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Canandaigua Lake

Coordinates: 42.774°N 77.307°W

Elevation: 750 feet/229 meters


Empty chairs look out over Canandaigua Lake in the Finger Lakes, New York USA.

At 15.5 mi./30 km. in length, Canandaigua Lake is the fourth longest of the Finger Lakes and the third largest by volume. It is roughly 1.5 mi./2.4 km. at its widest point and 276 ft./84 m. deep. To the Indians, canandaigua was "the chosen place." For many residents of Yates and Ontario counties, it is still the chosen place.


Canandaigua Lake is one of two of the Finger Lakes to have an island. Canandaigua's Squaw Island is located near the northern end of the lake. This is the state's smallest (less than half an acre) Fish and Wildlife Management Area and in danger of becoming ever smaller as the water of the lake erodes its banks.


The relatively clean water from the lake has always served its human residents. Prior to 1920, hundreds of men were employed during the winters by two ice companies--the Brady and the McCormack--to saw ice from the lake and take it by horse-drawn wagon to ice houses in the City of Canandaigua. Today, the lake provides drinking water to 60,000 residents in the area who use more than 3 million gallons daily.


Boat Tours

The Lady of the Lake was the first steamboat to ply the lake's waters but certainly not the last. Boats ran shuttle services around the lake carrying passengers for 25 cents and goods--often grapes--to the City of Canandaigua. The last steamboat on the lake--the Onanda, built in 1914--was moved to the Hudson River in 1924.


Taking a tour of the lake is a great way to learn the lake's history and to see many of the historical homes on the lake's shore. While touring the lake, watch for boat houses, some with second story living accommodations, on finger piers that run at a right to the shore. In excellent condition, these boat houses were built more than 150 years ago.


On a calm day you will be able to see through the lake's clear water two sunken boats--the Lady of the Lake, which tragically caught fire and sank near the village dock, and the Onnalinda, which was scrapped and set ablaze. It floated out toward the shallow water on the eastern side of the lake where it finally sank. These sites are favorites with scuba divers.


Steamboat Landing

205 Lakeshore Dr.

Canandaigua, NY 14424



Captain Gray's Boat Tours

Departs from Canandaigua Inn on the Lake

770 S. Main St.

Canandaigua, NY 14424



Canandaigua Lake is a popular for windsurfing. If you don't have your own board, one can be rented from:


Canandaigua Sailboarding

11 Lakeshore Dr.

Canandaigua, NY 14424



Sea Monster

Whiskey was distilled in the 1800s at Whiskey Point and shipped to Canandaigua. It is perhaps because of the whiskey, or too much of it, that certain former residents reported seeing a sea monster on the lake. Some said it was only 30 ft./10 m. long while others claimed it was twice that. It seemed to have a penchant for appearing in the early evening, which prompted some residents to keep guns in their boats. We are happy to report that the monster hasn't been sighted in many decades...


(Real) Wildlife

Most of the wildlife common to the Finger Lakes can be found around Canandaigua Lake. Being as long as it is, it is used heavily by waterfowl, particularly during migration, and is especially important to black ducks, canvasbacks, and redheads, all of which are in serious decline. The state holds in stewardship 6,100 acres, including 1,700 acres of marsh, at the southern end of the lake. This area is called High Tor Fish and Wildlife Management Area. Great for canoeing and kayaking, this is diverse habitat with parts of the West River and Naples Creek running through it. Despite its name, the West River is calm almost anytime of the year, an especially nice place for beginning paddlers. If you launch into the West River at Sunnyside Rd. (see launch sites below), paddling from the launch site to the lake is about 4 mi./6.4 km. round trip and should take you at least 2.5 hours. You'll have a cattail marsh around you for much of the trip kept open by motorboats. Look for bitterns, red-winged black birds, marsh wrens, and other marsh-nesting birds as well as dragonflies and damselflies.


You can also paddle upstream from the West River launch for about 2 mi./3.2 km. You'll have to pass under two low bridges along the way. Keep your eyes open for four-legged wildlife--beavers, otters, mink, muskrats, and deer.


