Cayuga Lake

Coordinates: 42°41′17″N 76°42′8″W / 42.68806°N 76.70222°W / 42.68806; -76.70222
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Cayuga Lake
View of the southern end of Cayuga Lake
Cayuga Lake as viewed in the late afternoon from Cornell University
Location of Cayuga Lake within NY
Location of Cayuga Lake within NY
Cayuga Lake
Location within New York
Location of Cayuga Lake within NY
Location of Cayuga Lake within NY
Cayuga Lake
Cayuga Lake (the United States)
LocationCayuga / Seneca / Tompkins counties, New York, U.S.
GroupFinger Lakes
Coordinates42°41′17″N 76°42′8″W / 42.68806°N 76.70222°W / 42.68806; -76.70222
Lake typeGround moraine
Primary inflowsFall Creek, Cayuga Inlet, Salmon Creek, Taughannock Creek, Six Mile Creek
Primary outflowsSeneca River
Catchment area2,033 km2 (785 sq mi)
Basin countriesUnited States
Max. length61.4 km (38.2 mi)
Max. width3.5 mi (5.6 km)
Surface area172 km2 (66 sq mi)
Average depth54.5 m (179 ft)
Max. depth133 m (436 ft)
Water volume9.4 km3 (2.3 cu mi)
Residence time18.2 years
Shore length1153.4 km (95.3 mi)
Surface elevation381.9 ft (116.4 m)
Islands2 (Frontenac Island and Canoga Island)
Settlementssee article
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

Cayuga Lake (/kəˈjuːɡə/,/kˈjuːɡə/,/kˈjuːɡə/) is the longest of central New York's glacial Finger Lakes, and is the second largest in surface area (marginally smaller than Seneca Lake) and second largest in volume. It is just under 39 miles (63 km) long. Its average width is 1.7 miles (2.8 km), and it is 3.5 mi wide (5.6 km) at its widest point, near Aurora. It is approximately 435 ft deep (133 m) at its deepest point, and has over 95 miles (153 km) of shoreline.[2]

The lake is named after the indigenous Cayuga people.[4]


The city of Ithaca, site of Ithaca College and Cornell University, is located at the southern end of Cayuga Lake.

Villages and settlements along the east shore of Cayuga Lake include Myers, King Ferry, Aurora, Levanna, Union Springs, and Cayuga. Settlements along the west shore of the lake include Sheldrake, Poplar Beach, and Canoga.

The lake has two small islands. One is near Union Springs, called Frontenac Island (northeast); this island is not inhabited. The other island, Canoga Island (northwest), is located near the town of Canoga. This island has several camps and is inhabited during the summer months. The only other island in any of the Finger Lakes is Skenoh Island in Canandaigua Lake.

Geographical characteristics[edit]

Map of the Finger Lakes

Cayuga Lake is located at 42°41′17″N 76°42′8″W / 42.68806°N 76.70222°W / 42.68806; -76.70222; 116.4 meters (382 ft) above sea level.[3] Its depth, with steep east and west sides and shallow north and south ends, is typical of the Finger Lakes, as they were carved by glaciers during the last ice age.

The water level is regulated by the Mud Lock at the north end of the lake. It is connected to Lake Ontario by the Erie Canal and Seneca Lake by the Seneca River. The lake is drawn down as winter approaches, to minimize ice damage and to maximize its capacity to store heavy spring runoff.

The north end is dominated by shallow mudflats. An important stopover for migratory birds, the mudflats and marsh are the location of the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. The southern end is also shallow and often freezes during the winter.

Human impact[edit]

Winter view of the head of Cayuga Lake

Cayuga Lake is very popular among recreational boaters. The Allan H. Treman State Marine Park, with a large state marina and boat launch, is located at the southern end of the lake in Ithaca. There are two yacht clubs on the western shore: Ithaca Yacht Club, a few miles north of Ithaca, and Red Jacket Yacht Club, just south of Canoga. There are several other marinas and boat launches, scattered along the lake shore.

Cayuga Lake is the source of drinking water for several communities, including Lansing, near the southern end of the lake along the east side, which draws water through the Bolton Point Water System. There are also several lake source cooling systems that are in operation on the lake, whereby cooler water is pumped from the depths of the lake, warmed, and circulated in a closed system back to the surface. One of these systems, which is operated by Cornell University and began operation in 2000, was controversial during the planning and building stages, due to its potential for having a negative environmental impact. However, all of the environmental impact reports and scientific studies have shown that the Cornell lake source cooling system has not yet had, and will not likely have any measurably significant environmental impact. Furthermore, Cornell's system pumps significantly less warm water back into the lake than others further north, which have been operating for decades, including the coal-fired power plant on the eastern shore.[citation needed]

AES Cayuga, on the eastern shore of the lake

The AES Coal Power plant was shut down in August 2019, and there are plans to convert it into a data center in the near future. The plant used to use Cayuga Lake as a cooling source. In the late 1960s, citizens successfully opposed the construction of an 830-MW nuclear power plant on the shore of Cayuga Lake.[5][6][7][8]

Rod Serling named his production company Cayuga Productions, during the years of his TV series, The Twilight Zone. Serling and his family had a summer home at Cayuga Lake.[9]


The fish population is managed and substantial sport fishing is practiced, with anglers targeting smelt, lake trout and smallmouth bass. Fish species present in the lake include lake trout, landlocked salmon, brown trout, rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, smelt, alewife, atlantic salmon, black crappie, bluegill, pickerel, largemouth bass, northern pike, pumpkinseed sunfish, rock bass, and yellow perch. There are state owned hard surface ramps in Cayuga–Seneca Canal, Lock #1 (Mud Lock), Long Point State Park, Cayuga Lake State Park, Deans Cove Boat Launch, Taughannock Falls State Park, and Allan H. Treman State Marine Park.[10]


The major inflows to the lake are: Fall Creek, Cayuga Inlet, Salmon Creek, Taughannock Creek, and Six Mile Creek;[1] while the lake outflows into the Seneca River and other tributaries. Ungaged tributaries that inflow to the lake include:


Cornell West Campus and Cayuga Lake, as seen from McGraw Tower

The lake is the subject of local folklore.

