Ithaca, New York, site of Cornell University and Ithaca College, sits at the southern end of Cayuga Lake. Cornell's alma mater or official school song makes reference to its position "Far Above Cayuga's Waters".
Villages and settlements along the east shore of Cayuga Lake include Myers, King Ferry, Aurora, Levanna, Union Springs, and Cayuga. Settlements along the west shore of the lake include Sheldrake, Poplar Beach, and Canoga.
Length: 61.4 km
Average width: 2.8 km
Maximum depth: 132 m
Surface area: 172 km²
Mean depth: 54.5 m
Catchment area: 2,033 km² (37.1% natural forest, 58% active agricultural)
Main islands: 1, Frontenac
Main outflows: 1
The water level is regulated by the Mud Lock at the north end of the lake. It is connected to Lake Ontario by the Erie Canal and Seneca Lake by the Seneca River. The lake is drawn down as winter approaches to minimize ice damage and to maximize its capacity to store heavy spring runoff.
The southern end is also shallow and often freezes during the winter.
Cayuga lake is very popular among recreational boaters. A large state marina and boat launch is located at the southern end of the lake in Ithaca (Allan H. Treman State Marine Park, the largest inland marina in New York). There are two yacht clubs on the western shore: Ithaca Yacht Club a few miles north of Ithaca, and Red Jacket Yacht Club just south of Canoga. There are several other marinas and boat launches scattered along the lake shore.
The lake is used both for drinking water and waste disposal, although this is no longer legal and very uncommon. There are also several lake source cooling systems that are in operation on the lake, whereby cooler water is pumped from the depths of the lake, warmed, and circulated in a closed system back to the surface. One of these systems, which is operated by Cornell University and began operation in 2000, was controversial during the planning and building states for potential negative environmental impact; however, all the environmental impact reports and scientific studies have shown that the Cornell lake source cooling system has not yet and will not likely have any measurably significant environmental impact. Furthermore, Cornell's system pumps significantly less warm water back into the lake than others further north which have been operating for decades.
Cayuga Lake, like nearby Seneca Lake, is also the site of a phenomenon known as the Guns of the Seneca, mysterious cannon-like booms heard in the surrounding area. Many of these booms are may be attributable to bird-scarers, automated cannon-like devices used by farmers to scare birds away from the many vineyards, orchards and crops. There is however no proof of this.