Geography of Chemung County, New York

Geography of Chemung County, New York

Chemung County, nestled in the southern tier of New York State, is characterized by its diverse geography, rich history, and scenic landscapes. From its rolling hills and verdant valleys to its winding rivers and picturesque lakes, Chemung County offers a captivating blend of natural beauty and cultural heritage. In this comprehensive exploration, we will delve into the geography, climate, rivers, lakes, and other notable features that define Chemung County.


According to Prozipcodes, Chemung County spans an area of approximately 407 square miles (1,055 square kilometers) and is situated in the southern part of the Finger Lakes region. It is bordered by several other counties, including Tioga County to the east, Steuben County to the west, and Schuyler County to the south. The county is characterized by its diverse topography, which includes rolling hills, fertile valleys, and steep gorges.

The Chemung River, which flows through the heart of the county from south to north, is one of the most prominent geographic features. The river and its tributaries have carved out deep valleys and gorges, creating stunning scenery and providing habitat for diverse wildlife.

Chemung County is also home to several other waterways, including the Tioga River, Newtown Creek, and Cayuta Creek, which meander through the countryside and provide valuable water resources for irrigation, recreation, and wildlife habitat.

The county seat of Chemung County is the city of Elmira, while other notable communities include Horseheads, Big Flats, and Erin. These towns and cities are situated in the Chemung Valley, a fertile agricultural region that is known for its rolling hills, fertile soils, and scenic beauty.


Chemung County experiences a humid continental climate, characterized by four distinct seasons with relatively cold winters and warm summers. The region’s climate is influenced by its location in the northeastern United States, with weather patterns influenced by the Great Lakes and Atlantic Ocean.

Summers in Chemung County are typically warm and humid, with average temperatures ranging from the mid-60s to low 80s Fahrenheit (around 18 to 28 degrees Celsius). Heatwaves are common during the summer months, with temperatures occasionally exceeding 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius). Thunderstorms are also frequent, bringing heavy rainfall, lightning, and gusty winds to the area.

Winters in Chemung County are generally cold and snowy, with average temperatures ranging from the mid-20s to low 30s Fahrenheit (around -4 to 0 degrees Celsius). Snowfall is common, particularly in the higher elevations of the hills and valleys, where several inches of snow can accumulate throughout the winter months. Snowstorms and ice storms can also occur, leading to hazardous driving conditions and school closures.

Spring and fall are transitional seasons in Chemung County, characterized by mild temperatures and changing foliage. Spring brings the blooming of flowers and the greening of the landscape, while fall showcases the vibrant colors of changing leaves and the harvest of agricultural crops.

Rivers and Lakes:

Chemung County is blessed with an abundance of rivers, streams, and lakes, which provide valuable water resources and support diverse ecosystems. The Chemung River is the largest river in the county and serves as a vital source of water for irrigation, recreation, and wildlife habitat.

Several tributaries of the Chemung River also traverse the county, including the Tioga River, which flows into the Chemung River near the city of Elmira, and Newtown Creek, which meanders through the town of Horseheads. These waterways provide opportunities for fishing, boating, and wildlife viewing, as well as scenic beauty and recreational activities.

In addition to rivers and streams, Chemung County is home to several lakes and reservoirs, which offer opportunities for fishing, boating, and swimming. These include Eldridge Lake, located in Elmira, which is a popular spot for picnicking and family outings, and Sullivanville Lake, located near the town of Horseheads, which is known for its scenic beauty and fishing opportunities.

Parks and Recreation:

Chemung County is home to several parks, nature preserves, and outdoor recreation areas that showcase the natural beauty and diversity of the region. These include:

  • Newtown Battlefield State Park, located near the town of Elmira, which preserves the site of a historic battle fought during the American Revolution. The park features hiking trails, picnic areas, and interpretive exhibits, as well as stunning views of the Chemung Valley.
  • Mark Twain State Park, located near the town of Horseheads, which offers hiking trails, fishing ponds, and picnic areas, as well as opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife viewing. The park is named after the famous author and humorist Mark Twain, who spent several summers in Elmira.
  • Tanglewood Nature Center and Museum, located in Elmira, which features hiking trails, educational programs, and exhibits on the natural history of the region. The nature center is home to a diverse array of plant and animal species, as well as a museum showcasing local artifacts and exhibits.

These parks and recreation areas serve as valuable natural resources for residents and visitors to enjoy, providing opportunities for outdoor recreation, education, and conservation in a protected setting.

Historic Landmarks:

Chemung County is rich in history and is home to several historic landmarks and sites that showcase its cultural heritage and significance. These include:

  • The Arnot Art Museum, located in Elmira, which is housed in a historic mansion and features a collection of American and European art spanning several centuries. The museum offers rotating exhibits, educational programs, and special events throughout the year.
  • The Chemung Valley History Museum, located in downtown Elmira, which preserves and interprets the history of the region through exhibits, artifacts, and educational programs. The museum showcases the rich cultural heritage of Chemung County, from its Native American roots to its industrial past and beyond.
  • The National Soaring Museum, located in Elmira, which celebrates the history of gliding and soaring flight in the United States. The museum features exhibits on the science and technology of flight, as well as historic gliders and aircraft dating back to the early 20th century.

These historic landmarks and sites provide opportunities for visitors to learn about the rich history and cultural heritage of Chemung County and its role in shaping the history of New York State and the United States.


In conclusion, Chemung County, New York, offers a wealth of natural beauty, outdoor recreation, and cultural heritage for residents and visitors to enjoy. From its rolling hills and scenic rivers to its historic landmarks and museums, the county’s geography reflects the diverse ecosystems and rich history of the region. Whether exploring Newtown Battlefield State Park, hiking in Mark Twain State Park, or touring the Arnot Art Museum, Chemung County has something to offer for everyone. With its stunning landscapes, diverse wildlife, and rich cultural heritage, Chemung County is truly a gem of the southern tier of New York State.

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