Oneida Lake, New York from Cicero Yacht Club;

View of Frenchman's Island and Durham Island from Cicero

Oneida Lake is the largest lake entirely within New York (79.8 square miles) [1] [2]. The lake is located northeast of Syracuse,and near the Great Lakes. It serves as one of the links in the Erie Canal. It empties into the Oneida River which flows into the Oswego River which in turn flows into Lake Ontario. While not included as one of the Finger Lakes, it is sometimes referred to as their "thumb".

The current lake is about 21 miles (33 km) long and about 5 miles (8.7 km) wide with an average depth of 22 feet (6.4 m). The shoreline is about 55 miles (89 km). Portions of six counties and sixty-nine communities are in the watershed. Oneida Creek, which flows past the cities of Oneida and Sherrill, empties into the southeast part of the lake at South Bay.

Because it is shallow, in the summer it is warmer than the deeper Finger Lakes, and freezes solidly in winter, making it relatively safe and popular for ice fishing and snowmobiling.


The lake is named in honor of the Oneida, an Iroquoian tribe that occupied the region. Previously, the lake had been called Tsioqui, meaning "White Water" in the Oneida language[3].


Oneida Lake is a remnant of Lake Iroquois, a large prehistoric lake formed when glaciers blocked the current outlet of the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River.

When the Erie Canal was enlarged for a final time in the early 20th century, the new route used natural rivers and lakes when possible to save money. Barges were driven by steam and diesel, rather than animals, which allowed them to cross open water and travel against a current. The new route entered the lake at Sylvan Beach, where it straightened Fish Creek, and exited with the Oneida River in Brewerton. The towns along the shorelines of Oneida Lake thrived; terminal walls in Sylvan Beach, Cleveland, and Brewerton allowed boats to load and unload cargo and stay overnight. The break wall, which protects the entrance to the canal, was created to prevent waves from entering the canal as well as to prevent shoaling.

State Parks on Oneida Lake Edit

External linksEdit


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