Owasco Lake Today

Owasco Lake is the sixth largest and third easternmost of the Finger Lakes of New York in the United States of America (USA). The name Owasco has been roughly translated from an Iroquois term meaning "crossing". Another translation has the meaning as, “Place of Stone”. At one time the Owasco Indian tribe had a large village at the northern end of the lake at what is now Emerson Park.

The lake is eleven miles (17 km) long and the city of Auburn is located at the northern end and takes its drinking water from the lake. The lake lies entirely within the boundaries of Cayuga County. Its width ranges from one half mile at its southern end to one mile (1.6 km) near the northern tip. Owasco Lake's deepest point is 177 feet (54 m), has a volume of 212 billion gallons, and has a watershed of 208 square miles (540 km2). Owasco's surface is roughly 712 feet (217 m) above sea level, controlled by a dam on the lake's outlet, located in the city of Auburn.


Located at the south end of the lake is the hamlet of Cascade, which consists of a community of cottages, South Shore Marina, and a restaurant.

Owasco has a relatively large catchment area, compared to its overall volume. Unlike many of the other Finger Lakes, it is almost completely surrounded by agricultural land so the lake is especially vulnerable to high levels of nitrogen from farm run-off. It is also downstream from the villages of Moravia and Groton. This has created a marked increase in milfoil and other lake weed growth and affected oxygen levels in the lake. Sewage treatment effluent from two communities flows into the lake, which is not monitored with such stringent controls as neighboring Skaneateles Lake, which has the purest water of all the Finger Lakes.

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