Last week, I had the opportunity to visit an old childhood destination: Oneida Lake. I was surprised to see that much of it was frozen. The temperatures had moderated quite well during the January thaw, but the lake still had some good, thick ice on the surface.
This photo was taken from the boat launch at Oneida Shores Beach (I think it’s a state park now?). You can see tiny Frenchman’s Island in the distance. I always wanted to go to that island as a child, but never did.
This photo was taken from the beach, near the monstrous building that houses showers and dressing rooms. That building did not exist when I was a kid, nor did any of these playgrounds, benches and gazebos. They’ve really spruced the place up.
When I came here as a young visitor, it was usually with a friend or two. We had competed with reams of seaweed and broken clam shells as we swam the murky green-blue waters. I assume the beach is probably dredged or scraped of plants and shells now. The smell of the water remains the same, however. I don’t think I will ever forget the smell of the lake. It’s not exactly a salty smell; I can’t quite explain it. Even frozen, the lake bubbles up its distinctive, mossy-like odor. I used to canoe the borders of the lake, too. I remember one of my “safety” lessons with my step-dad: he loaded us kids into the canoe, had us strap on life vests, and promptly dumped the canoe over to teach us “canoe safety.”
A long time ago, the lake was loaded with salmon. The fish were depleted by excessive fishing long before I came on the scene, perhaps as early as the late 1800s. Unless the wildlife has changed, Oneida Lake abounds in mostly perch, muskellunge, bass, and … sunfish. When I went fishing, I always caught sunfish. :-p