A family fishes from their boat on Owasco Lake
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Location / Directions / Maps

Location: Cayuga County, New York.

Surrounding Communities: Auburn; Moravia.

Maps: Google Map; TopographicContour Map.

GPS Coordinates:

  • Southern inlet, Owasco Inlet : N 42.75544 / W 76.46364
  • Northern outlet, Owasco Outlet: N 42.90326 / W 76.54265


  • Area: 6,665 acres
  • Length: 11 miles
  • Max width: 1.3 miles.

Max depth: 177 feet.

Volume: 212 billion gallons.

Water Quality: Good.

Water supply for Auburn, Moravia

Elevation: 712 feet

Directions: NY-38 runs along the western shore of the lake, while NY-38A skims the northern end on the eastern side. Rockefeller Rd. reaches down the eastern side from NY-38A to Moravia in the south.

The pier at Emerson Park at Owasco Lake




Description / History

Pronunciation: “oh-wah-sco.” From the Iroquois name meaning “Place of stone.”

Owasco Lake, the third easternmost and 6th largest of the Finger Lakes, is one of the smaller, shallower members of the eight glacial lakes. Since it has nowhere near the mass or depth of the larger lakes, it cannot maintain the cooler microclimate in the lake valley that Seneca and Cayuga Lakes have, and thus it does not cater well to vineyards. Although slim on wineries, the majority of the property surrounding the lake is agricultural, making  pesticide and fertilizer run-off a water quality concern.

A site just north of the lake was originally one of the earliest Cayuga tribe settlements, called Wasco. The Sullivan Campaign, set out to wipe out any native tribes allied with American enemies, and was successful at doing just that to Wasco. After the Revolutionary War, American veterans came to settle here and founded Auburn. When construction on the Erie Canal was finished in 1825, the new waterway passed by the city to the north. Future plans to connect it to the lake through Auburn were scrapped when the Syracuse Railway constructed a route down the west side of the lake. Soon after, Owasco became a high-profile resort lake catering to the elite. The railway brought people from as far as Syracuse and then steamboat services shuffled them from one resort to the next. The lake became known for drinking, gambling and entertainment and featured a large amusement resort to the north near Auburn (at present day Emerson Park).

Today, the lake’s surroundings are pretty tame in comparison. The shore is lined with homes and cottages, with several private “scout” camps in-between. The shallow depths allow the water to warm up quickly, making it excellent for swimming and recreational boating. The downside is that there is only one public beach. In fact, there is only one public access point on Owasco Lake: Emerson Park in Auburn.

The City of Auburn, cradling the northern end, is filled with numerous historic sites; including the former residence of abolitionist leader Harriet Tubman. Amongst the numerous turn-of-the-century homes and refurbished factory spaces are such historical and architectural gems as the  Willard Memorial Chapel, designed by Louis C. Tiffany; and the Seward House, the home of former NY state governor and Lincon’s secretary of state (and the one responsible for purchasing Alaska for $2 an acre). Auburn is also jam-packed with museums, galleries and theaters, including the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse at Emerson Park, housed in a former carousel building along the lakeshore. Baseball is another favorite here. The Doubledays, Auburn’s AA team, brings in thousands of fans to Falcon Park for exciting games.

At the southern end is the historic village of Moravia; the birthplace of Millard Fillmore, our 13th President, and home to the wonderful Fillmore Glen State Park and its many waterfalls.

A motorboat moves across a blue Owasco Lake

Owasco Lake Parks / Beaches / Access Points

Emerson Park / Deauville Island Park

Description: Former lakeside resort is now a beautiful municipal park and a model for Finger Lakes lakefront development. Surrounding the Owasco outlet channel and offering walking access to the scenic views at the end of its two sea-walls, Emerson Park has plenty of places to explore on foot. Boats cruise in and out of the channel and one could sit on one of the many benches or swings and watch the traffic pass by, or walk along the two gorgeous beaches. In summer, crowds flock here to swim at the only public beach on the lake.

Nighttime crowds gather at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse for classic shows and events. For those interested in the region’s history in farm equipment , the Ward W. O’Hara Agricultural Museum may be of interest. The park is also equipped with numerous playing fields as well as an 18-hole disc golf course. But the main attraction here is the Lake, and nowhere else will you be able to get a better view of it. The park is host to numerous events throughout the year. Be sure to check the schedule to find out what’s happening during your visit.

Across the outlet is referred to as Island Park, and yes it is surrounded by water.

Seasons/Hours: Year-round. From dawn until dusk.

Directions: Northern end of the lake, in Auburn, on East Lake Rd. Google Maps.

Parking: Plenty of parking is available in the 3 large lots on the east end of the park.

Best time to visit: Summer.

Pets: No pets May through October. Dogs are allowed on leashes on the Fleming side of the park. (West of Deauville Island and across from the Express Mart).

Large stones protect the shoreline of Owasco Lake at Emerson Park

Admission: Free Parking and admission. There may be Fees during events.

