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Otisco Lake

Coordinates: 42.904°N 76.313°W

Elevation: 800 feet/244 meters



Motorboating on Otisco Lake in the Finger Lakes, New York USA.

The easternmost of the Finger Lakes, Otisco is surrounded by wooded hills. It is fed at the southern end by water from the Spafford Creek. Water exits at the northern end by spilling over a dam and running into Nine Mile Creek and then into Onondaga Lake. The quiet rurality of the region makes Otisco Lake a great place to picnic or canoe.


The lake is 5.4 mi./8.7 km. long and less than .75 mi./1.2 km. across at its widest point. Most of the lake's watershed is in Onondaga County with a small portion at the southern end in Cortland County.


Its name means "waters dried away." Perhaps in earlier times this was true, but today because of damming, the lake level is 13 ft./4 m. higher than it once was. The first damming occurred in 1869 to impound water for use by the Erie Canal, which raised the lake by 9 ft./3 m., submerging a road at the southern end of the lake. The second damming occurred in 1908 and raised the lake another 4 ft./1.2 m. so that the lake could provide drinking water to residents of Onondaga County, especially the City of Syracuse.


The lake is mesotrophic or moderately biologically productive. The southern quarter of the lake is almost entirely closed off from the rest of the lake by a causeway, causing the water in the shallower southern basin to be more turbid and, consequently, rather brown in appearance. In addition, the northern end of the lake is squeezed by a portion of land called The Narrows before it out-flows into Nine Mile Creek. The lake flushes itself about once every two years, the third fastest of the Finger Lakes.

The north end of Otisco Lake (looking south) after a rain, showing The Narrows. Otisco Lake is in the Finger Lakes, New York USA.

Much of the land in the lake's watershed is agricultural interspersed with woods. This, along with the fact that the lake, like the other Finger Lakes, is on the Atlantic Flyway, means that the lake and its watershed have abundant wildlife and a good representation of what occurs over much of the region.

Like most of the small lakes in the Finger Lakes, Otisco has little wind and, consequently is more conducive to motorboating than sailing.

Moored boats in a rain on Otisco Lake in the Finger Lakes, New York USA.

Despite the small size of the lake, its natural beauty and its proximity to the City of Syracuse (about 20 mi./32.1 km.) has caused it to be a desirable place to live. It now has more than 550 lakefront properties. This has greatly limited lake access.

Lakefront properties on Otisco Lake in the Finger Lakes, New York USA.

Public Access

Otisco Lake Park

2525 Otisco Valley Rd.

Marietta, NY 13110


A three-acre county park with hundreds of feet of shoreline. Not much in the way of services but a spectacular view. Good photo ops. Open dawn to dusk. Boat launch with parking for 5 vehicles.

Public Boat Launches on Otisco Lake

1) West side of Causeway off Masters Rd.

2) On West Valley Rd., 2 mi./3.2 km. north of Saw Mill Rd. Hand launching. Parking for 10 vehicles. Pier available.

3) Otisco Lake Park (2525 Otisco Valley Rd.). Parking for 5 vehicles.



Lakefront Accommodations

Otisco Lake Campgrounds

1544 Otisco Valley Rd.

Marietta, NY 13110



Lakeside Rentals

Finger Lakes Premier Properties (formerly Rental Plus)





Resort Property Rentals of the Finger Lakes

Vacation Rentals by Owner










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