GREEN LAKE STATE PARK, TOWN OF MANLIUS

For information on camping and cabin reservations, contact the Parks Recreation and Historical Preservation-Central Region office at 1-800-456-2267.  The Green Lakes Golf Course pro shop number is 1-315-637-0258.

Submitted by Kathy Crowell


A Short History

Green and Round Lake, also known as the Green Lakes, are located about three miles northeast of Fayetteville.  They are two of  the very few meromictic lakes in the world (the water does not completely turn over), and have been a popular area to visit for more than a century.

Although already a tourist attraction, in June 1879 two recreation areas were developed on privately-held land.  These included a boating operation on the Wilcox property at the west side of Green Lake, and Tremain Park on the east side, with reception cottage, recreation rooms and a large dancing floor.  A dock, picnic tables, and stables followed, and at a later date a merry-go-round and bandstand were installed.  Although it initially was a source of "considerable complaint" that men and boys were permitted to bathe at Tremain Park "at hours when the exposure is very offensive to visitors," ("Weekly Recorder," July 24, 1879), the park gained in popularity.  Steamboats plied the Erie Canal from Syracuse with regular stops along the way to bring school clubs, Sunday school classes and other groups to Green Lake landing.  At times these groups were entertained enroute by the Fayetteville cornet band.  In June 1880, the steamer M. S. Price left Syracuse and arrived at the landing in about two hours where its party took their tin pails, a cook stove, tea kettle and other paraphernalia to the picnic area, ate chicken pie, biscuits, and fresh strawberries, then topped off the occasion with an after-dinner rowboat ride at $.25 an hour.

In 1928, the New York State Parks Commission purchased its initial 500 acres, and added to its holdings at a later date. Presently Green Lake Park contains a swimming area and also has golfing, boating, fishing, and picnic facilities.  Camping sites and numerous hiking trails are also available.

Round Lake and Green Lake are connected by a small stream, and for centuries have elicited considerable geological interest.  Round Lake has since become a Registered Natural Landmark of the U. S. National Park Service.  The following technical excerpt  from "Valleys and  Lakes" in George Gedde's survey of Onondaga County  describes both lakes in detail and discusses various hypotheses about the origin of these lakes within the framework of what was known at the time:

"In  the  town of Manlius, on lot fifty-six, are two remarkable bodies of water, called by  the various names of 'Crater Lakes,' 'Green Lakes,' and sometimes one of them is called  'Lake Sodom.'  They are near each other, in the same valley, and are connected by a small  brook, which flows from the southwest, or upper, to the lower pond.  The upper one, or Lake Sodom, which is by far the most interesting, is nearly circular, having a diameter of a quarter of a mile, and a depth of water of one hundred and fifty-six  feet.  The surface being one hundred and fifty feet below the top of the banks, that in a circular form surround it, except on one side, makes the whole excavation over three hundred feet in depth.
 
Lake Sodom is forty-four feet above Onondaga lake.  The lower pond is quite like the  upper, except in its form, having a prolongation on its eastern side, running for nearly  half  a  mile between gradually declining hills.  It is one hundred and sixty-five feet deep.   Both these bodies of water are in the gypseous rocks, and a quarry of  this mineral is worked on the banks of one of them.  To these rocks the waters owe their peculiar characteristics.  Dr. Emmons found in a gallon, one hundred grains of saline matter, a large part of which  was sulphate of lime, 'with a sufficient quantity of crenate of lime to impart a bitter taste.'  Prof. Silliman says of Lake Sodom:   'The bottom is a grass green slate; the sides white shell marl, and the brim black vegetable mold; the waters perfectly limpid.  The whole appears to the eye like a rich  porcelain bowl, filled with limpid nectar.  But to the taste it is the Harrowgate water.'  Dr. Beck says, that 'the water drawn from the bottom of the pond, is strongly charged with sulphuret of hydrogen.  It blackened silver powerfully, and gave copious precipitates with solutions of oxalates of ammonia and muriate of barytes,  indicating the presence of sulphureted hydrogen and sulphate of lime.  Its specific gravity was scarcely above distilled  water, and it contained not even a trace of  iron.  Thus we have here a spacious sulphur bath; a fact which exhibits, in a most striking manner, the extent and power of the agency concerned in the evolution of this gas.'

