Fulton County likes to market its “44 lakes” during tourism campaigns, but its most popular one isn’t even a lake.
The Great Sacandaga Lake is actually a reservoir, formed in 1930 primarily as a means for flood control for the Hudson River. Since then, it’s transformed the area as a destination spot for people looking to get away for the weekend, those with second homes and summer camps, or for anyone looking to spend a sunny summer day on the water.
The reservoir itself is huge. One of the Adirondack Park’s biggest lakes, the Great Sacandaga Lake is 29 miles long. By comparison, nearby Lake George is 32 miles long.
The GSL covers nearly 25,000 acres and has 115 miles of shoreline. It isn’t overly deep, averaging only about 32 feet. It does drop to 74 feet at its deepest point, but it’s a small sliver of water near the Batchellerville Bridge in Edinburg.
Unlike a lot of other lakes in the Adirondacks, the Sacandaga has shores in two counties. Most of it is in Fulton County, but the reservoir that formed it is in Conklingville, located in neighboring Saratoga County.
With plenty of access and plenty of activities, a day at the lake can mean different things to different people.
While there are plenty of ways to enjoy Great Sacandaga Lake without a boat, the number of public and private launches gives the reservoir tons of access, making it easy to put a craft in the water.
There are four state-owned launches around the GSL: on Lakeview Road in Broadalbin; at Northshore and Snow roads in Edinburg; at the Northampton state campground on Houseman Street; and on Route 30 just north of the Northville Bridge.
There are also plenty of private marinas that offer public launching service.
In Mayfield, Driftwood Park on Vandenburg Point Road offers free launch service but there is a fee for parking and docking. The same applies at the I-Go-Inn on Southshore Road in Edinburg. There are other marinas that offer launch service for a fee. Those include: Edinburg Marina & Powersports on Northshore Road in Edinburg; Gordon’s Lakeside Marine in Mayfield; Inn at the Bridge in Northville; Lakeside Tavern & Marina in Mayfield; and Majestic Mountain Marina on Northshore Road in Hadley.
All of those places have dock slips, as does Cranberry Cove Marina in Mayfield; Reets Bayside Marina in Mayfield; Mcmurray’s Boat Livery in Broadalbin; Northampton Marina in Northville; Park Base Marina in Northville; and Rondack Roots and Sunset Bay Vacation Resort RV Park and Marina, both located in Mayfield.
The lack of depth in the Great Sacandaga Lake makes it popular for swimmers of all ages and skill levels, and there are plenty of places to do it.
Arguably the most popular is the beach at the Northampton State Campground and Day Use area on Houseman Street. The beach is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the summer. There is a fee at the gate.
The town of Northampton also owns a public beach on Route 30 just outside the village of Northville. It’s open during the summer from 1 to 6 p.m. You technically need a permit to use it and can get one from the town offices at 412 S. Main St. in Northville.
The town of Mayfield also has a beach at the end of Burr Road in Mayfield. It’s open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. It’s closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Seasonal passes are sold only to residents of the town of Mayfield or Mayfield Central School District, but $10 day passes for nonresidents are available at the gate. There is also a swimming area at the day-use site on Northshore Road in Hadley.
It’s important to note that while the town of Broadalbin used to own the beach on Lakeview Road next to the state boat launch, it’s no longer available as a beach. The space is controlled by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and now is only supposed to be used for launching car-top boats. Some people tend to still use it as a beach, and while it’s patrolled, chances are they’ll be left alone if they’re not trashing the place or throwing a wild rager.
Sport Island Pub on Riverside Boulevard in Northville also has a beach for public use, but you need to be a dock permit-holder or a patron of the restaurant to use it.
All that activity on the lake can make one hungry. The GSL also makes for a nice backdrop for those looking for a nice meal out.
Fortunately, there are plenty of places all around the lake to get your grub on.
The vast majority of the lakeside dining is in Fulton County, but the I-Go-Inn on Southshore Road in Edinburg is popular with people coming in from the water. On the west side of the Batchellerville Bridge, Edinburg is also the spot for the Four Corners Diner and the Old Trail Inn on Northshore Road. Farther up Northshore is the Placid Pines Pub in Hadley.
The west side of the lake is dominated by the Lanzi family restaurant empire. On the southern end of the lake in Mayfield, the Lakeside Restaurant and Marina gives diners a view of Mussels Harbor.
Further up the lake is the family’s oldest venture on Great Sacandaga, Lanzi’s on the Lake on Route 30 in Mayfield. In addition to being a popular spot for lunch and dinner in the summers, the restaurant also hosts various fishing contests throughout the year that will draw hundreds to its grounds.
The Lanzis also own the Sport Island Pub in Northville. In addition to being a dine-in restaurant, the establishment is well-known for its nightlife, which is active all summer long late into the night.
There are many other places to grab a bite, too.
Right next door to Sport Island Pub is Vic’s Tavern, which serves pub fare.
Across the bridge into Northville are a variety of dining options.
The village’s newest restaurant is The Local Five and Dine, which was open just four days before the pandemic shut it down. It reopened, like many of the other restaurants, with a limited takeout menu, but now runs as a full-service fine-dining establishment.
Timeless Tavern, Jay’s Pizza, Dragon City Chinese Food and the JF Farm Store also line Northville’s Main Street.
Christiano’s Pizza and the Northampton Diner can also be found on Route 30 outside the village of Northville.
You won’t find any large hotels and lodges around the Great Sacandaga as you do many other lakes in the Adirondacks. In fact, unless you own a home or camp on the like, overnight options can be limited.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t places to crash for a few days.
The only public campground on the lake is the Northampton Campground. Sites are reserved on a first-come, first-served basis and are taken up quickly, so call as early as possible to grab one.
There are some private options around the lake, too.
The Adirondack Foothills RV Campground on County Highway 110 in Broadalbin has 700 feet of beachfront and full hookups. A short distance up the road is the Birch Haven Campground, which has wooded campsites, a beach, a rec hall and a boat launch.
If camping isn’t your thing, there are a few lodging places around the lake. The Inn at the Bridge, the first building one sees while crossing into Northville from Route 30, is a bed-and-breakfast with six rooms, four of which overlook the lake. On the other side of the village is the Orendaga, which has a handful of cottages to rent.
In Hadley, the Ponderosa Pines resort has cabins lining its 365 feet of beachfront.
The lake also has plenty of homes/camps available to rent by individual owners. The website adkbyowner.com has thousands of listings.
Obviously, Great Sacandaga Lake can be entertainment enough for long- and short-term visitors, but there are options for those looking to do something different.
Northville’s Waterfront Park hosts a farmers’ market from 2 to 5 p.m. Fridays from late May through October. From July to September, the market is also open from 2 to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays.
Adirondack Animal Land on Route 30 just outside Broadalbin has hundreds of wild and exotic animals. Due to last year’s pandemic, the park allowed people in by carloads and let them drive through the grounds. The zoo is planning the same this year.
Nearly all the bars and restaurants around the lake will have some sort of musical acts on weekends and sometimes during the week. Northville’s Waterfront Park will also resume its summer concert series this year, and the village’s Rotary Club plans to bring back its woodworking show in July.