The Western Finger Lakes: Outdoor Recreation and Conservation

Canadice Lake

The three westernmost Finger Lakes present a study in contrasts. Conesus is highly developed, its shores ringed with lakefront cottages for seasonal and permanent residents, 65% of whom live on the lake throughout the year. For both residents and visitors, Conesus Lake offers a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities for year-round adventures, including power boating, swimming and biking. The lake also serves as a public drinking water supply for Livingston County.

       On the other hand, Hemlock and Canadice lakes are well known for their pristine, uninhabited shorelines backed by public conservation lands. While there are many outdoor recreation options here, including extensive hiking trails, biking and fishing, motorized boats and swimming are not permitted. Restricting these activities helps protect the water quality, which is critical since these lakes serve as the primary source of Rochester’s drinking water.


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What is a Watershed?

A watershed is a defined land area that water flows across or under on its way to one lake, river, or stream. Each of the Finger Lakes has its own watershed. Together, the smaller watersheds of Conesus, Hemlock and Canadice flow toward the Genesee River and
on to Lake Ontario.


Conesus Inlet Wildlife Management Area

The Conesus Inlet Wildlife Management Area is 1,120 acres of broad, flat floodplain nestled between two glacially steepened hillsides. Every spring, northern pike and walleye, both prized sport fish, swim upstream from the deeper lake and into the shallower marsh to lay their eggs. The annual spectacle is so popular that finding parking can be problematic.

The marshland habitat is also a favorite stopover for numerous species of migratory birds, adding another seasonal highlight. The marsh is a rich habitat, and bird watching opportunities, as well as other wildlife viewing, abound throughout the year. To cap it off, bald eagles have been nesting within the area and can be seen fishing the lagoon.


Hemlock-Canadice State Forest

There are many beautiful places to get outdoors in the Finger Lakes, but few allow you to explore the shores of an actual Finger Lake. Not so for the trails in Hemlock-Canadice State Forest. The shores of these gems are free of development and utterly wild.

The lake shores were developed at one time, but in the late 1800s, the City of Rochester began purchasing the land surrounding Hemlock and Candice lakes to secure a clean supply of water. This continued until the entirety of these small lakes was owned by the city. The forests surrounding the lakes act as natural purifiers; clean water is one of the many positive effects of land conservation. In 2010, through a partnership between the Nature Conservancy and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the land was transferred from the city to the state to ensure permanent preservation and stewardship.


For more information about conservation and watersheds in the Finger Lakes Region, visit and

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