Lakes State Park
Round Lake National Natural
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Syracuse, in the village of
Bird's eye view,
GPS: North park entrance: N 43.05983 / W 75.97132
South park entrance: N 43.03916 / W 75.96621
Trailhead between the lakes: N 43.04925 / W 75.96987
Size: Max depth: Round Lake is 180
feet, Green Lake is 195 feet
Water Quality: not potable.
Directions: From I481, take exit 3E.
Follow E Genesee St. through Fayetteville and pass
Springview Dr. on the right. The park entrance will be the
next street on your left (Green Lakes Park Dr.)
Green Lakes State Park encompasses over 2,100 acres
including two deep pothole lakes. The larger of the
two lakes, referred to as Green Lake, has a sandy public
beach with swimming access. In summer the beach tends to get
crowded, but the network of park trails that surround the
lake tend to remain peaceful. The other amenities, including
the 7 cabins, 137 campsites, playgrounds, and 18-hole golf course make
for an excellent extended family stay. The forested area
surrounding the lakes is filled with old growth trees and
several trails for exploring the natural wonders contained
here. For some, the park is a family destination with two
recreational lakes. For others, it is a unique geological,
and biological wonder.
The centerpieces of
the park are the two glacial "green" lakes. Why are they
green? The answer is complicated. For one, the lakes are
deep. Round Lake is measured at 180 ft deep, while Green
Lake reaches 195 ft. Deep lakes tend to appear bluish
because the wavelengths of light that can penetrate (and be
dispersed at) great depths are those closer to the blue end
of the spectrum.
Because of their depth and the high salinity of the
basin waters, the lakes are meromictic and do
not turn over and intermix waters like many other lakes in this region do.
The Green Lake's cold and dense bottom waters tend to stay
separate from the shallower, warmer waters. Because of this,
sediment sinks and collects in the bottom and virtually doesn't decay.
Since the sediment is not kicked up by mixing, the lakes do
not take on a muddy, turbid appearance like other lakes do. Meromictic lakes
also have still,
mirror-like waters. The Green Lakes are no exception
here. Their tranquil, reflective waters make for great
The Lakes reside in an ancient river
basin, carved deeper into the limestone bedrock by the last
ice age. Limestone, an easily dissolved sedimentary rock,
saturates the Lake's waters with calcium carbonate, a bluish
bacteria contributes to the geology (and to some degree,
color) of the lakes by creating
reefs of calcium/sulphur below the surface along
the shore. You can see these structures, jutting out from
the lake basin , just below the
surface of the lake. They are most prominent near Dead Man's
this Bird's eye photo).
Look for sub-surface platforms that look like light-brown
rock or sand, extending out from the lake shore and then
dropping off suddenly.
Through a combination of their depth,
high calcium carbonate concentrations and photosynthetic bacteria, the lakes maintain a bright
aquamarine color. Hence the name.
Have you ever seen a green or blue pothole in a creek bed?
They are usually found in gullies that have plenty of
waterfalls. These potholes are old waterfall plunge pools
that have deepened by the erosive powers of the falling
water and trapped rocks and sand. Potholes eventually become
so deep that they don't mix well with the creek waters and
any sediment that gets in them precipitates to the bottom,
keeping the water inside clear. Calcium carbonate from the
dissolved limestone gives these holes their characteristic
These green lakes
are just like those smaller waterfalls potholes, but on a
massive scale. A retreating ice age glacier and an ancient
river pouring from its melt water once existed here. This
river created such a massive torrent of rushing water, that
the plunge pool from a gigantic waterfall created the Green
Lakes. The river dried up as the glacier disappeared and the
lakes continued to dissolve away the limestone, expanding to
their current form. Now the green lakes' basins are filled
naturally with rain and ground water.
Much of Upstate New
York, including the land that is now Green Lakes State Park
was part of the Military Tract of the Revolutionary War:
land that was surveyed and set aside as payment to
servicemen for their participation in the war effort. Much
of this land belonged to the Collin family, descendents of
which still live adjacent to the park.
In the 1920s / early '30s Green Lakes was a popular tourist
destination for the City of Syracuse and surrounding towns.
The Green Lakes Landing stop on the Erie Canal, brought
tourists to the northern end of the park by the boatload.
Today, the land running along the Canal in Manlius is a park
and walking/bike pathway. Follow the trail that leads from
the small parking area off of Rt 290, across from the Green
Lakes State Park north entrance. It will lead you to a
footbridge over the Canal and to the Canalway Trail.
Green Lakes officially became a park in 1928
with the acquisition of 500 acres at the north end of the
property. Additional acquisitions throughout the century
expanded it beyond 2,100 acres. In 1975, Round Lake was
designated a National Natural Landmark by the US
Department of the Interior.
Seasons/Hours: Open all year. Camping from mid-May
through mid-October. Park closes at dusk.
Best time to visit: Fall mornings.
Several parking lots near the beach (north entrance).
Parking for hundreds of vehicles.
Pets: Allowed; on leash with proof of inoculation.
Not allowed on beach, shore or in water.
Admission: $8 vehicle fee.
Handicap accessibility: Yes, but not for trails or
Accommodations: Restrooms; picnic areas; drinking
fountains; beach; Nature Center (near campground); grills;
hiking trails; pavilions (2); campsites (137 total, nearly
half electric); cabins (7); fishing; showers; playground;
snack bar; bike trails; bike rack; boat rentals; guarded
swimming beach; bathhouse; disc golf course; golf course.
Swimming: Swimming is allowed in the designated swimming area only. Call for dates/hours
Boating: Rowboat and
paddleboat rental available. Private boats are not
Official park map
( 4mb PDF). Trail maps are available in the park office.
Markings: Marked with educational
signage and maps.
The Green Lake Trail and the Round Lake Trail offer
excellent views of the lakes and their shores. The Green
Lake trail starts on either end of the beach and circles the
lake, winding up on the opposite side of the beach, for a
total of 2.3 miles. The trail around Round Lake is just
under a mile long. Both trails connect on the shore opposite
the Green Lake beach.
Since this lake
is meromictic, its surface waters do not mix with salty
anoxic waters below. Anything that falls to the
bottom will meet a massive collection of debris, and
decays so slowly that researchers are able to take core samples
and find out what plants and animals inhabited the area
thousands of years ago. The lake bottom is like a natural
A layer of bacteria-rich water nearly a third of the way
down into the lakes is pink rather than green. These reddish
bacteria have found the perfect home at these depths and
because the lake's waters do not turn over (mix) seasonally
they stay at their optimal depths.
It is difficult to
see the bottom of the lake because of its mirror-like
surface, but with a polarizer lens or polarizing sunglasses,
you can cut through the glare and get a better view of
organic material below.
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Green Lakes State Park
7900 Green Lakes Road
Fayetteville, NY 13066
Phone: (315) 637-6111
Nature Center Phone: (315) 637-8053
Reservations: (800) 456-2267
Book a campsite at Green Lakes
Information about Old Growth trees in the park
or ask questions
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