Canadarago Lake was simply a mess in the summer of 1963. It wasn’t easy on the eyes, or nose, no thanks to sewage and dead fish. Water levels were very low and shrinking, leaving mud lots and many boat docks far from the camps. Parents wouldn’t let their children swim in the lake. Conditions got so bad that resident Peg Reynolds brought in a pail of lake water to a Richfield Springs Town Board meeting for officials to recognize that there were problems at hand.
What this all led to was the formation of the Canadarago Lake Improvement Association, on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 1963. It was done during a meeting of the Richfield Springs Chamber of Commerce, and Reynolds was elected Association president. The public and lake residents were invited to the first organizational meeting on Saturday, Aug. 10. The association’s mission was simple, to address and take action on the problems.
The first and chief issue addressed was the low water level of the lake. A committee of six men set out on a pontoon boat in early September to conduct a spot by spot survey of lake levels at homes and camps. They felt that a 24-inch boost in the lake level would be sufficient to reach shore levels of the past. A way to accomplish this was to build a dam below the southern end of the lake. An earthen dam had been built in 1897 but had long since eroded away.
The proposed site of a new dam was where the former Southern New York Railway bridge crossed Oaks Creek, seen today from county Route 22, East Lake Road. The bridge abutments were still solid and in place. The Association needed a permit to construct the dam from the State Department of Public Works, and it was approved in late October 1963, but the lake level could only be raised 18 inches.