Otisco Lake

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Otisco Lake
looking south to the causeway
Location Onondaga County, New York,
United States
Group Finger Lakes
Coordinates 42°51′52″N 76°17′13″W / 42.86444°N 76.28694°W / 42.86444; -76.28694Coordinates: 42°51′52″N 76°17′13″W / 42.86444°N 76.28694°W / 42.86444; -76.28694
Type Ground Moraine
Primary outflows Nine Mile Creek
Basin countries United States
Max. length 6 mi (10 km)
Max. width 1 mi (1.6 km)
Max. depth 60 ft (18 m)
Surface elevation 785 ft (239 m)
Islands none

Otisco Lake is one of the Finger Lakes, located at the eastern end of the Finger Lake District, southwest of Syracuse, New York.

Otisco Lake is approximately six miles (9.8 km) long. The outflow enters first Onondaga Lake via Nine Mile Creek and then Lake Ontario via the Seneca and Oswego Rivers. The lake is the source of water for a district west of Syracuse.

At its deepest point the lake is 66 feet (20 m) feet in depth.[1] Part of Otisco Lake is man-made, due to raising the water level by damming the outlet into Nine Mile Creek. The dam initially was constructed to provide a water reservoir for the Erie Canal. The water level was raised nine feet at the time. Subsequently the dam was rebuilt, raising the level an additional four feet. The natural part of the lake, closer to the southern end, is the deepest. A causeway across the lake was built to carry a road, flooded when the dam raised the level. The road no longer is used. A break in the causeway allows boats to pass between upper and lower parts of the lake. Although not maintained as a public recreational facility, the causeway is often used as a fishing spot.

Origin of the name, derived from an Iroquois name, appears in the article on the Town of Otisco, New York.

Closest of the Finger Lakes to the City of Syracuse, the lake is extremely popular in the summer and experiences a population explosion every Memorial Day. On the first day of bass season, usually around the end of the second week in June, the lake fills with boats for the annual fishing derby. Campsites and houses are available for rent, and there is a county park for public use. The Otisco Lake link below mentions three public boat launching sites. There is also a commercial marina on the east side.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "the lake is affected by nonpoint source pollution from agriculture (pesticide and fertilizer use, manure production, and sedimentation resulting from poor tillage practices), residential land use (septic systems, lawncare, and construction), and streambank erosion." Currently the lake is experiencing severe problems brought on by zebra mussels which have come into the water via boaters. Swimmers should wear appropriate footwear as the mussels can be quite sharp.


  1. ^ Drennan, Susan Roney (1 January 1981). Where to Find Birds in New York State: The Top 500 Sites. Syracuse University Press. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-8156-0173-9. 


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