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Cayuga Lake ( or ) is the longest of western New Yorkmarker's glacial Finger Lakesmarker, and is the largest in surface area (marginally larger than Seneca Lakemarker) and second largest in volume . It is just under 40 miles (64 km) long. Its average width is 1.7 miles (2.7 km), and it is 3.5 miles (5.6 km) wide at its widest point near Aurora. It is approximately 435 ft (133 m) deep at its deepest point.


The lake has one small island near Union Springs, Frontenac Island, which is one of only two islands in all of the Finger Lakes.

Ithaca, New Yorkmarker, site of Cornell Universitymarker and Ithaca Collegemarker, sits at the southern end of Cayuga Lake. Cornell's alma mater or official school song makes reference to its position "Far Above Cayuga's Waters", while that of Ithaca College references "Cayuga’s shore".

Villages and settlements along the east shore of Cayuga Lake include Myers, King Ferry, Aurora, Levanna, Union Springsmarker, and Cayugamarker. Settlements along the west shore of the lake include Sheldrake, Poplar Beach, and Canoga.

Geographical characteristics

Cayuga Lake is located at ; 116.4 m above sea level. Its depth, steep east and west sides with shallow north and south ends is typical of the Finger Lakes, as they were carved by glaciers during the last ice age.

Length: 61.4 km

Average width: 2.8 km

Maximum depth: 132 m

Surface area: 172 km²

Mean depth: 54.5 m

Catchment area: 2,033 km² (37.1% natural forest, 58% active agricultural)

Main islands: 1, Frontenac

Main outflows: 1

The water level is regulated by the Mud Lock at the north end of the lake. It is connected to Lake Ontariomarker by the Erie Canal and Seneca Lakemarker by the Seneca River. The lake is drawn down as winter approaches to minimize ice damage and to maximize its capacity to store heavy spring runoff.

The north end is dominated by shallow mudflats and is an important stopover for migratory birds, where Montezuma National Wildlife Refugemarker is located.

The southern end is also shallow and often freezes during the winter.

Human impact

Winter view of the southern end of Cayuga Lake
The fish population is managed and substantial sport fishing is practiced, including smelt, lake trout and smallmouth bass fishing.

Cayuga lake is very popular among recreational boaters. A large state marina and boat launch is located at the southern end of the lake in Ithacamarker (Allan H.marker Treman State Marine Parkmarker, the largest inland marina in New York). There are two yacht clubs on the western shore: Ithaca Yacht Club a few miles north of Ithaca, and Red Jacket Yacht Club just south of Canoga. There are several other marinas and boat launches scattered along the lake shore.

The lake is used for drinking water, although this is no longer legal and very uncommon. There are also several lake source cooling systems that are in operation on the lake, whereby cooler water is pumped from the depths of the lake, warmed, and circulated in a closed system back to the surface. One of these systems, which is operated by Cornell University and began operation in 2000, was controversial during the planning and building states for potential negative environmental impact; however, all the environmental impact reports and scientific studies have shown that the Cornell lake source cooling system has not yet and will not likely have any measurably significant environmental impact. Furthermore, Cornell's system pumps significantly less warm water back into the lake than others further north which have been operating for decades.

In the late 1960s, citizens successfully opposed the construction of a nuclear power plant on the shore of Cayuga Lake.


The lake is the subject of local folklore; a tradition at Wells Collegemarker in Aurora holds that if the lake completely freezes over, classes are canceled (though for only one day). According to Wells College records, this last happened in 1979. However, other sources suggest that the only time the entire lake froze over in the 20th century was in 1912.

Cayuga Lake, like nearby Seneca Lakemarker, is also the site of a phenomenon known as the Guns of the Seneca, mysterious cannon-like booms heard in the surrounding area. Many of these booms may be attributable to bird-scarers, automated cannon-like devices used by farmers to scare birds away from the many vineyards, orchards and crops. There is however no proof of this.

Rod Serling named his production company Cayuga Productions during the years of The Twilight Zone. Serling and his family had a summer home at Cayuga Lake.

See also


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