Seneca Lake is the deepest of the Finger Lakes. Moreover, it is exceedingly deep throughout most of its expanse. The depth goes beyond the 400 foot mark in many locations. In addition, there is more than 500 feet of sediment below the deepest mark (700 feet), which puts the original bottom more than 1200 feet below the present surface (10.000+ years ago).
Reports that the bottom of Seneca Lake has never been found are not valid. Furthermore, there is no evidence of the alleged undergroun4 passageways that supposedly allow drowning victims of Seneca to mysteriously appear in Cayuga Lake.
Seneca Lake bas nearly double the volume of water found in Cayuga Lake, even though both have approximately the same surface area. Because of this dilution factor and the lack of significant urban populations around its shores, the water quality of Seneca Lake is among the best in the world.
Seneca Lake is a famous, productive nursery for lake trout and has significant tributaries for rainbow trout and other salmonoids. These species reflect the high quality water found in this lake. Furthermore, the yellow perch and smallmouth bass occur commonly in Seneca Lake.
Besides a good spectrum of commonly known fish, Seneca Lake has its own subspecies of whitefish known as the “Seneca Lake Cisco.” This is the technical equivalent of a distinctive “race” of the Great Lakes Cisco living in Seneca Lake. This is the result of many thousands of years of isolation from the main, continuous population of the whitefish in the Great Lakes.
Another interesting tidbit is that the New York Smelt has recently been introduced to the lake, probably by mistake. Formerly, smelt were considered native to Cayuga Lake but were not found in Seneca Lake until the 1970.
For some of the greatest sailing, swimming, boating, water skiing, fishing or whatever water activity, you can’t beat the clean, open waters of Seneca Lake.
The northern end of Cayuga Lake ranges from about 1 to 12 feet in dept, with an average depth of 5 feet around Cayuga Lake State Park. The lake bottom here is soft and because of the lake of great depths, this area has a significant amount of emergent and sugmergent vegetation. Fishermen take advantage of this habitat as it supports high populations of Large Mouth Bass, Crappie, Perch, Northern Pike, Pickerel, and Bullhead. In addition, duck hunters and bird enthusiasts take delight over the abundance of puddle ducks and other waterfowl that utilize this habitat.
With the advent of the weed harvester in this area, pleasure boating has increased significantly. Furthermore, the water here warms up very rapidly in the spring, providing for early swimming and other water sports. In contrast, this area freezes during the winter, making for a wide variety of winter sports including fantastic ice fishing, skating and ski sports.
An added advantage of this end of Cayuga is the relative availability of services such as municipal sewer, gas and water as well as proximity to the other amenities of groceries, gasoline, and the general gregarious congenialities associated with civilization.
Often, even though the situation has improved tremendously in recent years, Cayuga Lake has been totally characterized by the shallow north end with its weeds. This has been done by out of town journalists attempting to describe the Finger Lakes. However. as one proceeds south from Canoga, there is a gradual increase in depth, to the abysmal regions of the lake. At Red Jacket Yacht Club the maximum depth is about 28 feet. From here south, troublesome weeds have never been a problem, as they are unable to take root. This is due to the great pressure of the water above as well as the vigorous wave action against the shallows.
Gradually, continuing south, the lake gets deeper and deeper until maximum depths are attained at Sheldrake and Taughannoch Falls State Park. Here, the greatest fathoms approach the 450 mark. In this region are found some of the most pristine and unencumbered waters of the Finger Lakes.
Lake Trout, other trout, Salmon, and Small Mouth Bass, fish which typically indicate a high water quality, are found in significant numbers in much of the lake south of Canoga. Also, boating of all types is possible in this area because of the unobstructed, wide expanses of the lake. Furthermore, the lake rarely freezes south of Burrough’s Point. The interaction between the wide wind swept expanses and the deep water prevents any substantial freezing. Wells College supposedly has the day off when Cayuga Lake freezes over completely. Technically, this has not happened in the last 30 years of my observation, although the college was closed once during this time because of an apparent freeze over!
For the best sailing, wind surfing, water skiing and pleasure boating, it’s tough to beat Cayuga Lake or its sister, Seneca Lake. The next time you watch “The Twilight Zone” look for Cayuga Lake in the credits. Rod Serling did much of his creations on the shores of Cayuga Lake.