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Then & Now: A Brief History of Otsego Lake

By: Otesaga Resort Hotel / 29 Apr 2021

The beauty of Otsego Lake has inspired locals and visitors alike for generations. While today you'll find paddle boards, kayaks, and fishing boats dotting the landscape in summer, the lake has a long history of importance in the region. Read on for a glimpse into the storied past of our Glimmerglass, and some ways you can enjoy it today with a visit to our upstate New York hotel.


Otsego Lake is the headwaters of the Susquehanna River, and on a quiet day it's easy to contemplate the water's journey all the way to the Chesapeake Bay. It was James Fenimore Cooper who coined the term "Glimmerglass" to describe Otsego Lake in The Deerslayer (1841), part of his famous Leatherstocking Tales featuring the iconic Natty Bumppo. His daughter Susan Fenimore Cooper also wrote about the natural world of Cooperstown in her book Rural Hours (1850). Considered to be the first work of nature writing by an American woman, Susan Fenimore Cooper's observations on the natural world of Cooperstown note the different types of fish found in the lake at the time, including bass, lake trout, and yellow perch.

The Meeting Place

Beyond its literary prominence, Otsego Lake has a fascinating history. A short walk from The Otesaga, Council Rock Park offers a quiet place to contemplate the landscape, as well as two historical markers. The first denotes Council Rock as a meeting place for Native Americans, an idea mentioned by James Fenimore Cooper in The Pioneers , and further discussed by Susan Fenimore Cooper in Rural Hours . Members of the Mohawk and Oneida Nations likely used the area around the lake for seasonal hunting and fishing camps. The second marker is for Clinton's Dam, an important moment of the Revolutionary War. In 1779, a temporary dam was built by General James Clinton's troops to raise the level of the water in the lake. When they broke the dam, they were able to use the rush of water to quickly move their boats down the Susquehanna River to rendezvous with awaiting troops in Tioga.

A Sight to Behold

While the landscape has changed over the years, the sight of Otsego Lake as you drive into Cooperstown is still breathtaking. There are many ways to experience summer fun on the lake, whether you're renting a kayak , canoe, paddleboard, or fishing boat. If you're looking to keep things simple, spend the day relaxing on the sand or picnicking in the grass at Glimmerglass State Park.

Of course, one of the best places to take in the view of Otsego Lake is The Otesaga! Whether you're enjoying a meal on the patio at Hawkeye Bar & Grill, a cocktail at Fire Bar, A round at Leatherstocking Golf Course, or simply sitting in a rocking chair on the veranda, the lake is the perfect backdrop for your summer getaway!

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