Geneva Lake

Geneva Lake (Potawatomi: Kishwauketoe, "Clear Water")[2] is a body of freshwater in Walworth County in southeastern Wisconsin.[3] On its shores are the city of Lake Geneva, and the villages of Fontana-on-Geneva-Lake, and Williams Bay. The lake is known as the only place in the world where mail jumping is practiced, an unusual mail delivery system maintained as a local tradition. The lake covers an area of approximately 5,401 acres (8.439 sq mi; 21.86 km2),[3] has a maximum length of 7.5 miles (12.1 km),[3] mean depth of 61 feet (19 m)[3] and a maximum depth of 135 feet (41 m).[3] Geologists believe that it is a filled-in kettle formed from a receding glacier.

Geneva Lake
Williams Bay, Wisconsin 042.jpg
Location of Geneva Lake in Wisconsin, USA.
Location of Geneva Lake in Wisconsin, USA.
Geneva Lake
Location of Geneva Lake in Wisconsin, USA.
Location of Geneva Lake in Wisconsin, USA.
Geneva Lake
LocationWalworth County, Wisconsin,
United States
Coordinates42°33′54.04″N 88°30′13.50″W / 42.5650111°N 88.5037500°W / 42.5650111; -88.5037500Coordinates: 42°33′54.04″N 88°30′13.50″W / 42.5650111°N 88.5037500°W / 42.5650111; -88.5037500[1]
Primary outflowsWhite River
Basin countriesUnited States
Max. length12 km (7.5 mi)
Surface area5,401 acres (8.439 sq mi; 21.86 km2)
Average depth61 feet (19 m)
Max. depth135 feet (41 m)
SettlementsLake Geneva, Fontana-on-Geneva-Lake, Williams Bay


The lake was home to a band of Prairie Potawatomi prior to the lake's settlement by colonial settlers. During the first three decades of the 19th century, the band was led by Big Foot.

The original colonial settlers on Geneva Lake referred to it as Big Foot Lake.[4] In the 1830s, a government surveyor named John Brink renamed the lake and the town on it for Geneva, New York, a town located on Seneca Lake, which he thought they resembled.[5] To avoid confusion with the nearby town of Geneva, Illinois, the city was renamed Lake Geneva; later the lake was renamed Geneva Lake.[citation needed]

Lakeshore attractions include Big Foot Beach State Park, Lake Geneva Yacht Club, the George Williams College campus of Aurora University, and Yerkes Observatory. The observatory is no longer owned by the University of Chicago, which transferred ownership of it to the non-profit Yerkes Future Foundation (YFF) in May 2020.[6]

Public access to the lake is allowed as the result of a decision by early European settlers that "20 feet of land leading up to the shoreline should be public domain."[7][8][9] A shorepath, which is open to the public, completely surrounds the lake.[7][8][9] Between 21[8][9] and 26[7] miles long, it follows the route taken by Potawatomi Indians.[7] The path crosses the estates of the Schwinns, Swifts, Wackers, and Wrigleys.[7]


  1. ^ "Lake Geneva". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved Jan 15, 2021.
  2. ^ Lahey, Sarah T. (May 25, 2016). "The Potawatomi At Geneva Lake". At The Lake: Geneva Lakes Area Magazine. Retrieved July 11, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Geneva Lake, Walworth County, 5401 Acres". Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Archived from the original on 2017-09-16. Retrieved 2017-09-16. Name: Geneva Lake, Area: 5401 acres, Maximum Depth: 135 feet, Mean Depth: 61 feet
  4. ^ Manierre, George (December 1917). "Early Recollections of Lake Geneva (Big Foot Lake), Wisconsin". The Wisconsin Magazine of History. 1: 142 – via JSTOR.
  5. ^ "A short history of Geneva Lake". University of Lake Geneva. 2003. Archived from the original on 2012-03-06. Retrieved 2013-08-16.
  6. ^ "Foundation celebrates donation and takes ownership of Yerkes Observatory". 2020. Archived from the original on 2020-06-21. Retrieved 2021-01-18.
  7. ^ a b c d e Timothy J. Tuomey and Magdalene Wise Tuomey (August 28, 1988). "A Hike Around Lake Geneva Is A Walk For All Seasons". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on August 1, 2013. Retrieved 2013-08-16.
  8. ^ a b c "Geneva Lake Shorepath Walk". Lake Geneva Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. Archived from the original on 2013-08-06. Retrieved 2013-08-16.
  9. ^ a b c "Walk, Hike, or Run on the Lake Geneva Lake Shore Path". The Downtown Lake Geneva Business Improvement District. Archived from the original on 2013-07-31. Retrieved 2013-08-16.

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