Sylvia Lake, New York, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Mid-Atlantic - New York - Adirondacks - Thousand Islands -

Also known as:  Lake Killarney (historical)

Tucked neatly away on the border between New York’s Adirondack and Thousand Islands regions, Sylvia Lake is the perfect Northern New York location for the annual family vacation. Like ‘Up North’ cottage lakes across the American East and Midwest, Sylvia Lake has become an eclectic mix of new construction and old, revamped family ‘camps’ whose owners all share a passion for the lake at their front door.

The Town of Fowler, home to Sylvia Lake, was settled in the early 1800s by Revolutionary War veterans who were given land grants for their service on what was then the frontier. The lake, near the western foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, was originally named Lake Killarney but was renamed Sylvia Lake sometime after 1814 by an early wealthy settler who built a marble mansion on the lake for his bride. The wealthy landowner sold out and moved on, and the marble mansion burned and fell to ruins. But others had discovered the beauty of the Sylvia Lake lakefront and built homes along the shore. And as the population of northwestern New York grew, so did the popularity of Sylvia Lake.

Sylvia Lake is a 324-acre lake on a tributary to the Oswegatchie River. For its small size, Sylvia Lake is very deep, reaching 140 feet in the central ‘hole’ near the middle. An area of wetlands near the inlet at the south end provides habitat for waterfowl including the elusive loon, symbol of northern lakes everywhere. Although about 75% of the shoreline is developed, the heavily-treed perimeter maintains an atmosphere of solitude and wilderness. Water quality is good, and the lake is a known hotspot for lake trout. The shoreline alternates between stretches of sandy beach and towering bluffs. Today the lake looks very similar to when summer visitors arrived at the resort hotel built in 1885. Remnants of the hotel and nearby dance hall and skating rink existed until 1968 when fire again altered the landscape. By that time, numerous private cottages-called ‘camps’ locally-had been built along the lakefront. Some camps today are in the hands of the same families, who are proud to call Sylvia Lake home every summer.

Residents and their guests enjoy water skiing, tubing, jet skiing, wakeboarding, canoeing and kayaking on the lake. Pontoons are a favorite mode of travel for visiting neighbors. The Sylvia Lake Association, made up of property owners, organizes community events such as an annual picnic, decorated boat parade, summer dock concerts and annual fishing derby. The Association also monitors water quality and invasive species and produces a neighborhood newsletter. The SLA teaches boating classes to enable beginning boaters to gain their boat safety certification, a requirement for boating in New York. One of their favorite annual events is an ‘ice-out’ contest each year to predict the date at which the lake will become ice-free. The Town of Fowler maintains a swimming beach with lifeguard on the lake, open daily during the summer months.

The Town of Fowler also provides two boat launch sites for visiting boats, one a carry-in site only. Neither launch site is very big and parking is limited. But Sylvia Lake draws a number of regular visiting anglers, primarily fishing for trout. Rainbow trout are planted by New York State nearly every year, and lake trout as large as 20 pounds are sometimes pulled from the depths. Fishing for largemouth bass and smallmouth bass is also great at Sylvia Lake. There are no bait shops or marinas at the lake, so gas must be brought from the Town of Fowler two and a half miles away. This inconvenience keeps down the numbers of outside boaters, so the lake doesn’t become overcrowded. Even so, angler advice often suggests spring and fall for the quietest fishing waters. And because Sylvia Lake is at a lower elevation than many area lakes, it is ice-free earlier in the year. A New York fishing license is required, and prospective anglers should always check current regulations for changes.

Although lakefront real estate is hard to find on Sylvia Lake, some residents rent their ‘camps’ on a short-term basis. The Town of Fowler has a few services, but larger shopping and lodging choices are nearby at Gouverneur, less than 10 miles to the north. Gouverneur has a full range of hotels and motels, shops, artisan craft shops and restaurants. One rainy day activity is visiting the Gouverneur Museum, a project of the Historical Association of Gouverneur, providing several floors of rooms furnished with period artifacts. Canton, 30 miles from Sylvia Lake, is home to St. Lawrence University which houses the Richard F. Brush Gallery, featuring a permanent collection of art along with visiting exhibitions. Canton is also home to The TAUNY Center (Traditional Arts in Upstate New York), dedicated to documenting and presenting traditional culture and folk life of Northern New York. The TAUNY Center features permanent and changing exhibits, workshops and demonstrations by local artists skilled in traditional crafts.

The Oswegatchie River, just north of the Village of Fowler, has two town-owned boat launches for fishing or canoeing the stream. The Wolf Lake State Forest, Trout Lake State Forest, Summer Creek State Forest, and a portion of the Adirondack Park are all accessible within 20 miles of Sylvia Lake. All have camping and outdoor recreation opportunities such as cross-country skiing, hiking and snowmobiling. Guide services in the area are available to lead kayaking and rafting trips, nature exploration hikes in the nearby preserves, and educate new visitors in the unique ecology of the western Adirondack foothills. A visit to St. Lawrence County and Sylvia Lake can offer so many things that will interest you and your family. And, you might just hook that 20-pound lake trout!

Things to do at Sylvia Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Tubing
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • State Forest
  • Museum
  • Ruins
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Sylvia Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Lake Trout
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Trout

Sylvia Lake Photo Gallery

Sylvia Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Water Level Control: no

Surface Area: 324 acres

Shoreline Length: 4 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 654 feet

Average Depth: 70 feet

Maximum Depth: 140 feet

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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