The Seven Dwarfs

Otisco Lake Photo by Mark Pellegrino

The smaller seven of the 11 Finger Lakes are like Snow White’s group of companions – you know how many there are, but you can never remember all their names (Bashful, Doc, Dopey, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Sneezy).

In terms of our lakes, everyone knows the big four.
• Seneca, the deepest and widest, is known for its trail of 32 wineries.
• Cayuga, the longest, is one of the college town lakes with Ithaca at its tip.
• Keuka has a unique wishbone shape.
• Canandaigua celebrates the Ring of Fire every year, a tradition started by the Senecas.

Our “dwarfs” – Canadice, Conesus, Hemlock, Honeyoye, Otisco, Owasco and Skaneateles – are as notable as the bigger lakes, each in their own unique way. Here’s some information about them that may make their names less forgettable.


Length: 3 miles long
Depth: 91 feet
Size of Watershed: 12 square miles
Meaning Behind Its Name: Unfortunately, the meaning behind its Native American name, Skan-a-dice, is unknown.

Fun Fact: No houses are permitted on the shore of Canadice, as it’s a water source for Rochester. It is also the smallest of the Finger Lakes and has the highest elevation. You should visit because … of its serene atmosphere. It is one of the few Finger Lakes with a virtually undeveloped shoreline.


Length: 8 miles long
Depth: 59 feet
Size of Watershed: 89 square miles
Meaning Behind Its Name:
Conesus comes from a Native American word (Gah-Ne-A-Sos) that means “berry place.”

Fun Fact: Conesus Lake is the western-most Finger Lake. Because it’s so shallow, the whole lake tends to freeze from one end to the other during winter, making it an ideal place to ice fish. You should visit because … of Deer Run Winery, located on the western shore of Conesus Lake in Geneseo. Not only is it home to an array of wines, but also host to live music in the summertime.


Length: 7 miles long
Depth: 90 feet
Size of Watershed: 43 square miles
Meaning Behind Its Name: It is most likely named after the Hemlock trees located in the nearby Hemlock-Canadice State Forest.

Fun Fact: In the late 1700s, the land at the north end of the lake was called “Slab City,” because the lake was used to haul wooden slabs for building houses to the north end. You should visit because … there are numerous opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, paddling and watching for the ever-present bald eagles.


Length: 4 miles long
Depth: 30 feet
Size of Watershed: 37 square miles
Meaning Behind Its Name: Honeoye is a Seneca word that translates to “where the finger lies.”

Fun Fact: Honeoye Lake is the shallowest of all the Finger Lakes. You should visit because … its shallow waters make it an ideal place to fish, especially in the ice fishing season. Also, the lack of traffic in Honeoye provides a wonderful atmosphere for biking.


Length: 5 miles long
Depth: 66 feet
Size of Watershed: 34 square miles
Meaning Behind Its Name:
Otisco comes from an Iroquois word meaning “waters dried away.”

Fun Fact: Part of the lake is actually man-made. A nearby dam was constructed in several stages, starting in the late 1800s and again in the early 1900s, to provide a water reservoir for the Erie Canal. It is also the eastern-most Finger Lake. You should visit because … of the view. The views from the Otisco Lake County Park, The Narrows (northern end of the lake), the Causeway and East Lake Road are breathtaking. Take a scenic drive or stop for a picnic.


Length: 11 miles
Depth: 177 feet
Size of Watershed: 208 square miles
Meaning Behind Its Name: Owasco comes from the Iroquois word for “crossing,” as the Owasco River was home to numerous log crossings years ago.

Fun Fact: Wasco, one of the earliest Cayuga tribe settlements, was nearby. You should visit because … of the history. Just north of the lake lies the city of Auburn, where you can find the homes of Harriet Tubman and William Seward. Just south of the lake in Moravia is a log cabin replica of where Millard Fillmore, 13th president of the United States, was born.


Length: 15 miles
Depth: 297 feet
Size of Watershed: 73 square miles
Meaning Behind Its Name: Skaneateles means “long lake” in the Iroquois language.

Fun Fact: William Seward once referred to Skaneateles Lake as “The most beautiful body of water in the world.” It’s also sometimes referred to as “The Roof Garden of Lakes” because it has the highest altitude of all the Finger Lakes. You should visit because … of its New England-inspired downtown, full of shops and galleries in restored buildings that date back to 1796.


Formation Information

More than 100,000 years ago, glaciers moving southward out of Canada scooped up chunks of earth, carving large trenches into the land. Eventually, the glaciers melted, and the gallons of water left behind consumed the newly formed depressions.

The Native Americans interpreted this geographical phenomenon as a miracle that could only have been fulfilled by the one and only Creator. Legend says, “The Creator looked upon the land with special favor and reached down to bless it, leaving the imprint of His hand, hence the Finger Lakes,” reads

Whether geography or miracle, the 11 Finger Lakes, which span a distance of 40 miles across the region, offer beauty, activities and enjoyment to the area all year long.


The Big Four
Quick info about the superior-size sister lakes

Length: 16 miles
Depth: 276 feet
Size of Watershed:
174 square miles

Length: 38 miles
Depth: 435 feet
Size of Watershed:
12 square miles

Length: 20 miles
Depth: 183 feet
Size of Watershed:
187 square miles

Length: 35 miles
Depth: 618 feet
Size of Watershed:
707 square miles

by Alyssa LaFaro

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