Imagine adventuring through crystal clear, turquoise waters breaking against towering cliffs, that are home to nesting eagles. Paddle along the water's edge, dotted with spindly-legged boat houses and the occasional seaplane. While this scene may bring to mind an exotic, far-flung destination, no passport is required to explore this Cortland County gem.
HOW TO GET THERE
Andrew R. Fuller Park
7330 Glen Haven Rd. Scott
At the southernmost tip of Skaneateles Lake is Andrew R. Fuller Park, in the town of Scott. This park hosts the boat and kayak launch that provides the nearest access to the Staghorn Cliffs. The park amenities include tennis courts, a pavilion, shoreline fishing, and restrooms. There is a $3 fee to launch for non-residence. Skaneateles Lake is so pristine it is used as an unfiltered source of drinking water (one of only six in the county!). The DEC is on-site to check that your vessel's hull is clean from debris and invasive spices, before and after launching.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Although Skaneateles Lake is the fourth largest of the Finger Lakes, at 16 miles in length, it averages only a mile in width. This can make for some very choppy waters mid-day or during high winds. It's for that reason we recommend you venture out kayaking in the early morning or evenings when the lake is at its calmest. Be sure to follow all NSC safety guidelines and wear a life vest, as most of the southern shoreline is comprised of sheer cliffs, with no beach to swim to if your kayak is overturned.
From the launch, you'll enter narrow calm waters filled with yellow water lilies and swaying cattails. There is no wake along this half-mile stretch before it widens onto sweeping views of the open lake. From here, veer to your starboard (right), and head to the northeastern shore. You'll immediately pass The Glen Haven's docks, a fantastic place to tie off and grab a bite. It is over here you might also spot the resident seaplane.
Continue paddling past the rows of charming boat houses and cottages, held just above tideline on weathered piers. About a mile out you'll encounter the first of the bluffs. The water here is the most stunning sea glass green and so clear you can see straight to the bottom. Pay attention to the white buoys here, marking off the areas nearest the bluffs. The cliffs above have become unstable and I witnessed many large pieces of rock and dirt falling into the waters below.
This alcove is especially calm and a great spot to rest and take in your surrounding. There is a tenacious little stream working its way down the cliffs, creating a tiny waterfall. This area also seems to be a spawning ground for many types of fish. A school of lake trout, some nearly three feet long, swam circles around my kayak here.
If you continue paddling along this route a few more miles, past the Cortland County line, you will eventually reach the Staghorn Cliffs. The lake is noticeably wider here and the water becomes more tumultuous. Make sure to keep the nose of your kayak turned into the waves, not parallel to them, as they can quickly swamp your boat.
As for me, I was content to paddle in the calm, clear waters of southern Skaneateles Lake and enjoy the tranquil views. If you follow my meandering course, you can expect to paddle approximately 4 miles. Happy paddling!
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