Handicap accessibility: Yes.

Swimming: Beach is open and guarded generally from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.

Boat launch: There is a boat launch on the outlet with 3 concrete ramps and a dozen or so slips across from it on the Island. Boat launch rates are here. Hand launch from a small ramp west of the island.

Accommodations: Restrooms; picnic tables; bathhouse; pavilions (open/enclosed); gazebos; playing fields; disc golf; performance theater; agriculture museum; historic information.

Contact: Cayuga County: (315) 253-5611, e-mail: [email protected].

Map: Park Map.

Emerson Park on Owasco Lake

Owasco Bluff Nature Preserve

Description: A 74-acre preserve that leads to 1,100 feet of undeveloped shoreline on the east side of Owasco Lake. The mile-line trail parallels a shallow seasonal gully past high-up views of the lake and to the narrow shoreline below

Seasons/Hours: Year-round. From dawn until dusk.

Directions: On the east end of Owasco Lake, off of Sam Adams Lane. Google Maps.

Parking: Roadside parking along Sam Adams Lane.

Best time to visit: Year-round.

Pets: Allowed on a leash.

Admission: Free

Handicap accessibility: No.

Swimming: No swimming.

Boat launch: None.

Accommodations: Hiking, Cross-country skiing, birdwatching, benches, informational signage.

Contact: Finger Lakes Land Trust: (607) 275-9487, e-mail: [email protected]

Map: Preserve brochure & map.

YouTube video

Owasco Flats Nature Preserve

Description: A 89-acre preserve on the south end of the lake that protects the lake’s willow marsh, the Owasco inlet and several priority bird species. Two trails span the preserve, one along the lake shore and the other that follows the inlet, a loop, which returns on the old Lehigh Valley Rd rail-bed.

Seasons/Hours: Year-round. From dawn until dusk.

Directions: On the south end of Owasco Lake, off of NY-38. The roads leading from NY-38 to the parking area are a challenge to follow. Use Google Maps.

Parking: A dirt road  off of Firelane 1, leads to a gravel lot near the outlet and lake. There’s room for several cars. Alternative parking is to the south along the inlet. Use this map to get you there.

Best time to visit: Year-round.

Pets: Allowed on a leash.

Admission: Free

Handicap accessibility: No.

Swimming: No swimming.

Boat launch: Hand launch only.

Accommodations: Hiking, fishing, birdwatching, paddling

Contact: Cayuga County: (315) 253-5611, e-mail: [email protected]

Owasco lake water so clear you can see the bottom
A guide to New York's Finger Lakes

More Finger Lakes Guides

Explore more of New York’s Finger Lakes parks, beaches, nature trails, waterfalls and more in our handy guides.

Fishing Information

Common species

Lake trout; brown trout; rainbow trout; smallmouth bass; largemouth bass; walleye; northern pike; pickerel; pumpkinseed; bluegills; rock bass; bullhead; perch; alewives; yellow perch.

Best fishing spot

There’s great Walleye fishing from Emerson park west of the island. Either pier is also great for Walleye or Lake Trout. The best place is down on the southern end, along the inlet at the Owasco Flats.

Fishing conditions

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

A boat moves slowly own the Owasco Outlet towards the lake

Nearby Waterfalls

Interesting Stuff

The Underground Railroad

The Auburn-Cayuga Freedom Trail is a wonderful self-guided tour, showing the  important role Cayuga County played in the Underground Railroad portion of the abolitionist movement. The historic landmarks outlined in this tour cover abolitionist leader Harriet Tubman, slaves fleeing to Canada, and other supporters of the cause. Just stopping at a few of the featured sites is well worth the time.

Seward House Museum

The city of Auburn is home to this beautifully reconstructed historic residence of William Henry Seward, who held significant positions in government, including New York State Senator, two-term Governor of New York State, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State during the presidencies of Lincoln and Johnson.

Ward W. O’Hara Agricultural Museum

The Ward W. O’Hara Agricultural Museum is a place that offers a glimpse into the rural and agricultural past of New York State. It is located on East Lake Road in Auburn, New York. It houses a diverse collection of artifacts from the 19th and early 20th centuries related to farming and rural life. The exhibits include antique farming equipment, household items, and tools that reflect the evolution of agricultural practices and rural lifestyle over the years.

Visitors can explore an array of exhibits showcasing the life and work of the farming community, ranging from dairying, to blacksmithing, to food preservation, and more. The museum aims to educate visitors about the importance of agriculture in shaping the region’s history and culture.

A view past a willow tree to Owasco Lake on a sunny day.

Who to Contact

General water concerns:
NYSDEC Bureau of Fisheries
625 Broadway Albany, NY 12233
Phone (518) 402-8920
E-mail: [email protected]

State boat launches/access
NYSDEC Region 8
6274 East Avon-Lima Road
Avon, NY 14414
Phone (585) 226-2466
E-mail: [email protected]