Sunset on Cayuga Lake in Ithaca, New York.

Cayuga Lake

Cayuga Lake is a large lake situated in the Finger Lakes region of the Cayuga, Seneca, and Tompkins counties in the US State of New York. This 61.4km long lake is considered the longest of the eleven glacial Finger Lakes. Cayuga Lake has been named after the native Cayuga people. 

About The Cayuga Lake

Aerial view of Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake in upstate New York
Aerial view of Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake in upstate New York. 

Covering an area of 172 sq. km, Cayuga Lake is the second-largest of Central New York’s eleven Finger Lakes. The lake has a length of 61.4km, an average width of 2.8km, and a maximum width of 5.6km. Cayuga Lake has an average depth of 54.5m and reaches a maximum depth of 133m at its deepest point. The significant inflows to the Cayuga Lake include the Cayuga Inlet, Taughannock Creek, Fall Creek, Salmon Creek, and Six Mile Creek. The water level in Cayuga Lake is controlled by a Mud Lock located at the lake’s northern end. Cayuga Lake is, in turn, connected with the Seneca Lake via the Seneca River and by the Erie Canal with Lake Ontario. To maximize the capacity of the lake to store heavy spring runoff and minimize ice damage, the lake is downsized during the winter months. 

Located at an elevation of 116.4m above sea level, Cayuga Lake has a shoreline of more than 153.4km. The lake holds a water volume of 9.4 cubic kilometers and has the second-largest volume among all the eleven Finger Lakes. There are two small islands in Cayuga Lake. These include the uninhabited Frontenac Island – located on the eastern side of the lake, close to the town of Union Springs; and the Canoga Island – located close to the town of Canoga and is inhabited mainly during the summer season. The northern end of the lake is occupied by shallow mudflats and is the site of the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, which serves as an important stopover site for several migratory birds. 

Long Point State Park on Cayuga Lake, New York
Long Point State Park on Cayuga Lake, New York. 

Various settlements are located along the shores of Cayuga Lake. The settlements along the lake’s eastern shore include Aurora, Union Springs, Myers, Levanna, King Ferry, and Cayuga. The settlements along the lake’s western shore include Canoga, Poplar Beach, and Sheldrake. The city of Ithaca, a college town and a famous vacation destination, is situated at the southern end of Cayuga Lake. The small historic town of Seneca Falls is located at the northern edge of Cayuga Lake. 

Ecology And Recreation In Cayuga Lake

Marina on Lake Cayuga at Ithaca, New York
Marina on Lake Cayuga at Ithaca, New York. 

Cayuga Lake is home to a large number of fishes. Some of the well-known fishes found in the lake include lake trout, brown trout, smallmouth bass, landlocked salmon, rainbow trout, alewife, black crappie, smelt, Atlantic salmon, pickerel, bluegill, northern pike, rock bass, largemouth bass, pumpkinseed sunfish and yellow perch. 

Goose Watch Winery on Cayuga Lake
Goose Watch Winery on Cayuga Lake in the heart of Finger Lakes Wine Country, New York. Editorial credit: PQK /

Cayuga Lake is extremely popular among recreational boaters. The Allan H. Treman State Marine Park is located at the southern end of the lake and is a favored destination for fishing, bird watching, and recreational boating. There are numerous other marinas and boat launches scattered along the shores of the lake. Besides this, the lake also forms a part of the American Viticultural Area as the Cayuga Lake AVA, which contains many wineries, distilleries, a meadery, and a cidery. Two yacht clubs, the Ithaca Yacht Club and the Red Jacket Yacht Club, are located along the western shores of Cayuga Lake.  


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