Staghorn Cliffs, Skaneateles Lake | Photo: Chris Ray

Securing Skaneateles Lake: A Unique Water Quality Conservation Initiative

Revered for its sparkling blue waters, Skaneateles Lake is a vital resource for many communities and the source of drinking water for some 220,000 residents of Central New York. But today the lake faces increasing threats from development that would compromise its water quality and negatively impact its surrounding lands.

The Finger Lakes Land Trust (FLLT) is at a critical juncture, finalizing three crucial projects that will help safeguard the future of Skaneateles Lake and expand recreational opportunities. You can learn more on this page and make a gift to advance these land and water protection projects:

Donate Online

Type SKANEATELES in the “Comments” field when making your gift.

Or to learn more about this opportunity, contact Dawn Cornell at or (607) 275-9487.


The health of Skaneateles Lake depends on the health of the surrounding lands that make up its watershed. In addition to the shoreline, careful attention must be paid to the streams that flow into the lake. As runoff intensifies, so does the urgency of our protection efforts.

With your help, the FLLT will acquire three unique properties that protect the lake’s water quality and wildlife habitat while creating places for low-impact recreation: the Staghorn Cliffs on the eastern shoreline, Shotwell Brook by the village, and Bear Swamp in the Skaneateles Highlands.


The FLLT is on track to acquire 850 feet of shoreline and 15 acres of forest along Skaneateles Lake, including a portion of the iconic Staghorn Cliffs. Located near the south end of the lake, this acquisition will extend the protected shoreline to 3,000 feet, preserving remarkable staghorn coral fossils, crystal-clear waters, scenic vistas, and habitat for Bald Eagles.


This project is a critical focus for conservation because Shotwell Brook flows directly into Skaneateles Lake near Syracuse’s drinking water intake. The brook starts near Route 20 on the east side of the Village of Skaneateles and development in these headwaters could significantly affect the lake downstream. To prevent this, the FLLT is acquiring a 100-acre parcel along the brook and Route 20. This purchase will protect the watershed and preserve the scenic character of Skaneateles’ eastern entrance. After the acquisition is completed, the FLLT plans to establish an accessible network of trails for public enjoyment.


At the southern edge of the Skaneateles Lake watershed lies Bear Swamp, cherished for its recreational opportunities and role in filtering runoff to the lake. We aim to secure 220 acres here, incorporating 130 acres into Bear Swamp State Forest and protecting 90 acres of adjacent farmland through the use of a conservation easement. This innovative approach ensures sustainable land use while preserving habitats critical to our ecosystem.


To ensure that these projects succeed, we urgently need to raise $3,530,000. With initial commitments totaling $2,150,000 from state funding, individual contributions, and a grant from the Central New York Community Foundation, we’re making significant progress.

Thank you for considering this urgent call to protect Skaneateles Lake for future generations. Please give as generously as you can so that we can secure these three sites that are vital to the future of the lake!

Donate Online

Type SKANEATELES in the “Comments” field when making your gift.

To learn more about this opportunity, contact Dawn Cornell at or (607) 275-9487.


For 35 years, the Finger Lakes Land Trust has worked tirelessly to protect over 3,000 acres in the Skaneateles watershed and 32,000 acres regionally. We have also worked with partners to restore wetlands and stream buffers that are vital for water quality.

From creating the scenic Hinchcliff Family Preserve to securing public access to Carpenter Falls, and restoring vernal pools that filter runoff to Skaneateles Lake, each project has made a lasting impact and with your support we can achieve so much more. Thank you!