ONONDAGA LAKE – Onondaga Lake Park is a staple in Syracuse. It’s where families go year-round to celebrate just about every moment in life. The lake over the years has seen a rebirth from environmental actions taken to clean and preserve the water and the wildlife at the lake. It has led to robust enthusiasm to use the lake for boating and fishing.
“People underestimate the fishing,” said Dale Grinolds, superintendent of Onondaga Lake Park.
He said most people catch and release the fish. The lake has 19 different species, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation’s website. Two of the most popular for anglers are largemouth and smallmouth bass.
People can also bring a boat on the lake and stay out all day to see some beautiful sunsets.
Kim Graziano said she, her husband, John, and son, Nick, love venturing out on the lake with their boat and the dogs they’ve had over the years.
“Not too many people use it, but it’s still a pretty area and you can get to Oneida Lake there,” she said.
The park that stretches around a good chunk of the lake offers many options for families, too, Grinolds said.
There’s a handicapped accessible playground, skateboarding park, opportunities to rent a bike, places to skate and what seem like endless amounts of green space to lounge or even toss a Frisbee.
“The core reason people come to the park is our trail system, which navigates around virtually the entire shore of the lake,” Grinolds said.
He said it amounts to roughly nine miles of trails.
“We’ve taken our bikes down there, run down there, taken the dog walking,” Graziano said. “It’s nice to have something like that nearby.”
Once you’ve worked up a hunger, one of the best things to do is buy your favorite food from a nearby place and picnic at the park, or visit Heid’s of Liverpool just across the street from the park. Heid’s is a local landmark in the area known for its hot dogs. And for those who like fried pickles, Heid’s is the perfect spot.
But perhaps one of the coolest parts about the park is that when there are concerts at the St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater, people can take their boats right up to a dock near the stage and listen to the music.
Grinolds said many people who go to the amphitheater will spend much of their day at the park or on the lake.
Another cool aspect of Onondaga Lake is that you can follow a small strait right into Oneida Lake, and from there hop on the canal system and take your boat up to Lake Ontario.
For information on Onondaga Lake, visit www.onondagacountyparks.com/parks/onondaga-lake-park/.
ONEIDA LAKE – One of the best fishing spots in Central New York is Oneida Lake.
“We hold national tournaments there,” Grinolds said.
One of the tournaments was the Bassmaster Open.
The lake is a popular spot to fish for bass and walleye, but has more than 15 species for people to catch.
The lake is offers several boat-launch points across the four counties in which it resides, and several areas for people to swim and enjoy other outside activities.
Two of the most popular places are Oneida Shores and Sylvan Beach. Oneida Shores in Onondaga County has a beach just inside the entrance to the park, with a boat launch not far from there and a playground. Visitors are able to rent canoes and kayaks as well.
If you’re looking to spend the night, you can choose from one of 50 campsites as well.
“Which is very popular,” Grinolds said. “People love that campground. It’s right on the shore of the lake, so it’s beautiful scenery.”
Grinolds said people can bring tents or RVs to the campsite.
Sylvan Beach is a resort community right on the lake in Oneida County that not only offers a beach for swimming and boat launch for fishing, but also offers gift shops and restaurants to explore. The amusement park is also a popular attraction for families.
GREEN LAKE – Syracuse resident Kevin Shivers has been visiting Green Lakes State Park for years. Now, he’s bringing his son there to enjoy all that the 2,500-acre park just east of Syracuse has to offer.
“Green Lakes was a place I first went to when Brody was just 3 months old,” Shivers said. “I put him in his stroller and we walked the main trail all around the lake.”
There are actually two lakes that make up the park — Green Lake and Round Lake — which are connected by a small strait.
Park manager Charvis Jones said Green Lake is popular because of its unique color.
“There’s nothing like it. That’s why you get people from Albany, Rochester — people come from all over just to see the lake,” he said.
The color is just one reason Shivers love the park. The other is that the park offers so much to do. Shivers said he takes Brody to the park multiple times a year now.
“He loves to run around on the trails, throw rocks in the lake and play in the sand on the beach,” Shivers said. “We have yet to swim there, but it is definitely in the plans for the future. There are plenty of areas where you can wade out into the water on sand bars. There is an old rock foundation at one part that Brody loves to climb on and play in. Brody loves to ride his bike there, too, and the trails are very wide to where he isn’t in the way of other people.”
Jones said there are 15 miles of trails people can use.
Graziano said she loved running the trails with her dog Cash.
Swimming is open on the park beach from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Pre-COVID, people were also able to rent canoes and kayaks to go out on the lake since no outside boats, canoes or kayaks are allowed. Jones said they won’t be allowing rentals this year with the ongoing pandemic.
If people aren’t interested in walking the trails or swimming, there is also an 18-hole golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones, who has designed and redesigned hundreds of courses in the U.S.
“The golf course is big here,” Charvis Jones said.
Others like to visit the park to hunt, fish or camp. Campsites and cabins are open from May 21 to Columbus Day, Jones said.
Visitors can bring their own food or visit the bath house, which has a concession stand that’s open when the beach is open. If people are looking for more restaurant-style food, the clubhouse offers just that, with a new restaurant — Yards Grille — that opened May 20.
The best part about the park, Jones said, is that it only costs $10 per car for the day, and an Empire Pass allows access to the park. The pass allows access to most state parks.
For information, visit https://parks.ny.gov/parks/greenlakes/details.aspx.
ORIGIN OF NAME: Named for the Onondaga Nation
LOCATION: Onondaga County
SIZE: 4.7 miles wide, with a max depth of 60 feet
CLAIM TO FAME: After being known as the most polluted lake in the U.S., companies worked to clean the lake and it has seen a rebirth over the past several years.
WHERE TO LAUNCH: Onondaga Lake Park Marina or Kenneth P. Lynch Boat Launch
LAKESIDE DINING SPOT: Heid’s of Liverpool, or bring your own and have a nice picnic
SIGNIFICANCE/ORIGIN OF NAME: The lake is named for the Oneida Nation, one of the Iroquois Nations. Oneida Nation people call the lake “Tsioqui” or “white water” because of the waves the lake has on windy days, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation.
LOCATION: Onondaga, Oneida, Madison and Oswego counties
SIZE: The lake is 21 miles long and roughly 5.5 miles wide, with a max depth of 55 feet.
CLAIM TO FAME: Fishing tournaments
WHERE TO SWIM: Sylvan Beach or Oneida Shores
WHERE TO LAUNCH: Sylvan Beach has a boat launch, as does Oneida Shores. Others can be found at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/41034.html.
LAKESIDE DINING SPOT: Bring your own food or dine out at places such as Waterfront Tavern or Borio’s Restaurant.
SIGNIFICANCE/ORIGIN OF NAME: Named for the green color of the lake, which is caused by high levels of calcium carbonate, according to the DEC.
LOCATION: Onondaga County
SIZE: About 1 mile wide, with a max depth of 195 feet
CLAIM TO FAME: It is one of the most studied lakes in the world because it is a meromictic lake, meaning it does not mix seasonally like most other lakes.
WHERE TO SWIM: The beach is located just inside the park’s entrance.
LAKESIDE DINING SPOT: The bath house concession stand or Yard Grille in the clubhouse.