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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lake Ontario
The lake seen from Dead End; Dutch Street Rd.; Huron, New York
Lake Ontario and the other Great Lakes
Location North America
Group Great Lakes
Coordinates 43°42′N 77°54′W / 43.7°N 77.9°W / 43.7; -77.9Coordinates: 43°42′N 77°54′W / 43.7°N 77.9°W / 43.7; -77.9
Primary inflows Niagara River
Primary outflows St. Lawrence River
Basin countries Canada, United States
Max. length 193 mi (311 km)
Max. width 53 mi (85 km)
Surface area 7,540 sq mi (19,500 km2) [1]
Average depth 283 ft (86 m)
Max. depth 802 ft (244 m) [1]
Water volume 393 cu mi (1,640 km3)
Residence time 6 years
Shore length1 712 mi (1,146 km)
Surface elevation 246 ft (75 m)[1]
Settlements Toronto, Ontario, Hamilton, Ontario, Rochester, New York
References [1]
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

Lake Ontario (French: Lac Ontario) is one of the five Great Lakes of North America. The lake is bounded on the north by the Canadian province of Ontario and on the south by Ontario's Niagara Peninsula and by the U.S. state of New York. It has the smallest area of all the Great Lakes and is the only one that does not border Michigan.



Map of Lac de Frontenac (now Lake Ontario), showing Teiaiagon and Lac Taronto (now Lake Simcoe).

The lake was previously identified in some maps under different names. In a map drawn in the Relation des Jésuites (1662-1663), the lake has the legend "Lac Ontario ou des Iroquois" and in smaller type "Ondiara". A French map produced in 1712 (currently in the Canadian Museum of Civilization[2]), created by military engineer Jean-Baptiste de Couagne, identified Lake Ontario as "Lac Frontenac". Iroquois people called the lake "Skanadario".


Lake Ontario (43.7° N, 77.9° W) is the eastern-most and smallest in surface area (7,540 square miles, 19,529 km²)[1] of the Great Lakes, although it exceeds Lake Erie in volume (393 cubic miles, 1639 km³). It is the 14th largest lake in the world and has a shoreline 712 miles (1146 km) long.

Lake Ontario has an elevation of 246 feet (75 m)[1] above sea level. Its length is 193 miles (311 km), and its width is 53 miles (85 km). The average depth is 283 feet (86 m), with a maximum depth of 802 feet (244 m).[1]

Its primary inlet is the Niagara River (from Lake Erie) and primary outlet is the St. Lawrence River. Other major rivers which flow into it include the Don River; Humber River; Trent River; the Cataraqui River; the Genesee River; the Oswego River; the Black River; and the Salmon River. Other notable geographic features include Hamilton Harbour, the Bay of Quinte, the Toronto Islands, Irondequoit Bay and the Thousand Islands. The Bay of Quinte separates most of Prince Edward County from the north shore except for a 2 mile (3km) stretch of land connecting it to the mainland. The largest island on the lake is Wolfe Island located near Kingston at the St. Lawrence River entrance. It is accessible by ferry from both Canada and the U.S.

A portion of the Great Lakes Waterway passes through the lake, which is accessible from upstream by the Welland Canal and from downstream by the St. Lawrence Seaway. The Trent-Severn Waterway for pleasure boats connects Lake Ontario at the Bay of Quinte to Georgian Bay of Lake Huron passing through the inland Lake Simcoe. The Rideau Waterway, also for pleasure boats, connects Lake Ontario at Kingston to the Ottawa River at Ottawa. The Oswego Canal connects the lake at Oswego to the New York State Canal System, with outlets to the Hudson River, Lake Erie, and Lake Champlain.

A large conurbation called the Golden Horseshoe (including major cities of Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario) is on the Canadian side at the western end of the lake. Other centres on the Canadian side with ports include St. Catharines, Oshawa, Cobourg and Kingston near the St. Lawrence River inlet. Close to 9 million people or over a quarter of Canada's population lives within the watershed of Lake Ontario.

The American shore of the lake is largely rural, with the exception of Rochester, New York and the much smaller port at Oswego, New York. The city of Syracuse is 40 miles (65 km) inland from the lakeshore and is connected to it by the New York State Canal System. Over 2 million people live in Lake Ontario's American watershed.

A high-speed passenger/vehicle ferry service across Lake Ontario between Toronto and Rochester was launched on June 17, 2004, using the vessel Spirit of Ontario I. The service was canceled on January 10, 2006. The Crystal Lynn II, out of Irondequoit, New York has been operating on Lake Ontario between Irondequoit Bay and Henderson Harbor since May 2000, Operated by Capt. Bob Tein.

On the south shore, breezes off the cool lake tend to retard fruit bloom until the spring frost danger is past, and the area has become a major fruit growing area, with apples, cherries, pears, plums, and peaches grown in many commercial orchards on both sides of Rochester. The Canadian part of the south shore, known as the Niagara Peninsula is also a major fruit-growing and wine-making area located between Stoney Creek and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Apple varieties that tolerate a more extreme climate are grown on the lake's north shore, around Cobourg.


Great Lakes Circle Tour

The Great Lakes Circle Tour is a designated scenic road system connecting all of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River.[3]


The lake was carved out of soft, weak Silurian rocks by the Wisconsonian ice age glacier, which expanded the preglacial Ontarian River valley of approximately the same orientation. The material that was pushed southward was piled in central and western New York in the form of drumlins, kames, and moraines, which reorganized entire drainage systems. As the glacier retreated from New York, it still dammed the present St. Lawrence valley, so that the lake was at a higher level. This state is known as Lake Iroquois. During that time the lake drained through present-day Syracuse, New York into the Mohawk River. The old shoreline that was created during this lake stage can be easily recognized by the (now dry) beaches and wave-cut hills 10 to 25 miles (15 to 40 km) south of the present shoreline.

