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Park History Highlights

 “Geologic Wonder of the Last Ice Age”

Clark Reservation State Park is located in Onondaga County, five miles southeast of the city of Syracuse, and 1-1/4 miles west of the village of Jamesville. Approximately 365 acres in size, this park is administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Central Region, whose headquarters are located here.

The park is near the edge of the northern escarpment of the Appalachian Plateau on the divide between Onondaga Valley to the west and Butternut Valley to the east.

Central New York State was occupied by Algonquin Indians until the end of the 13th century. At one time, the lake at Clark Reservation had a Native American name, “Kai-yah-koo,” which means “satisfied with tobacco.” According to legend, a Native American woman who lost her child in the lake would come each autumn to cast tobacco in the water. This would appease the evil spirits and encourage the Great Spirit to watch over the child.

All of the land that we know as Clark Reservation State Park was at one time divided into military tracts. This land was surveyed in 1792 and given for compensation to soldiers of the Revolutionary War. None of these tracts was ever claimed, however, and the land passed into the hands of private owners. The park area was explored by early botanists and geologists who delighted in its fascinating natural history.


In 1878, James McFarlane of Pennsylvania bought several parcels around the lake and developed the area as a summer resort. He built a small hotel, laid out walks and built stairs down to the lake so that visitors could enjoy a rowboat ride. The resort, however, failed to attract enough guests, and the property passed through the hands of other private owners.

Clark Reservation, as a public park, had its beginning in 1915, when Mary Clark Thompson of New York City purchased the 108 acres surrounding the lake.  Mrs. Thompson believed in the park’s preservation because of its scenic beauty and geological interest. She donated the land to the people of New York as a memorial to her father,  Myron Clark, who had been governor of New York from 1855 to 1857. Clark Reservation officially became a state park in 1926.

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