Cranberry Lake, New York, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Mid-Atlantic - New York - Adirondacks -

The best of the Adirondacks is on full display at Cranberry Lake. Located near the edge of six-million-acre Adirondack Park, Cranberry Lake is one of the least developed lakes in the region. Although the Adirondacks are known as a resort area, the majority of the shoreline of Cranberry Lake is in state hands, and few of the former ‘lodges’ still exist. Instead, Cranberry Lake anchors thousands of acres of wild forest lands, complete with a number of hiking trails to please outdoor enthusiasts. Covering almost 7,000 acres, Cranberry Lake offers plenty of space for primitive camping, canoeing, kayaking and fishing. The sole New York State Department of Environmental Conservation campground is extremely popular among those who want a quiet campsite surrounded by nature. And nature is in its full glory here.

Originally, Cranberry Lake was less than half its current size. The lake along the Oswegatchie River grew considerably when the first crude log dam was built across the outlet in 1864. The modern dam was constructed in 1916, and the first campsites were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression. Cranberry Lake Wild Forest occupies much of the shoreline, with the 118,000-acre Five Ponds Wilderness Area along the south shore. A few private properties are located along the 70 miles of lakeshore, with a couple of remaining commercial lodges still offering accommodations, food and possible guide service. Only two small towns command a small portion of the heavily forested shoreline; the village of Cranberry Lake is located on a northwest arm, and the community of Wanakena is on a southwest arm. Two SUNY (State University of New York) College of Environmental Science & Forestry facilities are located along the shore: the NY State Ranger School and a boat-in only Biological Field Station.

Cranberry Lake allows all types of boats, including motorized boats, although limited launch facilities keep the numbers down. One public launch site is located near the dam at Cranberry Lake village. The lake’s only marina is also located near here and sells boat gas and rents lodge rooms, small boats and canoes. The commercial lodges allow guests to bring their own boats. Most of the lake traffic is fishing boats, canoes and kayaks. Nearly a dozen canoe launch areas are maintained on the lake. The many arms, coves and bays are ideal for paddling, and several publicly-owned islands on the lake allow canoe camping and exploration. The campground has many waterfront campsites where it is easy to launch a canoe or kayak directly from the campsite. Several of the streams and the Oswegatchie River lend themselves to canoe trips, often to secluded campsites. Three public swim beaches are located on the lake-one near each village and the third at the DEC Day Use area near the campground.

Fishing is a big draw to the lake. Trout were stocked for many years, and both brown trout and brook trout can be caught in the lake and the inflowing streams. Smallmouth bass and panfish offer plenty of sport for still fishermen. A fishing dock at the Day Use site is perfect for children and the disabled to try for the big catch. Northern pike were illegally planted in the lake at some point and have continued to thrive. Special regulations allow for ice fishing for the pike with no size limit. Kayak fishing is quite popular, especially in the shallow areas which hold many old tree stumps in some areas.

Camping facilities at Cranberry Lake run the gamut from regular tent and RV sites near flush toilets and showers to lean-to campsites and primitive canoe camping and hike-in sites. Picnic tables and grills, a playground, RV dump, amphitheater and pavilions make the well-shaded Cranberry Lake Campground a fine base camp for exploring the many trails, ponds and streams in the area. The trails offer beautiful views and are one of the most spectacular attractions to the Cranberry Lake area.

Bear Mountain commands the peninsula where the Cranberry Lake Campground is located, with a trail leading from the campground to near the summit and on north along the lakeshore where it eventually meets up with State Highway 3. Other trails on the west side of Cranberry Lake village travel south along the west side of the lake. The Cranberry Lake 50 Trail leaves the lakeshore trail near the Day Use area and meanders in a 50-mile loop around Cranberry Lake, skirting a number of ponds and mountains while providing the perfect wild forest experience and a variety of spectacular views. The Cranberry Lake 50 is a favorite backpacking/camping trail for those who wish to spend several days in the Wilderness Area. Permits and regulations must be obtained from Adirondack Park staff.

Although the campground closes to camping in winter, the trails are often used for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Nearby, snowmobile trails cross the area and range as far north as Canada. Some of the local lodges stay open in winter to accommodate snowmobilers, and a number of private cottages or ‘camps’ are available by the week. The nearest larger city is Watertown, about 70 miles to the west. Adirondack Park has a large number of ‘inholdings’-private properties within park boundaries-so guest cottages and small motels are numerous not far from Cranberry Lake. Several small towns in the area offer local cafes and grocery stores, while farm markets and small inns provide a fine place for a lovely lunch and perhaps some antique shopping.

One side trip any visitor to Cranberry Lake is advised to make is to The Wild Center at nearby Raquette Pond. The Wild Center/Natural History Museum near the Town of Tupper Lake is one of two museums maintained by the Adirondacks Park management and is dedicated to the natural history of the Adirondack Mountains. Exhibits allow visitors to view a variety of native animals in a natural setting and to learn about the area’s past and its future. About an hour south of The Wild Center, the main Adirondack Museum is open summers as are some of the remaining Great Lodges. There is never a shortage of things to see and do around Cranberry Lake. In fact, they only thing you are likely to find yourself short of is time.

Things to do at Cranberry Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Museum
  • Playground
  • Antiquing
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Cranberry Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Brook Trout
  • Brown Trout
  • Northern Pike
  • Pike
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Trout

Cranberry Lake Photo Gallery

Cranberry Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: NY Dept. of Environmental Conservation

Surface Area: 6,995 acres

Shoreline Length: 71 miles

Average Depth: 6 feet

Maximum Depth: 38 feet

Completion Year: 1916

Drainage Area: 140 sq. miles

Trophic State: Mesotrophic

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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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