Skenoh Island

A Pictoral History


Skenoh Island is an 11,000 year old island located in waters of the Town of Canandaigua at the northwest corner of Canandaigua Lake and is only accessible by boat. A sign overlooking Skenoh Island at the end of the Canandaigua City Pier describes the island, at less than a quarter-acre in size, as the smallest NY State Fish and Wildlife Management Area and one of the two known islands in the eleven Finger Lakes. 

Skenoh Island was formerly called Squaw Island. The Town Board proposed the name change in September 2020 (Resolution No. 2020-205) and the USGS approved the name change in October 2021 after the Town and several other communities surrounding it requested the change. Skenoh is Seneca for 'Peace' and the name is supported by the Seneca Nation, NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and various local municipalities.

It has gained some level of notoriety as being one of only a few places worldwide where one can find "water biscuits". These flat, whitish cakes of lime form when the lime falls out of solution in the water and is deposited over small objects such as pebbles or twigs. Skenoh Island, once a popular picnic and day trip destination, has gradually been reduced in size by wave action from two acres to its present one-fifth acre. In recent times, projects have been undertaken to protect its eroding southern shoreline.


The following is a pictoral history of the island. If you have additional images to share, reach out to the History Team or the Town Historian.

Images courtesy of Ontario County Historical Society, dates are estimated













Watercolor, Frank Townsend Hutchens, 1887 - note boathouses along pier and steamboat smoke











Watercolor, Charles Dickens Wader, pre-1918 - note Canandaigua skyline














Low water year - early 20th century












Early 20th century













c. 1918 - 1930, during “State Museum Reservation” period














Back of postcard above












Postcard view c. 1930-1950











Allen family picnic on Skenoh Island, no date












Skenoh Island from Atwater Meadows, c. 1950-70












High water year, possibly 1972 (Hurricane Agnes)














Skenoh Island from the air, mid 20th century

























Skenoh Island from the air, c. 1970s













Watercolor, Walter Henn, pre-1975















Watercolor - Fred Johnson, 1995












Skenoh Island from the City Pier in winter, pre-1986












Before 2001 stabilization work - note Water Biscuit boulder at right

Skenoh Island is owned by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and is managed as a wildlife management area. For more information, click here.


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