Green Lakes State Park

Green Lakes is one of the beloved recreationalist attractions in central New York. Consisting of two large lakes and a canal many miles long, the park is home to a variety of sights and activities. The park welcomes walkers, runners, hikers, campers and golfers to its large inhabitants. It also hosts regular fund-raisers as well as its famous annual triathlon.


Credit: auburnxc. Creative Commons license.

The famous teal glow that emanates from Green Lakes.

Green Lakes State Park is located in Fayetteville, Manlius, New York. Green Lake State Park was the first lake in North America identified as meromictic, and are the best studied meromictic lakes in the world with records dating back to the 18th century. This means that due to their incredible depths, surface waters don’t mix with the rest of the lake and allow scientists to more easily study its unique magnesium, calcium and sulfur composition. This lack of blending within the water creates thick layers of sediments near the sea floor, much like the rings on a tree, and allows scientists to come to more accurate conclusions about past aquatic inhabitants, as well as central New York’s climate over the past several thousand years.[1]

The presence of sulfide in the deeper waters of the lakes was noted in 1849. This compound reflects off of sunlight during the day and produces a beautiful teal-green color on the water’s surface, helping to officially establish the park’s name.

One of the characteristics of the lake that makes it so unique in comparison to other Lakes is the tremendous depth of the Lake relative to its surface area. The reason for this can be answered by the idea that the Lake is believed to have formed as a plunge pool during the late Wisconsin stage of glaciation at the base of a waterfall formed by the retreating glaciers. The outflow for Green Lakes runs underneath the Erie Canal, which is located less than a quarter of a mile north shore of the lake.

The gorge itself was formed around the conclusion of the most recent ice age – around 15 millennia ago – by the melting of a large river.

The park’s first and second lakes – as guests encounter them – are named Green Lake and Round Lake, respectively. Also known as ‘Crater Lakes’ from past attention, both are connected by a small stream, and have, for centuries, sparked major scientific interest.




Credit: auburnxc. Creative Commons license.

Round Lake’s vast width isn’t without a steep treeline that comprises the 300-foot valley.

Round Lake, the smaller and lateral (“upper”) lake, was also named ‘Lake Sodom’ in the early 19th century by Lardner Vanuxem (a geologist who first studied the lakes in 1839), and has recently become a Registered Natural Landmark of the U.S. National Park Service because of some unique geological traits:

• Shape: Almost completely circular
• Material: Gypseous Rock / Niagara Limestone
• Depth: 156 feet
• Diameter: 1/4 mile
This lake is 44 feet above the surface of Onondaga Lake, and is another 150 feet below the top of the cliffs. Thus, in addition to its perfect shape, the valley makes for an excavation of over 300 feet deep.

Round Lake has been assigned several different theories as to its birth. Some suggest a volcanic origin (hence the park’s alias), but the lake’s circular form and surrounding banks are the model’s only support; no magmatic remnants or other signs of upheaval have ever been reported.


Credit: auburnxc. Creative Commons license.

Green Lake has an equally tall treeline, but the complex curves of its shoreline are lined with a trail that runs along its perimeter, to the various checkpoints listed to the left. Take a close look at the shore in the foreground, and you can begin to make out the leveled pathway.

Green Lake’s geological origin isn’t as certain, but like Round Lake, its peculiar forms of the water-filled basins supposes that the earth that once filled the lakes has either slowly dissolved or been carried away by a saturated network of veins throughout the gypseous rock crater. The body is generally similar to its upper companion:
• Shape: Rounded with a narrow northbound tail
• Material: Gypseous Rock / Niagara Limestone
• Depth: 165 feet
• Diameter (excluding tail): 1/3 mile
• Length of tail: Just under 1/2 mile
It is said that Green Lake was once known locally as ‘The Devil’s Punchbowl,’ though its modern identity was frequently used as well. Individual points of interest around the lake have been nicknamed:
• Stygian Pool
• Wolf Point
• Brazilian Point
• Water’s Nymph’s Grotto
• Undine’s Bath


Both lakes were once believed to be bottomless, but it’s not just simple logic that rebuts this claim. The Niagara limestone that shields the seas’ grass green floors is not easily dissolved, and serves as a thick bed through which water does not saturate, allowing the lakes to stay full. The underwater world of Green Lakes gives viewers an inside look of the aquatic phenomenon:

• 1792 – The “Military Tract” was surveyed and divided into lots to compensate soldiers of the Revolutionary War.
• 1817 – Lands surrounding Round and Green Lakes were settled by David Collin III and later divided among his six children.
• 1800s – Small passenger steamboats would bring people from Syracuse and Fayetteville to Green Lakes Landing via the Fayetteville Feeder Canal and the Erie Canal. Facilities for picnicking, boating and dancing were made available on Green Lake through private initiatives.
• Late 1800s – The area is known to naturalists and hikers as one of the most outstanding features of the United States.
• 1928 – The State of NY purchases 500 acres surrounding and including Round and Green Lakes.
• 1930s – The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) had a camp in the park and built the cabins that are used today.
• 1942 – During World War II the park was the site of a German prisoner of war camp.
• 1975 – The State of NY acquires an additional 188 acres at the southern boundary to preserve the drainage basin of Round Lake.
• 2009 – The State’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation announces the beginning of a process to implement a new Master Plan and a new Environmental Impact Statement for Green Lakes State Park.
• Present – The Park has since increased to nearly 2,000 acres, and is home to numerous clubs and events at various times throughout the year.


Green Lakes State Park is located at:
7900 Green Lakes Road
Fayetteville, NY 13066
(315) 637-6111


  1.  Green Lakes State Park. NYFalls / Matthew Conheady, 2009. Web. 18 Apr. 2010. <>
  2.  Crowell, Kathy. “Green Lakes State Park, Town of Manlius”. An Community. 1998. Roots Web. 3 December 1998.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *