Skaneateles Lake – New York’s Finger Lakes

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Location / Directions / Maps

Location:  Onondaga, Cayuga, and Cortland Counties, New York.

Surrounding Communities: Skaneateles; Spafford; Marcellus; Scott.

Maps: Google Map; Bing MapsMulti-map (topo)WatershedLand use.

GPS: Northern Outlet [Skaneateles Creek] (N 42.94508 / W 76.42940) Southern tip (N 42.76415 / W 76.27263)

Size: Area: 8,800 acres, Length: 15 miles, Max width: 1 mile.

Max depth: 300 feet.

Volume: 424 billion gallons.

Water source for: Skaneateles and Syracuse.

Water quality: Excellent.

Elevation: 863 feet.

Directions: Rt. 41 runs along the east side of Skaneateles Lake and 41A runs along the west. To access the lake from the beautiful Shotwell Memorial, Thayer and Clift Parks in Skaneateles, take I81 to Rt. 20 and head west through the town. Use Google Maps to get turn-by-turn directions.
The Bahar Nature Preserve can be accessed from Appletree Point Rd off of Rt. 41A.

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Pronunciation: “skany-atlas,” preferred, or “skinny-atlas,” common 
From the Iroquois name meaning “Long Lake”

Skaneateles is not the longest (Cayuga is), nor is it the deepest (Seneca), but its claim to fame is its crystal-clear water and beautiful small-town setting. The quaint town of Skaneateles on the northern cap of the lake offers residents and visitors a peaceful and friendly atmosphere amidst its historic setting. Tourists come for the unique shops, pubs, dining experiences or cultural festivals and are awestruck by the sparkling blue waters, often called the most beautiful in the world.

The characteristic bluish-green color of the lake is a result of at least 3 factors. The lake is deep, with gorge-like cliffs dropping right off the shore. The clarity of water allows for the easy penetration of blue light waves deep into the lake. These light waves bounce around the deep waters and reflect back. The inability of other wavelengths to penetrate so deeply, leaves just the blue, giving its bluish green glow. Another reason is its hardness; picking up lime and other minerals from the bedrock and tributaries helps accentuate the water’s color. The lake also has a lack of biological systems (microbiological specifically), otherwise common to lakes.

The lake, a water source for the city of Syracuse and surrounding neighborhoods since the 1890s, is considered to be the cleanest of all the Finger Lakes. This status is a fragile one, however. Since the minority of the surrounding watershed properties are undeveloped and over 40% of the surrounding land is agricultural, polluted run-off easily finds its way into the lake. Although volunteer clean-agricultural programs are being encouraged by Cornell University and the State DEC, continued development of the area may threaten the lake’s water quality. Teams of water quality inspectors constantly monitor lake conditions and work with property owners to ensure the quality of the water. Currently the lake maintains its cleanliness and the city of Syracuse takes advantage of this along with the lake’s high elevation and natural water pressure.

Skaneateles Lake

Skaneateles Lake Parks / Beaches / Access Points

Shotwell Memorial Park / Clift Park

Skaneateles Lake swimmingDescription: These two adjacent parks on the north shore in the village of Skaneateles offer a great view of the lake looking south. Clift Park has a swimming area, benches, a gazebo with regular concerts, and a beautiful pier. To the east is Shotwell Memorial Park, dedicated to the area’s veterans of foreign wars. Both parks have fantastic views as well as a plethora of shopping and dining opportunities across the street in the village.

Seasons/Hours: Year-round, from dawn until dusk.

Directions: Take Rt 20 into the village. Google Directions.

Best time to visit: Summer.

Pets: Unknown policy.

Admission: Free.

Parking: Park along Rt 20 (W. Genesee St) in metered spots or in the public lot behind the buildings off of Jordan St to the north (map).

Handicap accessibility: Yes, to the pier.

Swimming: Swimming is allowed in the designated area when lifeguards are on duty. There’s no beach, just concrete steps into the lake. Village residents swim for free. Others have to pay a small fee.

Boat Launch: None.

Accommodations: Fishing; benches; gazebo; war memorial; No picnic facilities. Public restrooms are located near the public parking lot. Restaurants and shops nearby.

Contact: Village of Skaneateles: (315) 685-3440

Thayer Park

Thayer ParkDescription: East of Shotwell and Clift Parks, and past several buildings, is this small slice of shaded lakefront green. Benches are provided. The first white settlers (Moravian missionaries) to this area landed here and built a shelter.

