Owasco Lake is the smallest of the six major Finger Lakes, but it comes up big in terms of recreation. If you are coming to the Finger Lakes to be active in, on and around the water, Owasco Lake is may be the choice for you. Owasco Lake draws people from near and far to enjoy excellent swimming, boating, skiing and fishing. Named for the Iroquois word for the log crossings over the Owasco River, Owasco Lake has been attracting visitors for nearly 200 years.
Owasco Lake is in Cayuga County and lies just west of Skaneataeles Lake and Otisco Lake. The largest community on Owasco is the city of Auburn (pop. 28,574), just north of the lake. In Auburn you'll find historical landmarks like the Harriet Tubman Home and William Seward House. Tubman was an escaped slave who was instrumental in the abolitionist movement, and Seward, a Governor of New York as well as a U.S. Senator, is best known and Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. Auburn was also home to Abner Doubleday, who is generally credited as the creator of the game of baseball. To the south of the Lake, the village of Moravia features a replica of the log cabin in which Millard Fillmore, 13th President of the United States, was born.
Emerson Park - At the northern end of Owasco Lake, on East Lake Rd. in Auburn, Emerson Park is the main gathering place for townspeople and visitors. It is, in fact, the only public beach on Owasco Lake. It's a popular spot for swimming and taking in the natural beauty of the lake. Check the schedule of the Merry-Go-Round Theater ("Broadway in the Finger Lakes") to see if an upcoming performance catches your eye. There's also disc golf and the Ward O'Hare agricultural museum.
Waterfalls - Just south of Owasco Lake, in and around the village of Moravia, you'll find some great waterfalls ranging up to about 60-feet in height. Some falls are easily accessible - the Cowshead Falls in Fillmore Glen State Park can be reached by paved trails, for example. The much more adventurous may want to seek out the Montville Falls, but you're going to need a map (plug these coordinates into Google Maps or your GPS: 42.71722N 76.40944W) and some backcountry skills. No marked trails here.
Owasco Flats - an expansive wetlands at the southern end of Owasco Lake featuring a great variety of nature's splendor.
Moravia - this quant little village has historical flair, hometown feel, and Fillmore Glen State Park to attract visitors. Worth a trip south of the lake.
Recreation is what Owasco Lake is all about. Swimming, boating, fishing - these waters are made for fun. And there's plenty to do on land as well. Check out our tips for what to do when visiting Owasco Lake.
Like most of the Finger Lakes, the area around Owasco Lake is great for bicyclists, provided that they are experienced with road riding. There are no marked biking trails on the lake, but the circuit around the lake is a popular road route with easy to moderate terrain. Emerson Park is generally the best starting and ending point. Here's a suggested route that covers about 32 miles: follow Route 38 heading south, along the west side of the lake all the way to Moravia, where you'll turn right onto N. Main Street. Enter Fillmore Glen State Park on your left, then when you leave the park, turn right on Route 38 North, continue north on Main Street / Rockefeller Road and follow signs for Route 38A North, which will runs along the east side of the lake all the way back to Emerson Park. A few groups organize annual rides, like the Owasco Flyer Cycling Road Race
Owasco Lake is a big draw for people who enjoy being on the water. The lakefront is highly developed, so public access to the lake is extremely limited. The only public beach - the only public access, period - is at Emerson Park in Auburn. You'll find two hand and trailer launches here. There are no other public boat launches on the lake, though a few unofficial spots can be found. Unless you're renting a lakefront property, you'll be putting in at Emerson Park.
Pontoon boats are available for rental from Owasco Marine, a full service marina located right on the outlet at Emerson Park. (147 Pulsifer Drive, Auburn, tel: 315-258-9096, http://www.owascomarine.net/html/directions.html).
You can also rent pontoon boats from A-1 Marine - they keep a boat slip on the outlet at Emerson Park. (1499 Rt 38, Moravia, tel: 888-896-9828,).
You can rent a kayak or canoe at the the South Shore Marina (2810 Firelane 1, Rt. 38, Moravia, 315-497-3006,
Owasco Inlet, a creek that feeds into the southern end of Owasco Lake, is great for kayaking and canoeing. Owasco Inlet becomes Owasco Flats just before feeding into the lake, and nature lovers will find these wetlands provide a scenic vista to be treasured.
The north end of the lake is also a good spot for boating, as the outlet at Emerson Park provides easy access to the lake and, for those on kayaks, the waters north of the lake up to the dam in Auburn. Boats putting in at Emerson Park pass under a footbridge en route to the lake, limiting the size of boats that can enter the lake via this public access point.
Owasco Lake is popular with fishing enthusiasts. Owasco Lake is much more shallow than the other major Finger Lakes, and as a result, the water warms faster. Atlantic Salmon, Black Crappie, Bullhead, Lake Trout, Northern Pike, Rainbow Trout, Yellow Perch and Smallmouth Bass are all plentiful on Owasco.
If you're putting in at the south end of the lake, you're most likely going to use the South Shore Marina as your point of access, unless you are using a private boat launch. There are several spots in the southern waters that anglers enjoy. Enesmore Point, on the southwestern shore, is particularly good for lake trout and brown trout. And in the winter, this is among the best spots for ice fishing. At the north end of the lake, all the way from Martin Point to Long Point, you're likely to find excellent bass fishing.
Read more about Owasco Lake Fishing...
At the southern end of Owasco Lake, in the village of Moravia, Fillmore Glen State Park is a favorite destination off the lake. These hiking trails afford some of the most magnificent views of gorges and waterfalls in all of the Finger Lakes. The trails around the Cowshead area are paved and easily accessible. The Gorge trail, North Rim and South Rim trails are moderately challenging, and all three afford great scenic vistas.
Emerson Park, in Auburn, is the public access point on Owasco Lake. This is a great spot for swimming, boat launches, picnics and strolling along the water. There's also a disc golf course with three levels of starting tees.
Just south of the lake, Filmore Glen State Park in the village of Moravia is a beautiful state park featuring waterfalls, hiking trails, deep gorges and plenty of campsites. This is among the most well-preserved state parks in the Finger Lakes, and the hiking trails are excellent. There is a nice swimming area, and anglers will find good fishing at the Owasco Lake inlet.
Because Owasco Lake is much smaller and more shallow than the other major Finger Lakes, it doesn't have the cool lake valley climate that attracts wine makers to the hills surrounding Seneca, Cayuga and Keuka lakes, but the wine industry has established a foothold in the area.
CJS Vineyards and Aurelius Winery in Auburn is gaining a reputation for its Riesling, Chambourcin and Pinot Noir - all made from their own estate vineyards. A tasting room is open on weekends from April through December. Stop by to enjoy a taste of what this Finger Lakes winemaker has to offer. (6900 Fosterville Rd., Auburn, 315-730-4619, http://www.cjsvineyards.com)
Owasco doesn't have the well-developed tourism industry like that of its neighbor Skaneateles Lake, but it's still welcoming to visitors. For families and groups, private home rentals may be the best way to go, as lake front properties enable you to get the most out of staying on Owasco.
A reasonable selection of hotels, inns and B&B's are available in Auburn, including big chain hotels like Holiday Inn, Days Inn and Super 8 Motel.
The area around Lake Owasco is not an epicurean mecca, but there is a reasonable supply of restaurants to suit most palates. All the major fast food restaurants and many of the chain restaurants can be found in Auburn. You can also find a few stand-alone places that really stand out. Standard American fare, bar food, pizza, chinese food are all on tap, as well as some higher-end eateries. You will probably find what you're looking for in Auburn.