Seneca Lake, New York, USA

Lake Locations:

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

Seneca Lake, one of western New York’s famous Finger Lakes, is the largest lake to be entirely contained within the borders of the state. Seneca Lake stretches out over a vast 43,343 acres and 38 long miles, with Watkins Glen on the south shore and Geneva on the north shore. With a maximum depth of 618 feet, the lake is also the second deepest lake in New York State and was a testing site for submarines. In fact, local lore has it that a submarine is sunk in the cool depths of the lake.

Seneca Lake is a stunning panorama of blue waters, bluer skies, and awesome sunsets. It is named for the Seneca Indian Nation, one of the six Iroquois Confederacy that used to make their home in this area. Seneca is derived from the Iroquois word Assiniki, which means “place of stone,” or “stony place.” This is an appropriate name, as Seneca Lake has the steepest, rockiest shoreline of all the Finger Lakes. In fact, the lake is known for its painted rocks, located on its southern shores, which show an American Flag, Teepee, and several Native Americans. The paintings are said to commemorate the Seneca tribe’s daring escape from General John Sullivan to Fort Niagara in the 1700s. Although historians generally agree that the escape happened, the question remains whether the paintings are the artwork of the Seneca tribe or a creation of the boat tour industry years later to promote tourism in the more remote southern end of the lake.

Because of the lake’s depth and width, the water temperature rarely falls below freezing during the winter months. The deep waters average a cool 39 degrees Fahrenheit, although the upper 15 feet warm to a pleasant 70-75 degrees during the summer. The cool water temperature affects the air temperature around the lake, which has, in turn, provided the Seneca area with a microclimate cooler than its Finger Lakes neighbors. This microclimate has created ideal weather for grape growing, and therefore, the Seneca Lake area is the proud home of over 40 wineries, each one waiting to give visitors and residents a taste of their local wines.

Seneca Lake State Park, promising fun for the entire family, is a wonderful place to begin your vacation. Children will squeal with delight as they play at the Sprayground with its 100+ water jets. The park’s two marinas, together providing 132 electric boat slips and 84 non-electrical boat slips, will give you the perfect launching ground for a day boating trip around the lake. Or, just bask in the sun at the park’s beach, and when you get a little too warm, take a quick dip in the lake to cool down.

If fishing is your pleasure, gear up for some fabulous trout fishing, as that is what the lake is best known for. There are several locations around the lake that provide fishing areas, or you can rent a boat at any of the marinas or the State Park, and head out for a quiet day of basking in the warm breezes and waiting for a fish to take your bait.

The New York State Canal System operates the Cayuga-Seneca Canal along the Seneca River, a 12-mile waterway that connects the two lakes. Boaters, canoeists, and kayakers travel through the towns of Waterloo and Seneca Falls and four locks to navigate the canal. Visitors can also hike and bike along the Canalway Trail. The canal was constructed in the early 1800s to connect Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake to the Erie Canal. Today, visitors will also enjoy a visit to the Montezuma National Refuge, located at the confluence of the Erie and Cayuga-Seneca Canals.

If you find yourself lucky enough to visit this lake, don’t be alarmed if you hear what sounds like cannon fire or a sonic boom. Seneca Lake, like its neighbor Cayuga Lake, is one of the few areas in the world to experience the Guns of the Seneca, an aural phenomenon yet to be scientifically explained. To the human ear, the booms sound like distant, but very loud thunder, even when there is not a cloud in the sky. When the early white settlers arrived to the lake, the native Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) told them that the sounds were caused by the Great Spirit in his continuing work to shape the earth. Nowadays, it is said that they could be caused by meteorite impacts, gases escaping from the lake’s surface, earthquakes, and more. Draw your own conclusions or make up your own myths, but whatever you do, try to enjoy this unique experience.

Things to do at Seneca Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • State Park

Fish species found at Seneca Lake

  • Trout

Seneca Lake Photo Gallery

  • ib0391 tour boat watkins glen seneca lake ny new york finger lakes captain bills seneca lake cruise boat is moored at the dock on seneca lake

Seneca Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 43,243 acres

Shoreline Length: 75 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 445 feet

Average Depth: 291 feet

Maximum Depth: 618 feet

Water Volume: 12,566,054 acre-feet

Water Residence Time: 18.1

Drainage Area: 707 sq. miles

Trophic State: Oligo-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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