Seasons/Hours: Year-round, from dawn until dusk.

Directions: Take Rt 20 into the Village. Google Directions.

Best time to visit: Spring through fall.

Pets: Unknown policy.

Admission: Free.

Parking: Park along Rt 20 (W. Genesee St) in metered spots or in the public lot behind the buildings off of Jordan St to the north (map).

Handicap accessibility: No.

Swimming: No.

Boat Launch: None.

Accommodations: Fishing; benches; historical information.

Contact: Village of Skaneateles: (315) 685-3440

New York State Fishing Access Site

Description: The state provides this boat launch and sliver of land for fishing about 3 miles down the shore from the village.

Seasons/Hours: Year-round, dawn until dusk, unless the lake is frozen.

Directions: 3 Miles down West Lake Road from the village. Google Directions.

Best time to visit: Summer through fall.

Pets: Allowed, on leash.

Admission: Free.

Parking: A lot for about 30 cars and trailers.

Handicap accessibility: Yes.

Swimming: None.

Boat Launch: Concrete ramp for trailer launch.

Accommodations: None.

Contact: NYS DEC: 607-753-3095

Bahar Nature Preserve

Description:  The Finger Lakes Land Trust secured this property which contains the Swamp Bear Creek Gorge and Carpenter Falls. The preserve has 65 feet of lake access.

Season/Hours: Year-round, day and night.

Directions: The preserve is located down the west end of Skaneateles Lake, off of Rt 41A. Carpenter Falls is located near a bend in Apple Tree Point Road. You can park where that road meets Carver Road. The lake is on the other end of the preserve. The closest parking area is a ways from the lake. Please do not drive up to the beach area. Do not park on the beach.

Best time to visit: Year-round.

Pets: Allowed, on leash.

Admission: Free.

Parking: Parking will be tight. Use the gravel lots designated in the map.

Handicap accessibility: Not at all.

Swimming: Not allowed.

Boat Launch: Hand launch, if you carry your craft from the designated parking area up the road.

Accommodations: Fishing; hiking; waterfalls.

Contact: Finger Lakes Land Trust: 607-275-9487;

Map: Nature Preserve map

Scott Park

Description: Located on the south end of the lake in the town of Scott is a small community park with a boat launch on a tributary that leads to the lake. The northern end of the park, although the ground gets quite wet, and the insects are out in full force, provides excellent access to the south shore of the lake.The park is a popular place for activities, fishing, and hiking.

Season/Hours: Year-round, dawn until dusk.

Directions: Located at the southern end of the lake off of Glen Haven Rd (CR 101). Google Directions.

Best time to visit: Year-round.

Pets: Unknown policy.

Admission: Free.

Parking: Park in the large lot at the entrance to the park.

Handicap accessibility: To the boat launch and lodge.

Swimming: Not allowed.

Boat Launch: A concrete ramp for trailer launch. Hand launch is possible from several locations in the park.

Accommodations:  Fishing; hiking; baseball diamond; lodge; bird-watching.

Contact: Town of Scott: (607) 749-2902;

Skaneateles Lake Weather

Latest Skaneateles, New York, weather conditions and forecast


Fishing Information

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Common species

Rainbow trout; lake trout; yellow perch; chain pickerel; largemouth bass; smallmouth bass; panfish; walleye; brown trout; landlocked salmon.

Best fishing spot

Along Grout Brook and the north end of Scott Park in the town of Scott (south end of the lake). Expect a lot of bullhead, panfish and pickerel.

Fishing conditions

For current fishing information a fishing hotline is available at Central New York Fishing Hotline or by calling (607) 753- 1551.

Interesting Stuff

Dickens Festival


This historic town is the main draw for many visitors in the area. Buildings from the late 1790s onward have been restored and converted into shops and restaurants and the village enjoys a robust tourism industry, though by maintaining its small-town flavor, it barely shows. Every holiday season the Dickens’ Christmas festival takes place, where the community takes on Dickens-era decor and personality and the visitors flood in to interact with the village’s cast of characters.

Clean Water

Water from Skaneateles Lake is not filtered for distribution into the Syracuse area. Since the lake is oligatrophic (offers little to sustain life), the lack of biological systems (specifically bacterial) contributes to the cleanliness of the lake water.

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Contact Information

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