An Ithaca Journal article of January 5, 1897, reported that a sea serpent, nicknamed "Old Greeny," had been sighted in Cayuga Lake annually for 69 years.[11][12][13] A sighting in that month described the animal, 200 feet (61 m) from shore, as "large and its body long," though a "tramp" suggested it was a muskrat.[13] In 1929, two creatures, about 12 to 15 feet (3.7 to 4.6 m) in length, were reportedly spotted along the eastern shore of the lake.[11] Further sightings were reported in 1974 and 1979.[12]

Cornell's alma mater makes reference to its position "Far Above Cayuga's Waters", while that of Ithaca College references "Cayuga's shore".

A tradition at Wells College in Aurora holds that if the lake completely freezes over, classes are canceled (though for only one day).[14] According to Wells College records, this most recently happened in 1979 and the record cold month of February 2015. However, other sources suggest that the only time the entire lake froze over solid end to end in the 20th century was in 1912, when even the deeper Seneca Lake last froze over completely.[15][16]

Cayuga Lake, like nearby Seneca Lake, is also the site of a phenomenon known as the Guns of the Seneca, mysterious cannon-like booms heard in the surrounding area. Many of these booms may be attributable to bird-scarers, automated cannon-like devices used by farmers to scare birds away from the many vineyards, orchards and crops. There is, however, no proof of this.[17][18]


Cayuga Lake is included in the American Viticultural Area with which it shares its name. Established in 1988,[19] the AVA now boasts over a dozen wineries, four distilleries, a cidery, and a meadery.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Appendix B. Cayuga Lake Model (CLM-2D) Setup and Calibration for Cayuga Lake" (PDF). New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. 2015. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2021-06-24. Retrieved 20 June 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Cayuga Lake". International Lake Environment Committee Foundation. Retrieved 20 June 2021.
  3. ^ a b "Cayuga Lake". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey, United States Department of the Interior. 23 January 1980.
  4. ^ Baca, Keith A. (2007). Native American Place Names in Mississippi. University Press of Mississippi. p. 20. ISBN 978-1-60473-483-6.
  5. ^ ""The Role of Experts in a Nuclear Siting Controversy"".
  6. ^ Chain Reaction pp. 262–264.
  7. ^ Wolfgang Rudig (1990). Anti-nuclear Movements: A World Survey of Opposition to Nuclear Energy, Longman, pp. 126–127.
  8. ^ Jim Falk (1982). Global Fission: The Battle Over Nuclear Power, Oxford University Press, p. 94.
  9. ^ "Rod Serling Q & A". 22 February 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-06-01. Retrieved 20 June 2021.
  10. ^ Sportsman's Connection (Firm) (2011-01-01), Western Adirondacks New York fishing map guide: includes lakes & streams for the following counties: Allegany, Broome, Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Chemung, Cortland, Erie, Livingston, Madison, Monroe, Niagara, Onondaga, Ontario, Orleans, Oswego, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins, Wayne, Wyoming, and Yates., Sportsman's Connection, ISBN 978-1-885010-63-6, OCLC 986498446
  11. ^ a b "Green monsters and murderers: Lore and Legends of Cayuga Lake". The ithaca Journal. 22 August 2014. pp. 22–24. Retrieved 18 May 2020.
  12. ^ a b Githler, Charley (26 July 2018). "Here there be monsters: Diving into the legacy of the beasts of the Finger Lakes". Retrieved 18 May 2020.
  13. ^ a b Sachse, Gretchen (28 December 1996). "Cayuga's monster thrilled New Year's revelers". The Ithaca Journal. p. 2A. Retrieved 18 May 2020.
  14. ^ The Student Life Office (2007). "Wells College Student Traditions". Wells College (Official Site). Wells College. Archived from the original on 2008-01-25. Retrieved 2008-01-16.
  15. ^ "New York Times February 19, 1912 CORNELL SKATERS DROWN page 1". The New York Times.
  16. ^ Anthony Ingraham, "Does Cayuga Lake Freeze Over?", February 13, 2013.
  17. ^ "What Are The Lake Drums?". Retrieved 2017-04-12.
  18. ^ "Seneca Lake, Home of the Lake Farts : New York". Retrieved 2017-04-12.
  19. ^ Code of Federal Regulations. "§ 9.127 Cayuga Lake." Archived 2008-01-19 at the Wayback Machine Title 27: Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; Part 9 — American Viticultural Areas; Subpart C — Approved American Viticultural Areas. Retrieved Feb. 6, 2008.
  20. ^ "Wineries". Cayuga Lake Wine Trail. Retrieved 26 June 2011.

External links[edit]