Length: 5.4 miles Width: 0.75 miles Depth: 76 feet
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 the lake 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.
Fishing, boating, bicycling and sightseeing are among the outdoor activities that visitors enjoy. While Otisco Lake does not offer a lot in the way of dining and lodging options (hop over to nearby Skaneateles Lake for that), nature’s beauty is in abundance here.
Otisco is perfect for tooling around in – either in your own boat or 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.
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 to go.
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 around the lake. Otisco Valley Road runs along 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 the Sawmill Road takes you to Spafford Valley, where a right turn on West Valley Road takes you on a northwestern track back up to the lake, where you can access the causeway from the western shore of Otisco Lake.
There are no marked hiking trails on Otisco Lake, and public land in the immediate area is scarce. The Otisco Lake Preserve does have a hiking trail that is .4 miles long.
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 Allegany 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.
Otisco Lake County Park Address: 2525 Otisco Valley Rd, Marietta, NY 13110 Website
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. The park is a carry-in, carry-out facility with a five-car parking area. Swimming is not allowed. Admission is free.
Otisco Lake Preserve Address:1729-1585 Willowdale Rd, Skaneateles, NY 13152 Website
Otisco Lake is the Finger Lakes Land Trust’s first conservation area in the watershed. It’s 1300 feet of wild shoreline on the west side of the lake is the perfect habitat for Bald Eagles and other water birds. It also provides hiking trails for rare public lakeshore access. You can find the trail map here. Several cascading streams flow through the 36-acre preserve and into the lake below.
Tims Pumpkin Patch Address: 2901 Rose Hill Rd, Marietta, NY 13110 Phone: 315-673-9209 Website
Tim’s Pumpkin patch is a favorite among the locals in the Fall. There is a small admission fee, although children two and under are free, and it includes access to their corn maze, animal barn, tractor rides, the hay fort, the hoops game, the grain bin barn and their U-PICK fields. Admission does not include pumpkins. They also have a farm store with lots of delicious baked goods and other local goods. See their website for more information and up to date details.
Berdock Berries Address: 2208 New York 174,Marietta, NY 13110Berdock berries Phone:(315) 877-8334 Website Pick Your Own Farm Produce in Marietta.Check out their website for current updates on what produce is available, request a quote, directions to their location and more.
Willowdale Bend Address: 2080 Willowdale Rd, Skaneateles, NY 13152 phone: (315) 415-8925 Facebook Willowdale Bend Antiques, art, crafts, vendors, tavern and Farmers Market is located between Skaneateles and Otisco Lake. It is a Farm and Bird wildlife sanctuary as well as a rescue farm.They also host live music and other events. Check out their facebook page for their opening hours, events and other information before you go.
FingerLakes.com is your complete guide to the entire Finger Lakes region of New York State--from wine trails to hiking trails and fishing to skiing.
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