Honeoye Lake

Outline of the Finger Lakes with Honeoye Lake highlighted
Maximum Length4.5 miles
Maximum Width0.8 miles
Average Depth16 feet
Maximum Depth30 feet
Route Length9.9 miles

Is this lake filled with honey?? As sweet as that would be, the name has a gruesome origin. It is from the Seneca word ha-ne-a-yah, which translates to “lying finger”. An apocryphal story goes that a local Native American was bitten on the finger by a rattlesnake. They had to swiftly amputate their finger with a tomahawk.1 Beauchamp, W.M. Aboriginal Place Names of New York. New York State Education Department, 1907. p. 157 Pretty cool name.

Honeoye Lake is worlds different from Canadice Lake, despite being its neighbor to the east. As trees and shrubbery lined the Canadice shores, houses and docks line the shores of this 100% residential lake. It was fascinating to see the diversity of homes’ appearances. They looked rather ordinary from the roads, but it was clear from the water that homeowners devoted their decorating energies to the lake facades. Some aren’t afraid to profess their political beliefs (however misguided).

A palatial house on the shores of Honeoye Lake
Flying their ignorance high (Trump flags)
A Gulf of Difference

For my paddle ’round my lake, I launched at Honeoye Lake State Marine Park on the southeast shore. When I arrived, there were DEC employees inspecting boats for zebra mussels. I learned that the Finger Lakes, among many other bodies of water, are badly afflicted by these buggers. They’re an invasive species that somehow hitched their way here from the lakes of Russia and Ukraine.2 Hoddle, Mark S. “Quagga & Zebra Mussels” Center for Invasive Species Research, UC Riverside. https://cisr.ucr.edu/invasive-species/quagga-zebra-mussels

Mussels are filter-feeders. One zebra mussel filters food particles out of one liter per day. A female mussel can lay over a million eggs per year. Given the insane reproductive rate, the water becomes clearer, allowing sunlight to penetrate deeper. The shallows are so clear that I spent an inordinate time staring at the lake floor encrusted with mussels, watching plants and fish go about their daily business.

With this clarity comes at a cost. Plants and algae are able to thrive at deeper levels. They end up outgrowing their habitat and dying. All that biomass has to go somewhere, usually by washing up on homeowners’ shores and stinking up the place. The natural balance here has been upset. And they aren’t even palatable!

Anyway, enough about mussels. I worked my way up north along the eastern shore, passing countless docks. Instead of bird-spotting, I enjoyed taking in the variety of watercraft. Some were paddlecraft, like mine, but most were fishing boats and jon boats. I arrived at the north end of the lake, where there is a park (Sandy Bottom Park). Here, I lunched and relaxed.

Looking south at the northern end of Honeoye Lake
Looking south from the northern end of Honeoye Lake

After lunch (ham and cheese sandwiches…mmm), I paddled back south along the western shore. More houses, docks, and boats. At least the architecture and decor varied enough to make up for the lack of nature. As I reached the southern end, the waters increasingly became choked with macrophytes3Aquatic plants large enough to be seen with the naked eye reaching out of the abyss. Weeds such as curly leaf pondweed and Eurasian milfoil tangled themselves around my paddle blades. I had to be careful with my stroke to avoid scooping up them, or I would be slowed down drastically. I shudder at the thought of swimming through these weed-choked waters! Luckily, there is a management plan that addresses the overgrowth.

Weed-choked waters at the southern end of Honeoye Lake
Weedy waters caused by zebra mussels

The weather was beautiful and conductive to a wonderful day of paddling. I returned to the boat launch, where the DEC employees told me to check for mussels and hose down my kayak. I checked my phone. I had paddled 9.88 miles in 4 hours and 12 minutes! My muscles were raring for more. Two down, nine more to go. On to Otisco Lake, all the way across the state!

Trip Summary of Honeoye Lake