Green Lakes State Park, Fayetteville, NY

The Green Lakes are two emerald-colored jewels nestled between the low hills surrounding Fayetteville and Chittenango, NY. Driving along Route 5, you’d never know what treasures await you, save for a rather inconspicuous “State Park” sign and a wide driveway. When you enter the grounds, even then it has a slightly carnival feel thanks to the artificial sandy beach and refreshment/dressing buildings that pop up from the green. Ah, but your adventure hasn’t even begun yet. While some visitors do plunk their towels on the beach and greedily soak in that rare Central New York sunshine, many more divert off onto a trail leading into a heavily-forested wilderness. That’s where we pointed our compass. 🙂

The hiking trails encircle the lakes so you get tremendous views of the water.

Some trails are more rugged than others.

There are areas to sit and explore.

Perhaps by now you may have noticed the unusual color of the water. Yes, it really is that turquoise color! There are several areas where the lake bed suddenly drops deeply, giving the bank an eerie feel.

See the little fish in the water?

Green Lakes is a national landmark and has been widely studied for over a century for its unusual geographic features. These lakes are “meromictic” lakes, a very rare type of lake in which the waters do not mix. In most lakes, the layers of waters are churned by wind, water currents, and other turbulence one or more times a year. In meromictic lakes, the waters do not mix for long periods of time, even centuries, and this creates a stunning and rare aquatic ecosystem. One of the most obvious indications is the brilliant, sapphire-colored water which is the result of dissolved minerals and the oxygen-depleted waters. Some of the rarest algae and aquatic mosses in the world flourish in ancient reefs beneath the surface. The largest meromictic lake in the world in the Black Sea in Turkey, but North America has the most numerous quantity in the world. Other such lakes in New York State include Glacier Lake near Syracuse; Ballston Lake in Albany, Irondequoit Bay and Devil’s Bathtub near Rochester; and these two Green Lakes here.

The scenery is breathtaking.

Click the photo for options to view a larger panoramic photo.

Here’s a little trivia tidbit about the park: the sand for the beach is not indigenous to the locality. It was hauled over from Sylvan Beach (west shore of Oneida Lake) and added to Green Lake’s northern shore to create the beach during the Great Depression. During World War II, the buildings were converted into barracks to house farm workers from Newfoundland and later to keep German prisoners of war.

Obviously, the park is extremely popular. On a moderately warm day, hundreds of visitors surrounded the trails and beach area, and in one section we strolled past a venue hosting a wedding party. Despite the activity, the lengthy trails are relaxing. We did meet and chat with a group of Chinese students attending Syracuse University who were visiting the park. Everyone we met was very congenial and pleasant. The park is also classified as a “BCA,” a migratory and diverse bird species location that draws bird watchers from around the world. If you or your kids have a hankering for a relaxing nature hike and geology lesson, this is the place to go. Be aware that the trails are several miles long and contain a few slightly bumpy patches. Overall, it’s a lovely park for folks of all ages and abilities.

Green Lakes State Park

7900 Green Lakes Road
Fayetteville, NY 13066
Phone: (315) 637-6111

About the Author

I've been traveling throughout New York State since I got the travel bug after touring the Herkimer Home on a school field trip as a youngster. We've been blogging about our travels since 2006 and have visited over half of New York's 62 counties so far.

Comments (1)

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  1. Rena says:

    Wonderful post and gorgeous pictures! I’ve been there only once and I didn’t even explore the trails! I didn’t even realize that they had such great trails. Of course, when I went, it was in the late afternoon and was a spur of the moment trip.

    I’ll definitely be heading there when Spring shows its face around here. 🙂

    I’ve always loved this site, it’s a diamond for NY State explorers like me. 🙂

    Have a great week Becky!