The strip of land you will be biking from Seneca Lake to Keuka Lake is steeped in history.
Youll see the evidence of places and events from several bygone eras as you pedal
In the middle of the nineteenth century, two fingers of water connected the 274-foot
drop between Keuka and Seneca Lakes, they were, the outlet to power mills and the Crooked
Lake Canal for boat traffic. A dam and guardhouse in Penn Yan controlled the water flow to
both. The outlet, which still carries water from one lake to the next, was formed by a
ground fault in the Tully limestone allowing water to run between the two lakes. Along its
banks youll see remnants of the many mills that once harnessed the waterpower.The
first white settlers arrived in this area around 1788, attracted by the reliable water
source at the outlet. In 1789, Seneca Mill was built along the raging waters of Keuka Lake
Outlet to grind flour with a 26-foot, overshot flywheel. From then until 1827, a small
religious group called the Society of Universal Friends built 12 dams and many mills that
helped make the area a thriving community. The mills and shops produced flour
(gristmills), lumber (sawmills), tool handles, linseed oil, plaster, and liquor
(distilleries). There were two triphammer forges, eight fulling and carding mills,
tanneries, and weavers making cotton and wool cloth. By 1835, 30 to 40 mills were in
operation. But, by 1900, only 5 mills remained, mainly making paper from straw. The last
water-turbine mill ceased operation in 1968.
In 1833, New York State opened the Crooked Lake Canal to span the 6 miles between the
two lakes and move farm products to eastern markets. The canal was 4 feet deep and had 28
wooden locks. It took a vessel 6 hours to journey through the canal. As business boomed in
the mills, the state widened and deepened the canal and replaced the wooden locks with
stone. But, the canal lost money every year of its 44-year history, so in 1877, the state
auctioned off all of the machinery and stone. Only the towpath remained.
In 1844, a railroad was built on the towpath. Initially operated by the Penn Yan and
New York Railway Company, it eventually became part of the New York Central System.
Railway men called it the Corkscrew Railway because of its countless twists
and turns. The line operated until 1972, when the tracks were washed out by the flood from
A local group interested in recreational use of the ravine convinced the town of Penn
Yan to buy the property in 1981. Since then, it has been developed and maintained by a
volunteer group called the Friends of the Outlet. Trail signs and outhouses were recently
added along the route.
Reference Guides: Purchase an illustrated guide to the Keuka Lake Outlet for $1.00 from
the Yates County Historian, 110 Court Street, Penn Yan, NY 14527. A packet of information
on the history of the mill sites, canal, and railroad of the Keuka Lake Outlet is
available for $3.00 at stores in Penn Yan.
The trail leads downhill from the back-right corner of the Dresden parking lot,
Cross under the Route 14 bridge. The land youre on used to be the Dresden Mill
The wetland to your right (north of the trail) is the old Crooked Lake Canal.
Cross two wooden bridges
Notice the steep cliffs on both sides. Here where the canal and outlet are close
together was the location of Lock 3. Watch for the cement and rebar millstone.
Cross a dirt road. This was Hopeton Road, which connected Geneva to Bath through the
town of Hopeton in the 1790s. To your left you can still see remnants of the iron-pony,
truss bridge over the outlet. The bridge was built in 1840, and rests on stone abutments.
This area was once a community of mills.
Hopeton Grist Mill was located just beyond the dirt road on the left. Nothing
remains of it today.
On your left is a pleasant rest area with large rocks that you can sit on along the
Across the outlet, Bruces Gully cascades water over three waterfalls to join the
outlet. Eventually the Friends of the Outlet plan to build a hiking trail through the
gully. The dark gray rock, which peels in thin layers, is Genesee shale.
Pass a cement pillar on your right.The big W on the pillar signaled the
train conductor to blow his whistle.
At the two-mile point are the remains of the J.T. Baker Chemical Company,
manufacturers of the pesticide carbine bisulfide until 1968. At one time, this was also
the site of a gristmill and several paper mills.
Here youll see your first waterfall. The top step of the falls was the old
dam, constructed in 1827, and the last of the 12 dams to be built along the outlet. Both
Cascade Mill and Mallorys Mill used the water that was held back by this dam.
Follow the wide gravel path through the building area.
Pass old Kelly Tire buildings. The Friends of the Outlet recently renovated these
buildings into the Alfred Jensen Memorial Visitor Center. Its a good place to stop
if you need a restroom.
