“Put your feet up, take a break, sit back, relax...you're at the lake.” -Anonymous
I've seen pictures and read about Green Lakes State Park since we arrived in Ithaca in 2017 and I've always wanted to go. This past week we had a chance to experience it for ourselves. What a truly beautiful unique place it is. Most lakes in upstate New York and around the world are dimictic lakes, which means they have a complete mixing of lake water in the fall and spring. Green Lake is a meromictic lake, which means its water layers do not intermix. No turnover in water means you can see all the way down to the bottom of the lake.
Green Lake resides in an ancient river basin, carved deep into the limestone bedrock by the last ice age. Limestone, an easily dissolved sedimentary rock, saturates the lake’s waters with calcium carbonate, a bluish salt solution. With the combination of the lake's great depth, high calcium carbonate concentrations, and photosynthetic bacteria, the lake maintains a bright aquamarine color.
Reefs of calcium/sulphur jut out from the lake basin, just below the surface of the lake. They look like light-brown rock or sand, extending out from the lake shore and then dropping off suddenly. They are most prominent near Dead Man’s Point.
In the 1920s/early ’30s Green Lakes was a popular tourist destination for the city of Syracuse and surrounding towns. The Green Lakes Landing stop on the Erie Canal, brought tourists to the northern end of the park by boatload. Today, the land running along the Canal in Manlius is a park and walking/bike pathway.
Due to the sensitive nature of the lake, no outside boats are allowed. The best way to really enjoy the lake and see the reefs is to rent a kayak from the park. The water is so inviting, but you can only swim at the beach on the north shore, but the water isn't as beautiful there.
This video explains why the lake is green and why it's so unique.