Green Lakes, New York, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Mid-Atlantic - New York - Finger Lakes -

Also known as:  Green Lake, Fayetteville Green Lake, Round Lake

Two little-known lakes in the Finger Lakes region of New York offer a geological mystery inviting the attention of scientists around the world. Green Lakes State Park holds small Green Lake and even smaller Round Lake. These two lakes are both extremely deep for their surface size, leading scientists to believe they are the remains of waterfall ‘plunge-pools’ from the melting of the last glaciers to cover the area. Sixty-three-acre Green Lake reaches 195 feet in depth, while 38-acre Round Lake is 180 feet deep. Both lakes are an unusual blue-green color due to their depth and dissolved minerals in the water. Other unusual features of these two lakes make them worthy of scientific study, but that likely matters little to the 800,000 visitors who come to Green Lakes State Park just outside of Syracuse for vacations and recreation.

Sometimes called Fayetteville Green Lake to distinguish it from another nearby ‘green lake’, the larger lake has a swimming beach created by dumping multiple tons of sand into a former wetland to provide a solid bottom surface. The park also contains lawns for sunbathing, a bath house with changing facilities, and a concession stand. No private boats are permitted on the lakes, but row boats and paddle boats may be rented at the park concession. The beach area is very popular with day visitors, and the campground is often filled with vacationers and weekend campers. Over 100 campsites are augmented by eight rental cabins, and several picnic areas are spread throughout the park. Fishing is allowed on both lakes, with rainbow trout, largemouth bass, bluegills, and rock bass usually caught. There are reports of the occasional northern pike catch. The trout are stocked in the spring but don’t appear to reproduce to a viable level due to unfavorable spawning conditions. There is plenty to do and see at the lakes, however. The park also owns an 18-hole golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones and a clubhouse in the southeastern corner.

The park contains 1955 acres, of which about 800 acres are considered ‘old-growth’ forest. One section of the forest is named the Tuliptree Cathedral and supports a stand of trees reaching 147 feet tall. This spectacular stand of tuliptrees, sugar maples, beech, basswood, hemlocks, and white cedars has never been clear-cut; the descendants of David Collins III owned and preserved the forest from 1817 until it was purchased by the state park system in 1928. The stand of old-growth tall trees and Round Lake are listed as a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior. There is an extensive system of hiking trails within the park, including about 10 miles of trails designated for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Miles of biking trails are located in the western edge of the park, where they connect with the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park. Nearly all developed areas are located on the eastern end of Green Lake, while Round Lake is surrounded by wilderness area. The buildings, golf course and trails in the park were originally constructed during the Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Although the original CCC dormitories and camp were closed in 1941, the camp was temporarily re-opened in 1942 and became the Fayetteville camp for German prisoners of war.

Green Lakes State Park is ideally located to serve fans of outdoor recreation. The Green Lakes Triathlon recently hosted its 33rd annual race. Immediately to the north, the Old Erie Canal Historic Park preserves 36 miles of the old canal, using the former towpath for hiking and bicycling. The City of Syracuse offers a full range of city-style amenities, including nightlife, dining establishments and cultural activities. Nearby, Clark Reservation State Park holds another ‘green lake’ much like the two lakes in Green Lakes State Park. A day-use only park, guided interpretive hikes are led by staff from the Clark Reservation Nature Center. All types of lodgings are available in the area around Syracuse, including the resorts and bed-and-breakfasts of the Finger Lakes Region. There is never a shortage of either activities or interesting places to stay. Real estate is often available in the area, but unfortunately not on Green or Round lakes.

All three ‘green lakes’ in the area are of major interest to scientists. Fayetteville Green Lake is likely one of the most studied green lakes in the world due to the unique geology presented in its depths. Green Lake receives some water from Round Lake, but more than half of its water percolates up from the limestone below. The lakes are meromictic, which means that there is no seasonal mixing of surface and bottom waters. Quite rare, the bottom levels of water in meromictic lakes are devoid of oxygen and produce sulfidic conditions. The lack of water exchange and low levels of oxygen prevent most plant growth and preserve bottom sediments in excellent condition for historic studies of the past. Fish don’t survive in these deep waters, and items such as wood do not decay. At somewhere between 55 and 75 feet, the mixing of the two levels allows for the proliferation of purple photosynthetic bacteria and green sulfur bacteria, producing a layer of rosy-pink water.

Unique reefs have been created in Green Lake due to the annual event called ‘whiting’. During this time, calcium carbonate precipitates out of the water, creating the reefs. Deadmans Point reef at Green Lake was built up from this calcium carbonate over a period of thousands of years. Underneath the ledge that is Deadmans Point grow some extremely rare aquatic mosses and sponges. Scientists consider conditions in such lakes to be similar to the conditions in ancient seas and hope they contain clues as to past mass extinction events in pre-history. The same calcium carbonate that creates the reefs quickly coats anything remaining under the water, greeting divers with an eerie, surreal underwater landscape.

So, if your interest is scientific or geared strictly toward recreation, Green Lake and Round Lake are the perfect spots to get away and enjoy the great outdoors. Bring the golf clubs along with the tent or RV, or stay in a nearby luxury hotel and enjoy the beach and trails during the day. Finger Lakes wineries and orchards are only a short drive away. The lakes offer visitors plenty to see and do.

*Statistics are for Green Lake only, except for catchment area. The two lakes share the same drainage and cannot be calculated separately.

Things to do at Green Lakes NY

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Waterfall
  • State Park

Fish species found at Green Lakes NY

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Northern Pike
  • Pike
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Sunfish
  • Trout

Green Lakes NY Photo Gallery

Green Lakes NY Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 63 acres

Shoreline Length: 2 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 418 feet

Average Depth: 170 feet

Maximum Depth: 195 feet

Water Volume: 5,866 acre-feet

Drainage Area: 2 sq. miles

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

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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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