These ponds are favorite resorts for parties of pleasure, and insignificant as the upper one is, in size, such are its surroundings, united with its colored waters.  That there are but few single points where the eye takes in at a glance, more than excites wonder, mingled with delight.  Approaching this crater-shaped basin from the north, we pass through fields of grain and grass, for half a mile, or more, from the road that runs along the south side of the canal, till suddenly we are arrested by the nearly perpendicular declivity that reaches from the level plateau we have been crossing, to the edge of the dark green waters, one hundred and fifty feet below, and nearly under us.  From this point, the basin appears to be an entire circle, the outlet being hidden from view by the curving form of  the hills, and the dense forests of evergreen trees that yet remain.  The whole is seen at once, and having still in mind the impressions made by smiling wheat fields, and rich pastures, the change of sensations is most rapid, and wide.  An afternoon's sun and a brisk wind, conjoining to deepen shadows, and sway the trees, the visitor will find himself at once delighted and awed,  and will wonder why a picture so interesting has not attracted more notice from tourists, and scientific inquirers.
 
Various  theories have been given of the origin of these ponds.  The form of the upper suggests  volcanic;  hence the name, crater.  But the circular form, and precipitous banks,  are all that favors this supposition.  There are no marks of fire, or signs of upheaval to be  seen.  The vernicular lime projects, in undisturbed layers, from the sides, and the strata  all  around correspond.  High geological authority has given subsidence of the bottom, as the  cause of  the peculiar form of the basins.  To sustain this view, the many sink holes of the gypseous rocks are cited, and their strong resemblance to one of these basins, is urged as proof of similar origin.  This renders it necessary to suppose, that the immense mass of earth that once filled the basin, has been carried away by underground veins of water, or that it has been dissolved, and removed by the slow process if filtration.  The resemblance to the small sinks fails, when we consider that a stream of water runs from these ponds, and that the circle is incomplete.  The small sink holes have no water in them, and they are on land high enough to permit the material that has disappeared to have been carried off by water.  Full examination into all the facts, leads to the conclusion that Mr. Vanuxem is correct in calling the valley one of excavation.  It is continuous, reaching from the canal, where it is wide-mouthed, for the length of both ponds, the space between, and on further  to the south-west, in the direction of Fayetteville.  Little difficulty would exist, but for the great depth of the ponds, the upper being one hundred and fifty-six, the other one hundred and sixty-five feet deep.  Aside from these depressions filled with water, the whole valley presents nothing to mark it as differing greatly from many others that have been scored out of the slope of  the gypseous rocks.  What should cause such deep excavations--by what whirling of  the waters the materials should have been removed, we do not fully know; but  it is easy to suppose that these soft rocks could as well be dissolved, and carried  off, by a great body of water acting over the surface, as by the little rills that circulate under and through the earth.
 
Having studied the series of rocks that should lie under these excavations, and calculated  their dip from the points of their outcrop to the north, we find that the Niagara limestone  cannot be far from two hundred feet below the surface of the water.  This is a rock that is not easily dissolved, and must form an unbroken bed, within less than forty feet of the bottom of the deepest pond.  This floor is in the way of any supposed subsidence, and disappearance of three hundred feet in thickness of  the measures of  the Salt group.  Difficult as may be the supposition that this whole valley was made by water acting from above, it is still more unsatisfactory to suppose, that water acting below was adequate to the work."  (Reported  in  "Transactions of  the N.Y.S. Agricultural Society."  Albany:  Charles Van Benthuysen, 1860, pp. 260-262)

The term "Lake Sodom" originated sometime before 1849.  It is my understanding that the lower pond, or Green Lake, was locally known as "The "Devil's Punchbowl," although sometimes the two names are interchanged.  Other names used to note individual points of interest were the "Stygian Pool," "Wolf Point," "Brazilian Point," "Water's Nymph's Grotto," and "Undine's Bath."  Later measurements indicate both lakes are deeper than once thought, although not bottomless as once believed.

For those interested in reading about these lakes in greater detail, I recommend Warren R. Petty's "Green Lake State Park" in People and Places:  Fayetteville, Manlius, Minoa and Neighbors (Manlius Historical Society, 1991, Vol. II, pp. 127-144).  He provides excellent information on geology and his history also covers area work performed by the Civilian Conservation Corps, migrant workers and German prisoners of World War II among other interesting items.  The Society is located at 109 Pleasant St., Manlius, NY 13104.


Submitted 3 December 1998