• Surface Area: 51,100 Acres
The lake is located northeast of Syracuse and near the Great Lakes. It feeds the Oneida River, a tributary of the Oswego River, which flows into Lake Ontario. From the earliest times until the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, the lake was part of an important waterway connecting the Atlantic seaboard of North America to the continental interior.
The lake is about 21 miles long and about 5 miles wide with an average depth of 22 feet. The shoreline is about 55 miles. Portions of six counties and sixty-nine communities are in the watershed. Oneida Creek, which flows past the cities of Oneida and Sherrill, empties into the southeast part of the lake at South Bay. While not included as one of the Finger Lakes, Oneida is sometimes referred to as their "thumb". Because it is shallow, it is warmer than the deeper Finger Lakes in summer, and its surface freezes solidly in winter. It is relatively safe and popular for the winter sports of ice fishing and snowmobiling.
Oneida Lake is a remnant of Glacial Lake Iroquois, a large prehistoric lake formed when glaciers blocked (from downstream) the flow of the St. Lawrence River, the outlet of the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.
The lake is a shallow spoon-shaped depression that deepens toward the eastern end The lake has many shoal areas, and about 26% of the lake bottom is shallower than 14 ft. Normal elevation above sea level is 364 ft during the winter and 367 ft during the summer. Water from five counties flows into Oneida Lake.
The lake freezes over completely in winter with ice thickness reaching as much as 30 inches in the mid to late 1970s. Ice forms anytime from early-mid December to mid-late January. Ice-out records have been kept at the Oneida Fish Culture Station located in Constantia, NY since 1845. The earliest the ice broke up in Oneida Lake was March 2, 1903 and the latest date was April 25, 1881 and 1891.