Glacial processes created the many kettlehole lakes, ponds, and depressions in the Tully Lakes area, as well as the Valley Heads Moraine, which forms the drainage divide between the St. Lawrence River drainage to the north and the Susquehanna River drainage to the south. The first hydrogeologic studies of the Tully Lakes area began in the 1870's, when the lakes were considered as a possible water supply for the city of Syracuse. Water was diverted from some of the northwestern lakes and ponds into the Tully Valley; these diversions occurred as early as the 1840's and ceased in the early 1960's, with the closure of the eastern Tully Valley brinefield.
In 1998, the USGS began a 2-year hydrogeologic study of the aquifer system underlying the Tully Lakes area that included monitoring water levels in five of the Tully Lakes and more than 50 wells. The average annual water-level fluctuations in the three western lakes ranged from about 2.5 feet to 6 feet. Water-level fluctuations in the eastern lakes, near the center of the valley, were much less--about 1.5 feet, because these lakes have natural outlets. Three sets of ground-water-level measurements were made from the spring recharge period through the fall dry period of 2000. The resulting potentiometric-surface maps indicate that the water-level declines from the spring to the fall ranged from 1.5 to 8 feet. The ground-water divide is about 1 mile south of the Valley Heads Moraine crest in the spring and migrates southward in response to declining water levels in the surficial aquifer during the fall. Water-surface altitudes in the kettlehole lakes and ponds respond slowly to seasonal water-level changes in the surrounding aquifer and often differ from water levels in the aquifer because the poorly permeable lakebed sediments impede the exchange of water.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Hydrogeology of the Tully Lakes area in southern Onondaga and Cortland counties, New York