The Enchantment of Green Lakes

You could hear the din from the parking lot, and the raucous, loud, non-stop noise got even louder as a family group departed for parts unknown. As I approached the lakeshore through the cedar trees, mist rose from the warm waters into the frigid air. It was like stepping through the looking glass into a wonderland of white.

The cedars looked like they had been dipped in powdered sugar. Hundreds of ghostly Canada Geese were slipping in and out of the mist on the water. Their constant yakking was punctuated occasionally by a chorus of goodbyes as departing groups rose into the blue dome of sky overhead. They splashed and swam in the blue-green waters of the lake, seemingly enjoying the lack of summer bathers – despite the 5-degree air temperature.

Moving up the east shore, the scenery became even more stunning. I felt like Alice after stepping through the looking glass. It was a photographer’s dream come true. Arriving at Deadman’s Point, I gazed across the aquamarine waters to the far side. The frosted cedar trees gleamed in the early morning sunlight against the blue of the sky.

Of course, this fairyland is not to be seen every winter. Nevertheless, many times I have visited here and have been pleasantly surprised.

Green Lakes State Park
Green Lake and Round Lake are the primary attractions at Green Lakes State Park located three miles east of Fayetteville (near Syracuse). The lakes are surrounded by more than 2,100 acres of parkland with miles of trails crossing them. These deep pothole lakes are unique for having two layers of water, which do not intermix, making them “meromictic.” Only three other lakes in New York State do not turn their waters over every spring and autumn.

Annually, more than 1 million visitors use Green Lakes for numerous outdoor activities. The park has cabins and campsites, an 18-hole golf course, a playground for kids, a nature center, grills and pavilions. Rowboats and paddleboats are available for rent, and visitors can fish from these boats or the shore.

The trails can be used for hiking, biking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Skiing is my favorite pastime there. The park features approximately 10 miles of trails around both lakes and across the golf course with its hilly landscape. The terrain varies from upland woods, with a portion being old growth forest, to abandoned farmland.

The Lakes’ Mysterious Origins
At the end of the last ice age, 15,000 years ago, when the glaciers were retreating north, the melt waters created a deep gorge in the landscape. Similar gorges were created at Clark Reservation and Pumpkin Hollow. Today, the Niagara River gorge is a prime example of what occurred back then. One theory is that the lakes are the remnants of two plunge pools of a waterfall that poured off the retreating glaciers.

• Round Lake is 180 feet deep, and has a diameter of about 700 feet.
• Round Lake and the adjoining 59 acres of old-growth forest were designated a National Natural Landmark in 1975.
• The park has some of the finest old-growth forest in central New York, containing very old and large examples of tulip trees, sugar maples, white cedars, hemlocks and beech.
• Green Lake has a maximum depth of 195 feet, with a distinct layer called a chemocline separating its top and bottom waters.
• A dense layer of purple sulfur bacteria at the chemocline makes the water appear pink when a sample is brought to the surface (not to mention the smell).

The Fayetteville Free Library website features more information and some interesting photos of the early days of the park at www.fayettevillefree library.org/green-lakes-history.html.
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Rise and Fall (and Rise) of the Giant Canada Goose
You would not know it to look around today, but the Giant Canada Goose (Branta canadensis maxima) was once an uncommon bird in Upstate New York. By the early 1900s only a few birds were still nesting in the wild. Over-hunting and destruction of wetlands had driven them to the precipice. In the 1950s and 60s, Canada Geese from captive breeding flocks were reintroduced in Pennsylvania and New York to establish breeding groups for hunting.

• If a goose survives its first year, most individuals live for 10 or more years to a maximum of 24.
• Geese find a mate during their
second year and once paired, they remain together for life. However, if one member of the pair is killed, the other will find a new mate.
• Family bonds are strong with goslings staying with their parents for a full year and returning to the breeding grounds with them after their first winter.
• Every year, geese must replace their worn-out flight feathers. All the feathers are replaced at the same time, so they cannot fly during this four- to five-week molting period.


by Phillip Bonn

Phillip Bonn is a freelance photographer and writer specializing in nature and scenic images. His work can be seen at www.philbosphotos.com.