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New York

Hemlock and Canadice Lakes

The Nature Conservancy selected this site to protect New York's only remaining undeveloped Finger Lakes and their associated aquatic communities; to safeguard an exemplary occurrence of beech-maple and hemlock-hardwood forests, and to protect migratory bird habitat and nesting areas for bald eagles. This landscape and watershed is located in Ontario, Livingston, and Steuben counties.

Of the eleven Finger Lakes, Hemlock Lake and Canadice Lake are the only two whose shorelines are undeveloped.  In the early 1900s, the City of Rochester acquired the land around them in order to secure its water supply.  Today, the City owns 7,100 acres of land around the two lakes.  A filtration plant at the north end of Hemlock Lake filters and purifies water before it is piped to Rochester.

Residential development pressure in the area is intensifying, as Rochester—located fewer than 30 miles away—continues to sprawl southward.  Invasive plants like Japanese knotweed, garlic mustard, and swallow-wort also threaten the integrity of the Hemlock-Canadice watershed.

Two intact and undeveloped Finger Lakes are an incredible natural asset: Hemlock Lake is seven miles long and extends over 1,800 acres.  It is one-half mile across at its widest point, and 91 feet deep at its deepest.  Canadice Lake is the smallest of the Finger Lakes: three miles long, 95 feet deep, and 0.3 miles at its widest point.  Their watersheds together total 39,000 acres.

In addition, the area features large, undisturbed swamps and marshes at the south ends of both Hemlock and Canadice lakes, including a silver maple-ash swamp at the south end of Canadice Lake.

Our Conservation Strategy

First and foremost, The Nature Conservancy is acquiring strategic lands and conservation easements within the Hemlock and Canadice lakes watershed through both purchase and donation.  Second, we also work closely with the City of Rochester on management and conservation options for their 7,100 acres within the watershed.

Third, the Nature Conservancy has teamed up with the City of Rochester, Finger Lakes Land Trust, and Audubon Society to build awareness about the importance of conservation in the Hemlock and Canadice lake watershed.

You help make lasting community partnerships like this possible when you support our work today.

Conservation Actions
  • In 2002, we purchased a 200-acre property of forests and gullies on the west side of Hemlock Lake, where the City’s ownership along the lake is at its narrowest—roughly 200 feet from the shoreline.  Known as the Eagle Crest Preserve, the property is located in the Town of Conesus and adjoins City lands for more than one mile.  Incompatible logging or residential development of this property could have had severe impacts to water quality in Hemlock Lake.  The Eastman Kodak Company provided The Nature Conservancy with funding to acquire this property.
  • In 2001, we acquired a 164-acre property of forests and shrublands that represents one of the last properties that connects the City’s holdings on Canadice Lake with those on Hemlock Lake.  Dick and Kitty Freeman, the former owners of the property, care deeply about the future of the Hemlock-Canadice watershed and sold their land to us at half-price to assist our acquisition.

City of Rochester
Eastman Kodak Company
Finger Lakes Land Trust
Audubon New York
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
New York Wild 

Alver Barrens & GrasslandsChaumont Barrens PreserveEl Dorado Beach PreserveEastern Lake Ontario Dunes & WetlandsTug HillRome Sand PlainsThousand Acre SwampMontezuma Wetlands ComplexO.D. von Engeln  Preserve at MalloryvilleWestern Finger LakesZoar Valley / Cattaraugus Creek French Creek Watershed

The City of Rochester maintains a wonderful trail system at Hemlock and Canadice lakes and allows canoes, kayaks, and small motorboats (less than 10 horsepower) to use the lakes. The fishing can be outstanding. There is no charge to visit, but the City requires all visitors to obey visitor guidelines and have the City’s permit in hand.

The forests that blanket the hillsides of Hemlock and Canadice lakes are some of the largest remaining forests in the Finger Lakes. Extensive stands of old-growth beech, sugar maple, oak, and hemlock can be found on the southwest side of Hemlock Lake. Bald eagles, native brook trout, waterfowl of all types, and black bear are common.  In the spring, loons can be seen using open water habitats on the lakes as they migrate north.  In the summer, the watershed provides nesting habitat for warblers and songbirds.  Two bald eagle nests have given the site status as an Important Bird Area.  For live webcam pictures of nesting raptors at Hemlock Lake, visit the New York Wild website at



From Rochester:

  • Drive south on Route 15A (East Henrietta Road) to the Village of Hemlock. 
  • Proceed approximately 2 miles south through Hemlock on Route 15A to Rix Hill Road. 
  • Turn right, or west, and park at the City of Rochester’s blue visitor kiosk, where a detailed trail map and visitor permit are available at no charge.

From the south:

  • Exit Interstate 390 at Wayland and proceed north on Route 15 for several miles to the village of Springwater. 
  • At Springwater, pick up Route 15A and head north until Rix Hill Road. 
  • Turn left, or west, and park at the City’s blue kiosk at the north end of Hemlock Lake, where a detailed trail map and visitor permit are available at no charge.



Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

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