The walking trails along Onondaga Lake shouldn’t be a dirty little secret

It's cold and beautiful at Onondaga Lake Park, just outside of Syracuse.

It’s cold and beautiful at Onondaga Lake Park, just outside of Syracuse.

Sometimes I let too much time go by between my visits to the shores of Onondaga Lake or the winding creek that feeds it. My view, you see, is that the body of water smack dab in the middle of New York State has lots going for it. Reputation be damned.

My fellow Syracusans know the history. Here’s a short primer for the rest of the world:

For too many decades, a big chemical plant used the waters of Onondaga Lake as its toilet. Many dangerous things were dumped. The water was poisoned. The company went belly up in the ’80s, but the damage had been badly done by then.

A cleanup was ordered. Studies were done. The Army Corps of Engineers offered a plan. Another big company was hired to pump stuff back out of the lake. The budget is a cool $1 billion. People who lived in neighborhoods have complained about the stink that comes from the pipeline used to transport the chemicals. Now that was pollution.

Scientists say the cleanup is working.

My eyes and nose agree. I see plenty of wildlife on my walks along the shore. I smell not a thing.

Wednesday morning, 32 degrees. Why not visit the shoreline?

Wednesdaymorning, 32 degrees. Why not visit the shoreline?

The sun was out yesterday morning. The temperature on my car dashboard read 32 degrees on this Nov. 13.

I drove to three of my favorite waterfront spots and walked. I wasn’t the only one there, but close.

I snapped liberally with my iPhone.

Onondaga Lake Park walking trail

The walking trail beckons at Onondaga Lake Park.

I knew I wanted to share Syracuse’s natural wealth. It’s not a boardwalk on the Atlantic or a pier on the Pacific. But it’s quite close to being a link of trails that stretches a good bit more than 10 miles. And the major components are open, free of admission, and ready to lift the spirit.

My first stop is Onondaga Lake Park.

Located in the suburb of Liverpool (repeat after me, Beatles fans, not that Liverpool), the park includes a long trail that follows the eastern shore of the lake for five or so miles. You can park by the Salt Museum, walk past the Onondaga Lake Yacht Club, and travel to the Willow Bay portion of the park. In warmer months, there’s a special path for bikers and rollerbladers. It’s a busy stretch. Next week, that roadway welcomes cars for the annual Lights on the Lake. Displays will entertain visitors through the New Year.

On this day, the stark, leaf-barren trees outline the gray waters.

Destiny USA mall in Syracuse, N.Y., sits next to the trail along Onondaga Creek.

On one side of the Creekwalk looms Destiny USA.

My second stop is Destiny USA. The big Syracuse mall is adjacent to the spot where Onondaga Creek spills into the lake.

You can park in the far reaches of a satellite lot, walk under a bridge and follow the final mile or so of the Creekwalk.

To the right sits the shopping behemoth. To the left runs the creek. It is a snapshot of where-city-meets-nature.

You must pass under a second bridge to reach the end.

Onondaga Creeks meets Onondaga Lake in Syracuse, N.Y.

Onondaga Creek spills into Onondaga Lake.

The big, bold lake sits in front of you. If you look to the right, you’ll spot Onondaga Lake Park and its walkway. Soon, officials say, a path will connect these two walkways. I look forward to that day.

My third stop is the Syracuse Inner Harbor.

It’s a pretty spot that politicians really want developed. Someday, it could host restaurants, hotels, other commerce, housing units. It could be an economic engine that links downtown, reachable by foot along the Creekwalk in one direction, and Destiny USA, along the walk in the other.

Now, though, boats are welcome to dock, alongside a lawn.

Dock, amphitheater at the Syracuse Inner Harbor.

The Syracuse Inner Harbor, a place for big plans.

There’s a single building, with a sign that promises it as a great spot to book for parties. I’ve never seen a soul inside.

There’s a small, white canopy that marks the cement steps of an amphitheater.

There used to be a weekly music party there. I always felt like the stage and seating area are both too small to be truly significant. Organizers cited less expenses elsewhere and didn’t bring it back. The lawn held concerts, too, and even a bustling edition of the New York State Blues Festival. It’s been quiet of late, though.

But a Central New York developer has announced plans to build and bolster the harbor. Governor Andrew Cuomo, in fact, announced the coming of a new hotel with great enthusiasm in October.

The natural beauty, though, is ready to be enjoyed, appreciated and admired, right here, right now.

Do you have a getaway spot that you think deserves more credit?

Syracuse Inner Harbor connects to Onondaga Lake

It’s a straight water line from the Syracuse Inner Harbor to Onondaga Lake. That’s Destiny USA to the right.

31 thoughts on “The walking trails along Onondaga Lake shouldn’t be a dirty little secret

  1. How I miss my walks along this park – and Beaver Lake Nature Center. Onondaga Lake Park was near our home in Liverpool and it was the last place we visited when we were in Syracuse in 2006 before returning to the airport. Thanks, Mark, for the trip down memory lane. 🙂


  2. Gorgeous getaway spot! I love walking along a lake, although it can be chilly if windy! The spot I adore here in Nashville isn’t a secret but it is beautiful. Nestled in the hills with walking/running trails. Something about being outside and breathing fresh air. Nothing like it!


  3. Kilroy was here, LOL You don’t have to put a link in your comments because a link back to your blog is automatically generated when you comment. Get something to edit your photos to fix minor stuff like leveling the horizon or tweaking exposure, contrast and color saturation. After that, treat yourself to a nice camera.


  4. I prefer the West Shore and Lakeland Trails for walking, although I will pop over to the Willow Bay area to visit my grandparents’ memorial bench. We are lucky to have such an extensive trail system in our community!


    • Very nice that there is a memorial bench for your grandparents in the Willow Bay Area, Nadine. Tell me the name and I will bow and say a little prayer next time I pass it. Thanks for reading and commenting. Mark


  5. I have to keep my getaway spots under the radar lest they are no longer good to getaway to😊 Lovely pictures. Seems like a diverse place with shopping, boating and nature trails all in one spot. I would be all over it…if only I didn’t live on the “other coast.”


    • Yes, Sharon, that is a spot that still holds enormous potential. I just couldn’t keep it to myself any longer! Really, no matter how many people I’ve spotted along those trails, I’ve always thought there should be more. So, you must have plenty of of pretty spots out there on the left coast. C’mon, tell me about one of them. I won’t tell anyone … Have a great day and thanks for commenting on my work!


  6. The shore trails are a tremendous local resource (especially with free admission) … I remember taking my kids on a tram ride there when they were little. Not sure if they still offer those in the summer.


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