Saratoga County

Family camp tradition alive on Galway Lake

On a hot summer afternoon, residents of Galway Lake can be found lounging on their porches, loading

On a hot summer afternoon, residents of Galway Lake can be found lounging on their porches, loading up canoes to go fishing, and walking and biking along the tree-lined road that borders the water.

The lake, a little piece of paradise less than 20 miles west of Saratoga Springs, is man-made and today privately owned by the Galway Lake Campers’ Association.

Gasoline-powered vessels are not allowed on the water. Rather, sails, oars, paddles and small electric motors are what get boaters around.

There is a Galway Lake Sailing Club, which according to its website offers a place for youths to “learn the joy/art of sailing solo and with a crew; no sailboat required.” The club also holds sailboat races on the lake for more experienced sailors.

George and Nancy Pope, who live in Tarpon Springs, Fla., used to live in the Saratoga Springs area and to keep that connection they come to Galway Lake, where they own a campground, for two or three months a year.

“We spend a lot of time on the lake,” George Pope said, noting that they have a pontoon boat, some canoes, and they also spend time going on picnics and having parties with friends who live around the lake.

“Everyone’s very friendly around here, very talkative,” Hal Wakeley, another lake resident, observed.

According to Galway Town Historian Phyllis Keeler, the lake was constructed in 1855 to serve as a reservoir for Amsterdam and was owned by the Amsterdam Water Works Company. Over the next 20 years, the reservoir was expanded until it encompassed 580 acres, its current size.

Its water was used to power various mills and industries that once existed along the Chuctanunda Creek, which feeds off the lake.

Camps began to sprout up around the reservoir as the land surrounding it was purchased. Keeler said that in January 1981, the lake was purchased from the Amsterdam Water Works company by the campers.

Resident Ray David, 85, said the lake was purchased by the newly formed Galway Lake Campers’ Association for $1. The water company was eager to relinquish ownership of the reservoir because it had become unprofitable to maintain, David said.

The Campers’ Association keeps the lake stocked with fish, the water clean, and the bottom manicured, with expenses defrayed by the dues paid by residents.

“Every year there’s an increase in modernizing what was, in the ’20s, their family’s camp,” Keeler, the historian, said. She said that the camps tend to stay in the family.

David has been spending time at Galway Lake since he was a child. His father and an associate bought a house on Lake Road, which is not lakefront, and also a piece of lakefront property in 1924.

“The land around the lake used to be all farmlands, but it’s been unused for quite a while now,” David said. Indeed, Galway Lake is surrounded today by a buffer of trees, which makes it little known to passersby.

David said he enjoyed sailing when he was younger.

“A friend of mine bought a sailboat back in the ’40s, when we were kids,” he said.

As a child, he grew up with other family members close by. He, his cousin, and a friend had a paper route that ran around the lake in the summer of 1942.

“Papers sold for three cents, and we got to keep two cents,” he said.

His brother also had the idea to sell frogs’ legs to a hotel in Broadalbin. They biked up to the hotel and offered to catch frogs from the lake, and one of the hotels agreed to buy them.

“We went back to the lake, and we must have caught two frogs that entire night,” David said with a laugh.

Today David and his wife have three grandchildren who live with them. He said that they enjoy swimming in the lake, and they also enjoy taking a family friend’s paddle boat out for a ride.

Categories: Schenectady County

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