Canandaigua Lake NAM-14

Riparian Nation(s) USA
Surface Area 42 km2 Mean Depth 38.8 m Volume 1.64 km3
Shoreline 57.8 km Catchment Area 407.2 km2 Residence Time 13.4 yr
Frozen Period Jan-Mar Mixing Type Dimictic Morphogenesis/Dam
Related Info/Site


Canandaigua Lake is one of a group of long and narrow lakes located in western New York State known as the Finger Lakes. The basins of these north-south oriented lakes were formed by the advance of ice masses during the Ice Ages, and further sculpted by glacial meltwater during the interglacial and postglacial periods.

Although the Finger Lakes region is now well-known for its many vineyards and orchards, it had been densely forested up until the early 1800's when large areas were cleared for agriculture by white settlers. The forests are now in the process of expanding as marginal farmland is abandoned and gradually invaded by trees. Of Canandaigua Lake's 400 km2 drainage basin, approximately half is still forested, 40% is in active agriculture, 2% is residential, and less than 1% is industrial. Active agriculture is confined mainly to the northern areas, while the southern areas are heavily forested. The climate of Canandaigua Lake is characterized by long, cold winters and warm, dry summers. Most winters, the north and south ends of the lake freeze over for about a kilometer or two from their ends. Occasionally, the entire lake freezes over. The lake is utilized primarily as a water source for five municipalities in the area and the residents around the lake perimeter. Secondarily, it is used for recreation, flow equalization, and, to a limited extent, power. There are several public recreation areas around the lake which provide for summer swimming, boating and fishing. The level of the lake is regulated within the narrow range between 209.4 and 210 m MSL (1).

Photo of Canandaigua Lake
Photo: C. Rossano