Second only to Walter’s lab at Harvard… Reiden Lake is the most important location to the mythology of Fringe. It’s the Ground Zero of all Fringe events – the scene of many dramatic incidents in the Fringe universe: the death of David Robert Jones, the confrontation between Peter and Walternate, and of course, the defining event of the series… Walter’s breakthrough into the alternate universe in 1985 and his return trip with young Peter across the ice.
But is Reiden Lake an actual place?
The showrunners and writers have never commented on whether or not Reiden Lake is based on a real location. (Of course, the “real” Reiden Lake is not in New York at all, but in the Vancouver area where Fringe is filmed. A snowy parking lot, a swimming pool (for underwater scenes), and Rice Lake have all been used to depict it on screen.) But its depiction in various episodes of Fringe from Season 1 through 4 can give us some clues as to where the real-life twin of Reiden Lake might be found.
First of all, the general location of Reiden Lake is unequivocal: it’s somewhere in Upstate New York. This has been stated on numerous occasions. (As a native Upstate New Yorker, I’m both impressed, and amused at how Upstate New York is so often used by Hollywood writers as easy shorthand for “back of beyond.” However, Upstate does indeed have lots of lakes!)
That said, there is actually no known lake called Reiden in any part of the state. Fortunately, although upstate New York is vast, we can narrow down an extremely specific area where “Reiden Lake” (or its real-life counterpart, if there is one) might be, thanks to maps shown on the show:
These maps, although they conflict slightly, place Reiden Lake consistently in a small area either just north or just south of the intersection of Interstates 90 (the Thruway) and 88. This places Reiden Lake just east of the Albany area, south of Schenectady and the Mohawk Valley, in rural Schenectady County, or perhaps Schoharie County.
In order to match Reiden Lake, the real-life candidate should be located in a rural area, be not too large or too small, be surrounded by trees and modest vacation homes, and be in a locale that’s cold enough to freeze over. There are actually a few small lakes in the area that might fit the bill as candidates.
Duane Lake, which happens to be south of I-88 in the Town of Duanesburg, is the lake which most resembles the triangular shape of Reiden Lake on one of the maps depicted on the show. It’s surrounded by woodlands, but is not in itself in a deep woods area. Here’s a photo of Duane Lake. Duane Lake is not accessible to the public (it’s surrounded by private property), but you can also take a peek at a sample lakeside home for sale. (The Bishop house?)
Another likely candidate also in the area (north of I-88, however) is Featherstonhaugh Lake, which adjoins the publicly accessible lands of Featherstonhaugh State Forest. Here’s a fall picture of the lake, and an evening view. This lake is also roughly triangle-shaped, but is in a more rural wooded setting than Duane Lake.
Another possible candidate, though somewhat south of the area shown on the maps on Fringe, is Thompson’s Lake. Here’s what it looks like frozen! Thompson’s Lake has a state park and campground on one shore (with private properties on the other side), so you can take a vacation there and see for yourself.
So those are three possible candidates for the real-life location of Reiden Lake. If the show’s writers just made up a fictional lake and made up the location too, the fact that there are three lakes that strongly resemble Reiden Lake would be… well, sort of a Fringey coincidence!