Ithaca is a city in the Finger Lakes region of New York. It is the seat of Tompkins County, as well as the largest community in the Ithaca–Tompkins County metropolitan area. This area contains the municipalities of the Town of Ithaca, the village of Cayuga Heights, and other towns and villages in Tompkins County. The city of Ithaca is located on the southern shore of Cayuga Lake, in Central New York. It is named for the Greek island of Ithaca. Ithaca is home to Cornell University, an Ivy League school of over 20,000 students, most of whom study at its local campus. Ithaca College is located just south of the city in the Town of Ithaca, adding to the area’s “college town” atmosphere. Nearby is Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3). The valley in which Cayuga Lake is located is long and narrow with a north-south orientation. Ithaca is at the southern end (the “head”) of the lake, but the valley continues to the southwest behind the city. The lake, which drains to the north, formed behind a dam of glacial moraine. The rock is predominantly Devonian and, north of Ithaca is relatively fossil-rich. The world-renowned fossils found in this area can be examined at the Museum of the Earth. Ithaca was founded on flat land just south of the lake—land that formed in fairly recent geological times when silt filled the southern end of the lake. The city ultimately spread to the adjacent hillsides, which rise several hundred feet above the central flats: East Hill, West Hill, and South Hill. Its sides are fairly steep, and a number of the streams that flow into the valley from east or west have cut deep canyons, usually with several waterfalls. The natural vegetation of the Ithaca area, seen in areas unbuilt and unfarmed, is northern temperate broadleaf forest, dominated by deciduous trees.
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