Otisco Lake, New York, USA

Lake Locations:

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

Approximately 20 miles southwest of Syracuse, New York, Otisco Lake is the easternmost of the 11 Finger Lakes. Just under six miles long, 3/4 miles across at its widest point, and 60 feet deep at its deepest point, it is seventh in size among the Finger Lakes. It is fed at the southern end by Spafford Creek, Amber Brook, Rice Brook, and Willow Brook. Its northern outflow feeds Onondaga Lake by way of Nine Mile Creek and then Lake Ontario by way of the Seneca and Oswego Rivers. Surrounded by wooded hills of the Finger Lakes vacation region, the quiet countryside of the area makes Otisco Lake a great place to picnic, boat, or fish.

The Iroquois named the lake Otisco meaning “where waters dried away.” Prior to 1869, the water level of the lake fluctuated greatly and often dried up completely resulting in mostly unusable marshland. In 1869 a dam was built on the northern end outlet into Nine Mile Creek to raise the water level by nine feet and to provide a water reservoir for the Erie Canal. In 1908 the dam was rebuilt raising the water level an additional four feet to provide drinking water for Onondaga County. The dam is owned by the Onondaga County Water Authority.

Otisco Lake is divided into two distinct basins by a rock causeway at the south end. The causeway was originally built to carry a road for use by wagons to cut across the lake rather than go around it. The road is no longer used. A break in the causeway near the west bank allows boats to travel between the upper and lower parts of the lake. The southern smaller basin is rather shallow and extremely turbid which contrasts sharply with the relatively clear water of the main lake. Although not maintained as a public facility, the causeway is a favorite fishing spot and offers a beautiful view of the lake.

Despite the small size of Otisco Lake, its natural beauty and proximity to Syracuse has made the lake a desirable place to live. It now has more than 550 lakefront properties. This has greatly limited the public’s access to the lake. Fishing is allowed, but the shoreline available to anglers is first come, first served. Like most of the smaller Finger Lakes, Otisco Lake has little wind and is more suited to motor boating than sailing. The lake is extremely popular in the summer months and experiences a huge increase in population every Memorial Day. An annual fishing derby sponsored by the Otisco Rod and Gun Club, usually around the second week in June, fills the lake with boats.

Although limited, access to Otisco Lake is not impossible. The last will and testament of Waldemar F. and Marjory G. Hirsch contained a gift to Onondaga County. Three acres of land owned by the Hirsch family was to be used as a park, and not be sold for individual lots or private development. Otisco Lake County Park was dedicated on July 12, 2000. It has four commemorative benches, towering evergreens and 600 feet of shoreline. It is open year-round from dawn until dusk. Parking is limited to five cars, and pets and swimming are prohibited. There are restrooms and hand launch boating. The park is located at 2525 Otisco Valley Road in the town of Marietta.

The Otisco Lake Causeway has parking for eight cars. 600 feet of shoreline are perfect for fishing, but again, no pets or swimming. It is open year-round from dawn until dusk and offers hand launch boating. The west side of the causeway offers a unique chance to see the lake from the surface.

On West Valley Road, 2 miles north of Saw Mill Road, is a small and popular hand launching area. Parking is limited to ten cars, and there is a small pier. The Otisco Lake Marina also provides public access to the lake; it is located at 1697 Otisco Valley Road in the village of Marietta.

If you’re a fisherman, Otisco Lake has much to offer. The lake is stocked yearly with 3,500 brown trout, 45,000 walleye, and 7,500 tiger musky. The north end of the late is noted for good panfishing (bluegill, pumpkinseed, white perch, yellow perch, crappie, rock bass and bullhead). Largemouth and smallmouth bass also frequent these waters. Largemouth bass over 20 inches are frequently caught. Walleye fishing is best during the spring, early summer and fall months. Casting from shore or the causeway at dusk is best for walleye. Brown trout can be caught in the spring by trolling. The tiger musky makes a nice trophy for the skilled angler, and Otisco Lake might be one of the best waters in the state for this fish. Tigers are most often caught in the weedbeds at the north and south ends of the lake. Carp are also found throughout the lake, usually in the shallower areas. The north end usually freezes over in the winter and offers good ice fishing.

Currently the lake is experiencing a problem with zebra mussels. These non-native mollusks cling to the rocks, docks and pretty much anything else in the water. This invasive species was introduced by outside boaters and has since become a large problem for lake management. The sharp shell of this mussel can easily slice through skin, so swimmers and waders should wear foot protection.

If fishing isn’t your idea of fun, try a scenic drive along East Lake Road. You will be able to see neighboring Skaneateles Lake as well as Otisco Lake. The two lakes are separated by a high rolling hill that offers a fantastic view of both lakes. Photographers and nature lovers will enjoy sightings of geese, ducks, loons, blue herons, white-tailed deer, muskrats and beavers throughout the area.

Whether it be fishing, boating or just the need for peace and quiet found in the upstate New York countryside, Otisco Lake has much to offer.

Things to do at Otisco Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Picnicking
  • Wildlife Viewing

Fish species found at Otisco Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Brown Trout
  • Carp
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Pumpkinseed
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Tiger Muskellunge
  • Trout
  • Walleye
  • White Perch
  • Yellow Perch

Otisco Lake Photo Gallery

Otisco Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Onondaga County Water Authority

Surface Area: 2,214 acres

Shoreline Length: 13 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 788 feet

Average Depth: 33 feet

Maximum Depth: 76 feet

Water Volume: 64,753 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1908

Water Residence Time: 2 years

Lake Area-Population: 3,500

Drainage Area: 36 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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