From the parking area on County Route 245 in Naples (by the Naples Creek bridge), there is a sometimes strenuous hiking/biking trail--the Middlesex rail trail section of the Lehigh Valley Trail that runs through High Tor. The trail runs about 7 mi./11.3 km. east from this point. (There's also a shorter loop trail.) The base varies from cinders to grass depending on the spot. Cross-country skiing is permitted here during the winter. High Tor is listed by the state as a bird conservation area. (See: http://ny.audubon.org/iba/hi-tor.html)



Canandaigua Lake is large enough to create a terroir conducive to the growing of grapes. Although there aren't as many wineries around Canandaigua Lake as there are around Keuka, Seneca, and Cayuga lakes, there are a few, and they're worth a visit. They are members of the Canandaigua Wine Trail.


Ring of Fire

Every year on the Saturday before Labor Day (the first Monday in September), local people celebrate Genundowa (Festival of Lights)--a Seneca Indian custom where lake fires were lit to express gratitude for the beauty and abundance of the lake. Today this custom is observed with flares all around the lake sold by the Canandaigua Lake Association. Visitors are invited to attend this special event.


Access to the Lake

As with most of the Finger Lakes, most (approx. 97%) of Canandaigua Lake's shoreline is privately owned. Here are some ways you can access the lake.


Inns on the Lake

The Inn on the Lake

770 S. Main St.

Canandaigua, NY 14424



Thendera Inn and Restaurant

4356 East Lake Rd.

Canandaigua, NY 14424



Lakeside Rentals

Finger Lakes Premier Properties (formerly Rental Plus)





Resort Property Rentals of the Finger Lakes


Vacation Rentals by Owner





Deep Run Park

East Lake Rd.

Canandaigua, NY 14424



County operated. Picnicking, swimming, and scuba diving. Restrooms.


Kershaw Park

Lakeshore Dr.

Canandaigua, NY 14424



Nine-acre city park on the northeast shore of the lake. Beach, bathhouse, small craft launch, public dock with pump-out station, picnic pavilions and gazebo. Beach area open from Memorial Day (the end of May) through Labor Day weekend (the beginning of September). Fee charged. The rest of the park is open year round.


Onanda Park

West Lake Rd.

Canandaigua, NY 14424



This is an 80-acre town park on the west side of the lake with 8 cabins, 2 pavilions, 2 lodges, ball fields, tennis courts, and picnic facilities on the east side of West Lake Rd. and 3 cabins and 3 pavilions on the west side of the road. Swimming is allowed in season, but boats are not allowed to dock or launch from the park except during November-April. Hiking is the main activity on the west side of the park. The 1.4-mi./2.2-km. wooded loop with 2 observation platforms overlooking the Barnes Creek gorge and its 2 waterfalls is considered difficult because of the steepness of the terrain. Pets are not allowed anywhere in the park.


Ontario Beach Park

East Lake Rd.

Canandaigua, NY 14424



County operated. Picnic area and restrooms. Boat launches.


Canandaigua Lake State Marine Park

620 S. Main St.

Canandaigua, NY 14424



Boat launch facility only. Hard surface ramp. Parking for 110 vehicles. Launch fee charged. Open May through mid-October. Pets must be leashed.


Boat Launches

Canandaigua Outlet--Located on Latting Rd. .3 mi./.5 km. north of County Rd. 19. Hand launch only. Parking for 6 vehicles.


Onanda--Located on West Lake Rd. 6.5 mi/10.4 km. south of the City of Canandaigua. Hard surface ramp. Parking for 25 vehicles. Winter launching only. Brochure.


West River--Located on Sunnyside Rd. on the West River at the southeast end of the lake. The West River connects with Naples Creek, which runs into the lake at its southern tip. Hand launch only. Parking for 5 vehicles.


Woodville--Located on Rt. 21, 3 mi./5 km. north of Naples. Hard surface ramps. Parking for 86 vehicles. Brochure.




A family prepares to park their boat at a marina on Canandaigua Lake in the City of Canandaigua in the Finger Lakes, New York USA.


See Also 

Historical Tour of Canandaigua Lake by Preston E. Pierce.


Updated 1 June 2012








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