7 Fantastic Recreational Lakes near Cooperstown, NY

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Cooperstown doesn’t have a huge choice of lakes, but the selection here is diverse. 

There are vast waterways, like Otsego Lake, with stunning scenery and no recreational restrictions, as well as small charming ponds where only fishing and paddling are allowed.

All of the options are less than a 30-minute drive away, and all offer something unique.

Whether you’re looking for a sandy beach, a trout destination, or just want to pull tubes all day long, there are options here.

Check out what Cooperstown has to offer! 

Lakes near Cooperstown:

  1. Otsego Lake
  2. Canadarago Lake
  3. Arnold Lake
  4. Gilbert Lake
  5. Bear Swamp Pond
  6. Weaver Lake
  7. Young Lake
Lakes near Cooperstown New York Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Otsego Lake

Otsego Lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Otsego Lake
  • Distance from Cooperstown: 1 mile (5 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Cross-Country Skiing, Snowshoeing

Bordering Cooperstown on its southern shore, Otsego Lake has a 20.3-mile picturesque shoreline with views of hills in many directions. 

Glimmerglass State Park, eight miles north of the town near the northern edge of the lake, offers 593 acres of fishing, hiking, paddleboarding, swimming, and snowshoeing for guests who visit this destination. Campsites and cabins are available for overnight lodging. 

Cooperstown maintains attractive parks along the waterfront. Midway on the western lakeshore, Three Mile Point has motorboat docks and launches for canoes and kayaks with reasonable parking for non-residents. 

A few blocks from downtown, the 2.6-acre Lakefront Park also includes a public launch space for water vessels and spectacular views of the long and narrow lake. 

Two blocks to the east of Lakefront Park, Council Rock Park marks the point where the 4,046-acre lake becomes the source for the North Branch of the Susquehanna River, the longest river on the US East Coast that directly flows into the Atlantic Ocean. 

From one end of this beautiful lake to the other, fishing is as popular as when a fan’s favorite baseball team hits a game-winning home run, with lake trout, perch, and walleye always on the scorecard.

2. Canadarago Lake

  • Website: Canadarago Lake
  • Distance from Cooperstown: 12 miles (20 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Approximately twelve miles northwest of Cooperstown, Canadarago Lake is a 1,944-acre body of water that has a long and narrow orientation that is similar to Otsego Lake. 

Although neither is part of the legendary Finger Lakes in western New York, they do resemble the finger lakes in their contour. 

Also similar to Lake Otsego, much of the terrain visible from the lake includes postcard-perfect views of gently rolling hills.

Canadarago State Marine Park, located on the central-western side of the lake, has boat slips and offers the best destination for those wanting to launch a vessel onto the lake. 

Similar to Glimmerglass State Park along Otsego Lake, popular summertime bass tournaments take place on this lake.

In addition to these competitions to catch smallmouth and largemouth bass, anglers fish for walleye, panfish, brown bullhead, rock bass, bluegill, common carp, chain pickerel, and yellow perch. 

The lake has a reputation for being one of the cleanest in the state.

3. Arnold Lake

Paddleboarding on a lake in NY state
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Arnold Lake
  • Distance from Cooperstown: 10 miles (20 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Cross-Country Skiing, Snowshoeing

Little more than 10 miles southwest of Cooperstown, the 63-acre Arnold Lake offers bucolic views of the water, slight hills, and lakefront homes along a narrow road. 

Known as a secluded area that is off the beaten path, those who enjoy visits during the chilly winter consider this a perfect destination for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice fishing. 

Arnold Lake State Forest surrounds the lake and much of the neighboring area. This 1,266-acre forest includes a 5.5-mile loop trail. 

A couple of parking areas for this conservation land are available. Unfortunately, neither of these gravel pullouts is near the lake, nor can they accommodate more than a couple of vehicles. 

Much of the area near the lakefront includes private property and dock sites not available for use by the general public. 

Despite these limitations, primitive camping is permitted within the forest. Visitors willing to walk a bit of a distance can find a place to park their vehicles. Once they get to the lake, they will enjoy a bounty of brown and rainbow trout. 

4. Gilbert Lake

Kayaks on a sandy beach in New York State
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Gilbert Lake
  • Distance from Cooperstown: 18 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Cross-Country Skiing, Snowshoeing

A leisurely drive 18 miles southwest of Cooperstown brings visitors to Gilbert Lake, a popular summertime escape. 

Situated entirely within Gilbert Lake State Park, this 41.2-acre waterway sits alongside forests in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains once harvested for timber. 

The state acquired the land in the mid-1920s, and the Civilian Conservation Corps added many improvements to the parklands in the 1930s. A museum in the park shares the history of CCC’s building and development efforts in New York State.

The 1,584-acre state park allows visitors to enjoy hiking, fishing, camping, hunting, and year-round access to the lake. 

Summertime disc golf and swimming are popular, as are snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing along the park’s extensive trail network during winter. 

Guests may bring their own vessel or rent one to launch in the lake. 

Visitors will find clean, well-maintained facilities throughout the park. 

As they cast lines for fish, they will have a chance to catch creek chub, yellow perch, brown bullhead, white sucker, golden shiner, bass, and trout. 

5. Bear Swamp Pond

Kayaking swamp in New York State
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Bear Swamp Pond
  • Distance from Cooperstown: 18 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Cross-Country Skiing, Snowshoeing, Snowmobiling

For those who prefer a boating and fishing experience away from crowds and without amenities such as playgrounds or disc golf courses, a journey along some gravel and dirt roads to Bear Swamp Pond will fit the bill. 

An 18-mile drive east from Cooperstown through areas with sketchy cell phone coverage takes anglers to the 1,750-acre Bear Swamp State Forest

If unfamiliar with the area, carefully review maps or talk with locals for directions. Signage is non–existent, and driving too fast along NY State Route 165 will lead to missing the dirt-road turnout onto Buttermilk Hill Road. 

Parking areas within the forest allow access for hand launches of kayaks, canoes, or small boats into the pond from its northeastern shore. 

Year-round fishing is available for the black crappie, brook and brown trout, brown bullhead, largemouth bass, and yellow perch swimming in the 44-acre Bear Swamp Pond. 

With no potable water or facilities available, visitors should plan accordingly. Wintertime snowmobiling trails are maintained, as are hiking adventures with summertime mosquitoes or cold-weather snowpacks. 

6/7. Weaver Lake & Young Lake

Small lake in New York State
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Weaver and Young Lakes
  • Distance from Cooperstown: 13 miles (20 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Ice Fishing

Located immediately west of the hamlet of Warren and 13 miles north of Cooperstown, two bodies of water historically known as the Little Lakes or Waiontha Lakes offer fishing opportunities. 

Weaver Lake sits immediately north of US Highway 20, with Young Lake a short distance southwest and on the south side of the road. 

The narrow, shallow Cripple Creek connects these lakes, with water flowing through the creek first into Weaver, then Young, and later emptying into Otsego Lake.

A simple dirt-and-gravel parking area and a hand launch on the north side of the highway serve both lakes. No other facilities exist. 

Water levels along the marshlands of Cripple Creek may vary, so check conditions to ensure there is proper depth for the vessel. Only electric vessels are permitted on these lakes. 

Weaver Lake is slightly more than 100 acres in size, with more weeds. Young Lake comprises approximately 72 acres and is the deeper of the two. 

Although not identical in shape or size, these lakes share similar fish populations. Both have black crappie, white sucker, yellow perch, rock and largemouth bass, golden shiner, brown bullhead, and chain pickerel. Young Lake is considered the better of the two lakes for ice fishing.

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