Follow the green-and-white trail signs as the trail branches to the left.
Cross the paved Ridge Road. In 1805 Mays Mills stood at this site. It had a
gristmill, a sawmill, and a post office. In the 1820s this area was home to a cotton
factory, then a distillery.
Continue along the outlet. Outlet Road parallels close to the trail.
Just over a culvert is another cement post displaying a W, then another
cement marker with D3, which told the conductor that Dresden was 3 miles away.
This means that youre almost halfway to Penn Yan.
Pass a parking lot off Outlet Road. The brick remnants on the right were once a
factory that turned rags into paper.
Look for the large rock between the bike path and the outlet. A plaque on the side
facing the outlet commemorates John Sheridan, a lawyer who negotiated the purchase of land
for the Keuka Lake Outlet Preservation Area. The stone remnants across the outlet were
once a forge. At one time a road crossed over the dam at this spot. Seneca Mill, the
first mill site, was located at this falls, the largest falls on the outlet.
On your right (away from the outlet) is a stone wall with a large round opening.
This used to house a pipe to vent train smoke out of the valley.
The machinery that remains at the top of the dam controlled water flow through a
sluiceway. The original Friends Mill, a complex of paper and grist mills, was here.
The trail bears right through Lock 17, which was the downstream end of a series of
four locks needed to maneuver the elevation drop.
Youre now biking in a ravine of the old canal bed. In May, this segment of
trail is lined with trillium. Its also an active beaver area.
Pass another cement whistle sign on the right.
The cement wall in the water is the end of a race from Milo Mills. The stagnant
water on the left is the raceway. From here to Penn Yan was the most industrialized
section of the outlet.
A large brick chimney towers over the remains of a paper mill, built in 1890, burned
in 1910, and then rebuilt. You can still see the 17-foot flywheel that used 2 miles of
hemp cable and was run by a steam engine. The machinery was manufactured at the Rochester
Foundry at Browns Race.
Cross Milo Mill Road.
Cross a bridge over a wood-lined sluice. This sluice used to carry water to
Shutts Mill, which dates back to about 1850.
A small sidepath immediately to the left leads to the ruins of Shutts Mill.
You can still see the stone vats from this paper mill, which manufactured wallboard.
Shutts Mill burned in 1933. The first mill at this site was a sawmill built in 1812.
It was followed by a wool mill, a gristmill, and a fulling mill. Beware of the poison ivy
in the area.
The waterfall on the far side of the outlet, just before a road and bridge, is
outflow from the municipal sewage plant.
Cross a road. Dibbles Mill used to make wooden wheels in this area.
The green shed across the road on the right was a blacksmith shop from canal times
(around 1838). The blacksmith specialized in shoeing mules.
Cross paved Fox Mill Road. If you take a left on Fox Mill Road, then a quick right
toward the outlet, youll find remains from the Fox Mill that manufactured straw
paper. The stone for the walls was moved here from the dismantled locks of Crooked Lake
Canal around 1865.
Pass a sign for St. Johns Mill. Other than the sign, theres nothing to
see. The mill used to be across the outlet.
Cross paved Cherry Street, at 5.5 miles.
The trail becomes paved.
Pass under a railroad trestle called High Bridge. It was originally
built of wood in 1850 and was rebuilt in 1890.
The large circular hollow just after the trestle was once a turntable for the train.
Pass signs for an exercise trail. After the chin-up bars on the right, a small path
leads left to another cement railroad marker D6, indicating 6 miles from
Reach the wooden bridge, which served as a railroad trestle to Birkett Mills in
1824. Birkett Mills took their water turbines out in 1947.
Pass under the Main Street (Penn Yan) bridge, built from canal stone in 1884. This
area used to have the guardhouse for the canal. The dam on the right is used to control
water level in Keuka Lake. The brown building you can see was a grain warehouse. At one
time this section of trail was home to several woodworking factories, a cooperage, and a
Pass through a park.
Cross the pedestrian bridge over the outlet.
Continue through Penn Yan Recreation Complex on the paved path. You pass restrooms,
a boat launch, tennis courts, and a small play ground.
Cross another wooden bridge over Sucker Brook.
Pass through the athletic fields to the parking lot in Marsh Development Project on
The trail ends here. You can turn around and retrace your path.