If you’re looking for one of the best places to paddle, look no further than Canadice Lake in southwestern Ontario County. At only three miles long and just under a half-mile wide, it is the smallest of the eleven Finger Lakes. It is also the highest in elevation at 1,100 feet and has a maximum depth of 95 feet. As part of the 6,684-acre Hemlock-Canadice State Forest, Canadice Lake is entirely surrounded by picturesque wooded hillsides and its wild shoreline is virtually undeveloped, more or less affording an experience similar to kayaking on a remote wilderness lake.
Boating and fishing are two of the most popular water-related activities that are permitted on Canadice Lake and – because of the lake’s ideal size and easy access – kayaking tends to predominate. Boat motors, which are primarily used by fishermen, are few in number, limited to 10 horsepower, and are mostly used for trolling. There is no speed boat, Jet Ski, or water skier traffic to interfere with a peaceful day of paddling.
Aside from the peace and tranquility, there is also a variety of wildlife to observe. Canadice Lake is a stopover for migrating waterfowl in the spring and fall of the year and the surrounding forest harbors mammals that range from chipmunks to black bears. Paddlers can sometimes catch a glimpse of a resident bald eagle flying along the lakeshore or perched in a shoreline tree. When I was kayaking there last week, I spotted a river otter alongside a weed bed, which submerged beneath the surface before I could focus my camera.
If you’d like to wet a line while paddling, Canadice Lake is home to largemouth and smallmouth bass, chain pickerel, brown bullhead, black crappie, bluegill and pumpkinseed sunfish, yellow perch, rock bass, lake trout, and brown trout. The lake is also occasionally stocked with rainbow trout and landlocked salmon.
Public boat access is available at an unimproved gravel ramp located on the lake’s east side, just south of the intersection of Canadice Lake Road and Burch Hill Road. There is also a cartop launch at the south end of the lake, as well as a few other access points along the east shore that are suitable for launching cartop boats. As a New York State Forest, Canadice Lake is open to the public and there is no charge to paddle or fish there.