There are so many amazing natural treasures in New York State. I feel very lucky to live in an area steeped in so much rich history and natural wonder. There are famous attractions like Niagara Falls, but there are others that escape the mainstream flood of visitors. Places like Green Lakes State Park offer the visitor natural wonder without the high admission prices and overwhelming number of spectators. This little gem is situated a little over 4 hours from New York City, just outside of Syracuse, NY. For our 5th wedding anniversary in July, my wife and I decided to make a long weekend of it.
With its aquamarine waters and beautiful hiking trails, Green Lakes State Park is a one of a kind treasure. Green Lake and its neighbor, Round Lake, are Meromictic Lakes, “two of only a few lakes worldwide that do not experience ‘turnover,’ or mixing of upper and lower water masses. Several factors contribute to this complex and unusual condition known as meromixis. Differences in density and salinity between the upper and lower masses; the lake’s depths and surface areas; and their location in deep basins with tree-rimmed shorelines that protect the waters from strong winds are all conditions thought to help prevent turnover.” The lakes boast natural fresh water reefs and beautiful trails to hike. The trail surrounding the rim of the lakes is a very easy hike and accessible to every age and ability. There are more challenging “moderate” trails that spring off the main trail as well.
Green Lake, Round lake, and the hundreds of acres of surrounding forest are National Natural Landmarks, designated in 1973. “Round lake, which covers 34 acres and is 170 feet deep, is of national ecological and geological significance due to its glacial origin, meromictic character, and its adjacent old-growth forest.” Green Lake, which is larger and deeper, also has a swimming area and offers canoe and kayak rentals. We were surprised by the warmth of the water, and though it was fairly busy, it was nothing like a beach near NYC or on Long Island. There was plenty of room to spread out a blanket and relax. During our hike around the rim of the lakes, there were some kids swimming in an “unapproved” location, on one of the natural reefs that edge the lakes. The park rangers were quick to drive up on their boat and scold them, giving them their one warning not to swim on the reefs.
We stayed in the nearby little town of Chittenango, at Bird Brook Bed and Breakfast. It was a quaint, yet well-appointed bed and breakfast run by Terry and her husband, Tom. We stayed in the Cardinal room on the ground floor with its own private entrance. Terry and Tom were gracious hosts and laid out an amazing, elegant spread for breakfast. This served as our home base for the weekend as we explored Green Lake and Chittenango Falls. Chittenango Falls State Park is a 193-acre state park located just outside the town of Chittenango, east of Cazenovia Lake. The park features a 167-foot waterfall that cascades over roughly 400-million-year-old bedrock. Unfortunately, during our stay, the trails to the lower portion of the falls were closed due to flooding which washed everything out.
Overall, we had an amazing weekend at the parks. Green Lake was truly beautiful and I am glad we made the trip. My wife had been looking to visit this park for some time, and, as usual, she had great instincts. It was breathtaking and inspiring to think of how many millions of years this landmark took to make. I like to think we are all just moments in time, witness to all the natural beauty this world has to offer. It really puts things into perspective.