History of Lake Geneva, Geneva Lake & Its Water Sports

by Donna Brendel July 08, 2016

Lake Geneva History

The history of Lake Geneva, our quaint lakeside town, is best summed up by our own City of Lake Geneva webpage. Here is a snippet, 

Most of our welcome visitors and guests are familiar with the many attractions in the Geneva Lakes area: our beaches at Library Park, and Big Foot State Park, specialty shops and galleries, golfing, boating, hiking the Potawatomi Trail, lake cruises, great food, and lodging services. However, many wonder about the origin of the rolling hills and lake, the early Indians, the pioneering white settlers, the quaint town and its yesteryear homes and buildings (www.cityoflakegeneva.com).

Visit their site to learn more about the history of the city of Lake Geneva.

Downtown Lake Geneva has many great highlights of its own, known for one of the best attractions, the boat tours and ballroom space at The Riviera. Most people are very familiar with the shops of downtown, but for a full list, click this link: Shop Lake Geneva Downtown.

The Geneva Lakes Museum offers a vast array of historical information about the city. The Village of Lake Geneva became a city in 1886 with a population of 2,300, and the first cement sidewalk was poured that same year.

Geneva Lake History

I may be dyslexic, but I haven't made any typos here. Did you know that the City is called Lake Geneva, but the Lake is called Geneva Lake? It took me about 30 years of visiting and then living in this area to learn this tidbit of information.

For more fascinating information and even authentic artifacts and visuals of our lake and city's origins, please visit the Geneva Lake Museum and its website www.genevalakemuseum.org.

One of the most intriguing features of our crystal clear spring fed lake is the Lake Shore Path (or Potawatomi Trail). I recently hiked it with a friend, which took us 12 hours full of walking and marveling at both the natural and man-made grandeur of the lake, its homes and landscapes. Here is some fascinating history of this path,

Geneva Lake is one of a very few developed lakes in America that has a public path along the shore for the entire distance around the lake. An Indian treaty signed in 1833 guarantees public access to the Lake Shore Path in perpetuity. The Lake Shore Path is approximately 23 miles long. In Victorian times, grand promenades were featured in elaborate landscape designs. Today, path conditions range from easy to rugged, and there are designated public access areas to guide walkers to the lake (Geneva Lake Museum, About the Lake tab).

For more practical information about your boat and where and when to launch it, visit the Your Boat tab of the City of Lake Geneva's site. 

Towed Water Sports History

Ever since Chicago's wealthy families started vacationing and then also living on Geneva Lake, they've been sporting here too. Water skiing itself was invented in 1922 on Lake Pepin in Lake City, Minnesota, as we shared in our previous blog, Inventions & Innovations of Towed Water Sports. I'm sure it didn't take long for the sport to make it one state over to Wisconsin's Geneva Lake.

Help Us Report History

Can you believe, there is literally no information that I could find out there on the world wide web on this specific topic, the history of towed water sports on Geneva Lake. Not to worry, this is actually a fantastic opportunity! You can help us write history. The history has already been made by our very own family members and neighbors, we just need to gather the information and report it. If you have records, photo albums, scrapbooks, journals, or even just snapshots with details written on the back, you can help us piece this mystery together. Who was the first person to water ski here, and when, what year was it, what era even? 

In fact, I imagine that some of the innovations of the sports, wakeboarding, wake surfing and wake skating were begun on this very lake along with the rest of the country. So then, who was the first person to wakeboard here, wake surf here, etc.?

You don't even have to know who was first. You can share your photos, names and dates with us, and we will compile all of the information into chronological order. History buffs will appreciate this, and so will your families as this blog begins to take shape and turn into an actual history report.

Remember those crazy antics too. Do you have any memories or pictures of your family members riding on oars, lawn chairs, discs, coolers, or any other floating item? We'd love to hear about these innovations too and see pictures, so please share. Let us know which lake it's on if it's not Geneva Lake, but a neighboring lake.

Submit Your Info & Photos

You can share and submit your knowledge and information by commenting on this blog post and get the conversation going. To submit photos, scan or take a picture of your snapshots/polaroids, etc., and email them to us at bs@bswake.com. If you don't have a digital camera or phone, feel free to bring your pictures and information into the store, and we can snap pictures of your photos for you.  

Thank you for helping us compile facts and make an historical report on these fascinating topics that we share passions for, our City of Lake, our Geneva Lake, and our Towed Water Sports.




Donna Brendel
Donna Brendel

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