princess takes the life of one boy every year by drowning them in the lake looking for her lost love
  • There are many variations of the curse of the Lady of the Lake story
  • An artist carved a 32-foot-tall statue out of wood of the Lady of the Lake, whose name is Tuskawanta

University of Washington [Public domain]

 

  • The DEC lists Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Yellow Perch, White Perch, Carp, Brown Bullhead, and Walleye among other fish species in the lake
  • For a joint-agency project, a Blackhawk helicopter airlifted over 150 weighted hardwood tree stumps and dropped them into Lake Ronkonkoma to construct submerged reefs at the bottom of the lake where they provide fish with places to feed, rest and hide improving their habitat
  • A U.S. Government survey determined that Lake Ronkonkoma is essentially a natural well that taps the underground water table [source: Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society]
 

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