New York

Hemlock and Canadice Lakes

The Nature Conservancy selected this site to protect New York's only remaining undeveloped Finger Lakes and the water source for the City of Rochester. In the 1850s, the City of Rochester was poised for growth. It just needed one thing: a reliable source of clean drinking water. City planners set their sights on forests 30 miles away, on Hemlock and Canadice Lakes. By1876, pristine water was flowing from those forests through a conduit system and into Rochester households. 

Shortly after the City constructed its water system, Hemlock Lake experienced a boom in cottage and hotel development along its shoreline, which threatened the very supply that had spurred its growth. The City quickly began acquiring lakeshore properties to safeguard its investment and by the 1950s owned 7,100 acres of land in the watershed, including the entire shorelines of both lakes.

The story could’ve ended there. But in the mid-1980s, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency required the City to build a treatment plant to filter water from the two lakes, prompting concerns that the forested lands would no longer be essential for filtering water and could be sold for revenue.

And so began two decades of discussion and dialogue. Thanks to you, our members, The Nature Conservancy was able to facilitate this transaction over the course of four gubernatorial and three mayoral administrations, keeping the parties informed and at the table. In 2010, the City sold the lands to the State of New York for $13.7 million, concluding a 20-year effort to permanently protect these two Finger Lakes. 

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

Today, Hemlock and Canadice Lake are still the only place in the Finger Lakes where one can venture back in time and ponder what Central and Western New York looked like long ago. To see them yourself, visit Rob’s Trail.

The story is not over. With your help, we continue to protect sensitive lands in the watershed and work closely with the State to ensure that land management around the lakes remains sustainable. Thanks to you, we’ve now directly protected nearly 1,500 acres in the Hemlock and Canadice Lake watershed and brook trout and other fish are now able to access habitats that have been blocked for decades.

Our commitment to these lakes—and to all of the places you’ve helped us to protect—is forever.

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

Hike over a ridge and down to the shoreline of Hemlock Lake on Rob's Trail.

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.



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