Cassadaga Lakes, New York, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Mid-Atlantic - New York - Chautauqua-Allegheny -

Also known as:  Cassadaga Lake, Cassadaga Chain of Lakes, Upper Cassadaga Lake, Middle Cassadaga Lake, Lower Cassadaga Lake, Lily Dale Lake

Cassadaga Lakes, in New York’s Chautauqua-Allegheny Region, have attracted a diverse group of residents over the years. Cassadaga is a Native American word meaning ‘water under the rocks’ and describes the unique hydrology of the region. The three small connected lakes are home to two towns and a number of lakeshore residents who enjoy the peaceful nature of the wooded shoreline and the excellent habitat that supports a variety of wildlife. The extensive wetlands provide optimum spawning grounds for the bass and panfish that attract anglers both winter and summer.

The three lakes, usually called Upper Cassadaga, Middle Cassadaga and Lower Cassadaga Lake, provide about 217 acres of water surface and almost five miles of shoreline, much of it still in its natural state. An all-sports area, the lakes allow motor boats for residents and visitors to enjoy water skiing, tubing, canoeing, kayaking and pontooning, although the contiguous surface areas are a bit small for sailing and sail sports. The Town of Cassadaga on the south shore of Lower Cassadaga Lake provides a public park with picnic area, playground and swim area with lifeguard for a small fee. A marina nearby rents motor boats, canoes and kayaks and sells fishing supplies. A public boat launch on Middle Cassadaga Lake provides a place for visiting fishermen to get out on the water of all three connected lakes.

Fishing is one of the main attractions at Cassadaga Lakes, with largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, walleye, muskellunge, grass pickerel, white sucker, brown bullhead, pumpkinseed, bluegill, yellow perch and black crappie offering a variety of opportunities to fill the creel. In an effort to produce more trophy-size bass, the State of New York has imposed a unique ‘slot limit’ on the size of bass that can be kept: fish between 12 and 15 inches must be released, although those smaller and larger may be kept. This assures that more fish will have the chance to become larger and offers the sport fisherman an opportunity to land a bass with bragging rights. The chain of lakes sometimes hosts fishing tournaments. Panfish are the usual target of most fishermen on the chain, with bluegill a favorite in summer and perch through the ice in winter. Walleyes are not numerous in the lakes, but ‘muskie’ are planted regularly by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. Several small ‘resort cabin’ establishments on and near the lake are available year-round to accommodate ice fishermen, hunters and snowmobilers.

Only about 10 miles from the shores of Lake Erie, Cassadaga Lakes are about 10 miles northeast of more famous Chautauqua Lake. Spring fed, the Cassadaga Lakes are glacial ‘pot-hole’ lakes left over from the last receding glacier. Once a large lake covered much of the Cassadaga Valley; all that remains are the three connected lakes and nearby Bear Lake. Geologists report that the ancient lake still exists underground, filling the spaces within the underlying gravel deposited by the glacier. The area is filled with artesian springs, giving rise to the ‘water under the rocks’ name that identifies the entire Cassadaga Creek and Valley. The aquifer supplies several deep wells at the south end of the valley which provide the main water source for the City of Jamestown.

Although very close to the Great Lakes, a high ridge actually prevents the outflow of water from Cassadaga Lakes from reaching Lake Erie. Instead, the Cassadaga Creek waters eventually drain to the south, into the Ohio River drainage system. Cassadaga Creek is a popular canoe and kayak route, and the creek’s course supports Cassadaga Creek Preserve, a 125-acre wetland and floodplain forest a few miles south of the lakes. An extensive network of groomed snowmobile trails in the area attract snowmobilers, cross-country skiers and hikers.

Cassadaga Lakes saw its first recorded permanent European residents near the turn of the 19th century. By 1821, a small dam had been built across the outlet to the lakes to power a sawmill and grist mill. An epidemic within the next couple of years convinced local residents that the change in the water levels was causing their illness, and the dam was removed. Shortly after, a keelboat route to the lake was established along Cassadaga Creek. The boat only made a couple of trips however, before an attempt to clean out the channel between the lakes lowered the water level enough to interfere with navigation. The town of Cassadaga continued to grow, but the only water-based venture to succeed was an ice shipping business which cut and shipped ice during the cold New York winters.

Cassadaga Lakes’ second town arrived in the form of a Spiritualist camp. The camp established during the popular heyday of the mediumistic Christian sect eventually became Lily Dale, one of the largest Spiritualist settlements in the United States. Now an established hamlet of nearly 300 residents, the registered mediums, retreat services and spiritual activities of the town attract about 22,000 visitors each year. Lily Dale owns a small wooded trail area that holds one of the best local examples of old-growth trees in the area. A number of hotel-type rental units are available at Lily Dale, which also operates a campground/RV park. Several bed-and-breakfasts and resort cabin businesses operate on the lake here; at least one is year-round. Lily Dale offers several guest house rentals in lovely Victorian homes built during the Spiritualism period of growth around 1900. Headquarters of The National Spiritualist Association of Churches, an interesting museum on the site, offers a glimpse into the history of the movement and a clarification of their beliefs which have brought comfort to thousands in their bereavement.

Cassadaga Lakes are only an hour or so west of Buffalo, about 10 miles south of Dunkirk and 20 miles north of Jamestown. A popular vacation area, the entire Lake Erie shoreline is dotted with wineries and attracts visitors for tours and wine-tasting events in season. Real estate can be found for sale along the shore of Cassadaga Lakes, but the supply is limited. It’s easy to see why the chain of lakes is so popular: close to the cities yet about as country as you can get in far-western New York State. So, come for a week-end, or a week or a month. You’ll fall in love with the solitude, the wildlife and the fishing. Cassadaga Lakes is waiting for you. What are you waiting for?

*statistics are a composite of the three lake basins. Both Middle Cassadaga and Lower Cassadaga lakes are occasionally called Lily Dale Lake, although not officially.

Things to do at Cassadaga Lakes

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Fishing Tournaments
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Tubing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Museum
  • Playground

Fish species found at Cassadaga Lakes

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Black Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Brown Bullhead
  • Crappie
  • Grass Pickerel
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Muskellunge
  • Perch
  • Pickerel
  • Pike
  • Pumpkinseed
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Sucker
  • Sunfish
  • Walleye
  • Yellow Perch

Cassadaga Lakes Photo Gallery

Cassadaga Lakes Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 217 acres

Shoreline Length: 5 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,305 feet

Average Depth: 8 feet

Maximum Depth: 50 feet

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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