Fishing & exploring Waters’ overlooked camping hotspot

Out See Go
By Chris Engle, contributor

Otsego County’s southernmost state campground overlooks a small body of water seen by thousands of people every day but visited by almost no one.

Lake Marjory is a juxtaposition of northwoods cabin life and the hub-bub of interstate travel, and floating the 40-acre lake with a fishing rod and a cold beer at the end of September put me smack dab in the middle of both.

Looking northwest from Lake Marjory State Forest Campground. Photo by Chris Engle

Nestled between Old 27 and the southbound lane of I-75 south of Waters, Lake Marjory’s western shore is populated by some cozy cabins and lake homes, docks and small boats. On the east side, the constant din of freeway noise is mostly obstructed by a thin strip of woods which gives this lake the up-north feel it deserves.

The view from the seat of my kayak. Photo by Chris Engle

The campground is 10 rustic sites on the southern end of the lake with a couple pathways down a hill to the water, and it’s the only public access we have to Lake Marjory.

The small campground was closed in 2009 when the Department of Natural Resources was going through some budget shortfalls and remained closed until it reopened in 2014. It serves as a workable overflow campground for nearby Otsego Lake State Park on busy summer weekends.

The entrance to Lake Marjory State Forest Campground south of Waters. Photo by Chris Engle

With no boat launch, the public is mostly restricted to the watercraft they can carry down the hill to the lake. The walk is short enough that a couple people could put a 12-foot aluminum boat and small motor in, but that’s about it. In September, I opted for my kayak.

I moved counter-clockwise around the lake, following the wooded shore first and casting a topwater lure toward fallen timber for bass. I’ve fished the lake a few times before, and bluegill and bass are almost always a safe bet.

Surprisingly, I was skunked until I reached the western shore and its docks, and suddenly caught three small largemouth in three consecutive casts. Being midday and relatively cold, it probably wasn’t the best conditions to be casting a topwater bait, but the fish gave a good fight and scratched my fishing itch for the day.

A handful of tasty honey mushrooms, or stumpers, I harvested from the campground at Lake Marjory for a stir fry later that evening. Photo by Chris Engle

A short walk around the campground produced a healthy cluster of young stumpers, tasty edible mushrooms sprouting from a dead tree stump. They ended up in a stir fry later that evening.

Glimpses of Lake Marjory can be seen from southbound 75 just past Exit 270. To get to the lake, take Exit 270 and head south from Waters to Cottonwood Drive. A recreation passport is required to enter or stay at the campground.

Chris Engle lives in Hayes Township, Otsego County. He can be reached at