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Can You Swim In The Finger Lakes?

Can You Swim In The Finger Lakes?

The Finger Lakes region, located in New York State, is a popular destination for tourists seeking to get away from the busy life of the city and enjoy nature. The region is known for its stunning natural beauty, and the glacially-formed lakes that dot the landscape are one of its main attractions. However, many visitors wonder whether swimming in the Finger Lakes is safe. 

Yes, swimming is generally safe in the Finger Lakes, but some factors must be considered. The water quality can be good, but agricultural and urban runoff pollution can be a concern. Swimmers should also know about hazards like cold water temperatures, currents, boat traffic, and wildlife and follow all local regulations and guidelines.

We will explore this question in depth in the article, discussing the water quality of the Finger Lakes, potential hazards to swimmers, and other factors that should be considered when deciding whether to swim in these lakes.

Water Quality Of The Finger Lakes

The Finger Lakes are a series of eleven long, narrow lakes formed during the last ice age, over 10,000 years ago. They are among the deepest and clearest lakes in the United States, with some reaching depths of over 600 feet. 

The lakes are fed by numerous streams and rivers and are home to various fish species, including trout, salmon, and bass.

One of the primary concerns for those considering swimming in the Finger Lakes is water quality. The Finger Lakes generally have good water quality, but some factors can affect this. The main concern is pollution from agricultural runoff, which can contain harmful chemicals and bacteria. In addition, urban runoff from cities and towns in the region can also contribute to water pollution.

To monitor the water quality of the Finger Lakes, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) conducts regular testing and sampling. The results of these tests are available to the public and can be found on the DEC’s website.

According to the DEC, the water quality in the Finger Lakes is generally good, with occasional issues related to harmful algae blooms and bacterial contamination.

Potential Hazards To Swimmers

While water quality is a primary concern for those considering swimming in the Finger Lakes, other potential hazards should also be considered. These include:

  1. Cold water temperatures – The Finger Lakes are deep and cold; even in the summer, the water temperatures can be chilly. Swimmers should be prepared for these conditions and ensure that they have appropriate clothing and gear.
  2. Currents and undertows – While the Finger Lakes do not have strong currents or undertows like those found in the ocean, there can be some current and water movement that swimmers should be aware of.
  3. Boat traffic – The Finger Lakes are popular for boating and other water sports, and swimmers should know the potential for boats and other watercraft in the area.
  4. Wildlife – The Finger Lakes are home to various wildlife, including fish, turtles, and birds. While these animals are generally harmless, swimmers should be aware of their presence and avoid disturbing them.

Watch this video clip of visitors swimming at Finger Lakes:

Upstate NY/Finger Lakes and Swimming with Bailey Bear!

Other Factors To Consider

In addition to water quality and potential hazards, other factors should be considered when deciding whether to swim in the Finger Lakes. These include:

  1. Local regulations – Some areas of the Finger Lakes may restrict swimming or other water activities. Swimmers should know these regulations and follow all local laws and guidelines.
  2. Access to the water – While the Finger Lakes are home to many public beaches and access points, some areas may be private or inaccessible. Swimmers should ensure that they have permission to use any areas they plan to swim in.
  3. Personal health and fitness – Swimming in the Finger Lakes can be a great way to stay active and enjoy the outdoors, but it may not be appropriate for everyone. Swimmers should consider their health and fitness levels and consult a doctor if they have any concerns.

Recreation And Activities In The Finger Lakes Region

The Finger Lakes region offers several recreational opportunities beyond swimming in its pristine lakes. Here are some activities visitors can enjoy while exploring the area.

Hiking And Biking Trails

The Finger Lakes region has numerous hiking and biking trails that wind through scenic parks and forests. Visitors can explore trails like the Keuka Outlet Trail or the Seneca Lake Wine Trail, which offers a unique blend of hiking and wine tasting.


The Finger Lakes are a paradise for anglers, with numerous fish species, including trout, salmon, bass, and more. Fishing charters and guides are available for those who want to learn more about the best fishing spots in the area.

Wine Tasting

The Finger Lakes region is popular for its vineyards and wineries; visitors can take tours and tastings at many of them. Wineries like Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery and Ravines Wine Cellars offer stunning views of the lakes and surrounding countryside.

Boating And Water Sports

Boating, kayaking, and other water sports are popular in the Finger Lakes. Visitors can rent boats or equipment from local businesses like Fuzzy Guppies or Stivers Seneca Marine and explore the lakes at their own pace.

Museums And Cultural Attractions

The Finger Lakes region has numerous museums and cultural attractions, including the Corning Museum of Glass and the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum. Visitors can learn about the region’s history and people while enjoying indoor activities.

Our Thoughts

The Finger Lakes region of New York offers visitors a unique blend of natural beauty, recreational opportunities, and cultural attractions. While swimming in the region’s lakes is generally safe, visitors should consider other factors like water quality, potential hazards, and local regulations before diving in. 

However, the region’s offerings go beyond swimming, and visitors can enjoy various activities, from hiking and fishing to wine tasting and cultural attractions. With proper planning and preparation, visitors to the Finger Lakes can experience all this stunning region offers.