Amid rolling hills and lush, second-growth forests, Otisco Lake is at the eastern edge of the Finger Lake District, just 22 miles southwest of Syracuse. Otisco (Iroquois for "waters much dried away") used to be marshland, but dams constructed in 1869 and 1908 raised the water level and formed the lake as it is known today.
Only 6 miles long and about a half of a mile wide, Otisco is one of the smallest of the Finger Lakes. The area around Otisco Lake is made up of small, quiet communities, and most commerce in the area is based around its neighbor to the west, the larger and more well-known Skaneateles Lake—one of the major lakes. On the eastern shores of Lake Otisco is the village of Amber. Though it has only a few shops, Amber is the largest village on Otisco, and most visitors and residents find what they need here or in nearby Marietta, which features, among other businesses, the Otisco Lake Marina. Bay Shores, Otisco and Williams Grove are other villages in the area.
Otisco lake is well-developed, with private homes occupying most of the lakefront real estate. As a result, public access to the lake is limited. Use our guide to get around Lake Otisco like a local—we have the inside scoop.
The Otisco Lake County Park is a lovely spot on the northeastern lakefront, with three acres of land and 600 feet of lakefront access. As for amenities, you'll find a restroom, benches, fishing and boat launching (hand launch only)—it's a scenic spot and an ideal place for a picnic.
At the northern end of Otisco Lake, check out The Narrows, where water flows over the dam and into Nine Mile Creek en route to Onondaga Lake. Great views from here.
The Causeway near the southern end of Otisco Lake affords some of the best views on the Lake. Great fishing here too!
Check out the view from East Lake Road that runs along the hills the separate Otisco Lake from Skaneateles Lake. This drive yields nice scenic vistas.
Fishing, boating, bicycling and sight seeing are among the outdoor activities that visitors to Lake Otisco enjoy. While Otisco Lake does not offer a lot in the way dining and lodging options (hop over to nearby Skaneateles Lake for that), nature's beauty is in abundance here.
Otisco Lake is popular with outdoors enthusiasts, especially in summer, when anglers from near and far descend upon the lake for the annual Fishing Derby that marks the start of bass fishing season. While boats fill the lake on more popular fishing days, another prime fishing spot on Lake Otisco requires no boat: the causeway that extends across the lake near the southern end of the lake is a popular casting spot. According to local history, this rocky trail was once an old wagon road used to cross the lake, but today it serves mainly to divide the lake into two distinctly different water basins, with a small channel near the western bank for boat passage . The larger northern basin is deeper, with clear water, while the smaller, southern basin is more shallow and murky.
Otisco Lake is especially good for walleye, trout and tiger musky fishing, while bass and panfish are also abundant. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation stocks the lake annually to maintain fish population. They also run an informative website to point you towards what's biting and where - see http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/9218.html
Otisco is perfect for tooling around in - either in your own boat on on a rented pontoon boat (available at the Otisco Lake Marina in Marietta). The Marina also has a store so you can stock up on supplies before heading out on to the water.
Public access to the lake is very limited, but for those in the know, it's not a problem. The most convenient public boat launch (hand launch only) is at the west side of the Causeway off of Masters Road and the Otisco Lake County Park, on Otisco Valley Road, just north of Amber.
Another spot is under consideration for designation as a public boat launch, but access to this lot of State-owned land is blocked by private property.
Like most of the Finger Lakes, Otisco is a good spot for bicyclists experienced with road riding, as there are no marked off-road biking trails on the lake. Otisco Valley Road runs alongside the eastern shores of the lake, and a leisurely ride along this route takes you through Amber, Bay Shore and Williams Grove. Cutting west across Sawmill Road takes you to Spafford Valley, where a right turn on West Valley Road takes you on a northwestern tack back up to the lake, where you can access the Causeway from the western shore of Lake Otisco.
There are no marked hiking trails on Otisco Lake, and public land in the immediate area is scarce. But in surrounding Onondaga County, you'll find lots of prime hiking trails. The 182-acre Baltimore Woods nature preserve contains a system of nine trails and is open to the public. While you're there check out the gardens and arboretum.
The 560-mile Finger Lakes Trail, which runs from the Catskills to Alleghany State Park, passes within about 10 miles of Otisco Lake. You can pick up the Onondaga Trail (a branch of the main Finger Lakes Trail) near Tully, NY. Fantastic hiking.
Lodging options are relatively few in Otisco, but B&B galore can be found just a few miles west in the towns and villages around Skaneateles Lake. The Otisco Lake Campground & Restaurant in Marietta is the hub of lodging in the area.
A few seasonal restaurants and food stands along with a well-known lakefront eatery (Ryfun's on the Lake) comprise the available dining options on Lake Otisco. A wide selection of eateries, of course, can be found in the surrounding towns. Most notably, nearby Owasaco Lake and Skaneateles are well-known for offering a broad variety of excellent dining options.