When the glacier finally melted from the St. Lawrence valley, the outlet was below sea level, and the lake became for a short time a bay of the ocean. Gradually the land rebounded from the release of the weight of about 6,500 feet (2000 m) of ice that had been stacked on it. It is still rebounding about 12 inches (30 cm) per century in the St. Lawrence area. Since the ice left that area last, that is the area where the most rapid rebound still is occurring. This means that the lake bed is gradually tilting southward, inundating the south shore and turning river valleys into bays. Both north and south shores have shoreline erosion, but the tilting amplifies this effect on the south shore, causing loss to property owners.


Toronto from the bay in 1901.

The lake was a border between the Huron and their vassals and the Iroquois Confederacy in pre-European times. The first documented European to reach the lake was Étienne Brûlé in 1615. Artifacts which are believed to be of Norse origin have been found in the area, indicating possible earlier visits by Europeans, but as yet unproven. A series of trading posts was established by both the British and French, such as Fort Oswego in 1722 and Fort Rouillé 1750 (in Toronto). After the French and Indian War, all the forts were under British control. This remained the case even in the years following the American Revolution until the signing of the Jay Treaty in 1794, when forts on the U.S. side of lake became American. Permanent, non-military European settlement began during the American Revolution and occurred before the other great lakes. It became a hub of commercial activity following the War of 1812 with canal building on both sides of the border and was heavily traveled by lake steamers, which reached their peak activity in the mid-19th century before competition from railway lines.



Lake Ontario as seen from top of CN Tower.

The lake has a natural seiche rhythm of eleven minutes. The seiche effect normally is only about ¾ inches (2 cm) but can be greatly amplified by earth movement, winds, and atmospheric pressure changes.

Because of its great depth, the entire lake rarely freezes in winter. During the winter months, the lake typically develops an ice sheet covering between 10% and 90% of the lake area depending on the severity of the winter. Ice sheets typically form along the shoreline and in slack water bays, where the lake is not as deep. The winters of 1977 through 1981 were especially severe, and ice sheet coverage was up to 95-100% in some eastern sections of the lake.

When the cold winds of winter pass over the warmer water of the lake, they pick up moisture and drop it as lake effect snow. Since the prevailing winter winds are from the northwest, the southern and southeastern shoreline of the lake is referred to as the snowbelt. In some winters the area between Oswego and Pulaski may receive twenty or more feet (600 cm) of snowfall. Also impacted by lake effect snow is the Tug Hill Plateau, an area of elevated land that is about 20 miles to the east of Lake Ontario. Tug Hill's elevation, along with ample moisture from the lake, creates ideal conditions for snowfall. The "Hill", as it is often referred to, typically receives more snow than any other region in the eastern United States. As a result, Tug Hill is a popular location for winter enthusiasts, such as snowmobilers and cross-country skiers. The combination of lake-effect snow often reaches inland to Syracuse, which often takes the crown for the most winter snowfall accumulation of any large city in the United States, though other cities in the world receive more snow annually (such as Quebec City, which averages 135 inches, and Sapporo, Japan, which receives 250 inches each year and is often regarded as the snowiest city in the world). Smaller towns in Michigan's Upper Peninsula like Houghton or Calumet do receive more snow.

The lake also produces microclimates, they have the effect of delaying the onset of fall frost (particularly on the south shore) allowing for tender fruit production in a continental climate. Cool onshore winds also retard early bloom of plants and flowers until later in the spring season, protecting them from possible frost damage. Foggy conditions (particularly in fall) can be created by thermal contrasts and can be an impediment for recreational boaters.

In a normal winter, Lake Ontario will be at most one quarter ice-covered, in a mild winter almost completely unfrozen. Lake Ontario has completely frozen over on only two recorded occasions: during the winter of 1874-75, and in February 1934.

Environmental concerns

Lake Ontario and city of Toronto in the background. Toronto is a city based on Lake Ontario.

During modern times, the lake became heavily polluted from industrial chemicals, agricultural fertilizers, untreated sewage such as phosphates in laundry detergents, and chemicals. Some pollutant chemicals that have been found in the lake include DDT, benzo[a]pyrene and other pesticides; PCBs, aramite, lead, mirex, mercury, and carbon tetrachloride.

By the 1960s and 1970s, the increased pollution caused frequent algal blooms to occur in the summer. These blooms killed large numbers of fish, and left decomposing piles of filamentous algae and dead fish along the shores. At times the blooms became so thick that waves could not break.

Since the 1960s and 1970s, environmental concerns have forced a cleanup of industrial and municipal wastes. Cleanup has been accomplished through better treatment plants, tighter environmental regulations, and increased public awareness. Today, Lake Ontario has recovered much of its pristine quality. For example, walleye, a fish species considered as a marker of clean water, are now found. The lake has also become an important sport fishery, with introduced Coho and Chinook salmon now thriving there.

Invasive species are a problem for Lake Ontario, particularly lamprey and zebra mussels. Lamprey are being controlled by poisoning in the juvenile stage in the streams where they breed. Zebra mussels in particular are difficult to control, and pose major challenges for the lake and its waterways.



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Wright, John W. (ed.); Editors and reporters of The New York Times (2006). The New York Times Almanac (2007 ed.). New York, New York: Penguin Books. pp. 64. ISBN 0-14-303820-6. 
  2. ^ Museum of Civilization
  3. ^ Great Lakes Circle Tour.

See also

Great Lakes in General

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

North America : Great Lakes : Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario is one of the Great Lakes on the border between the United States of America and Canada. Sequentially the last of the lakes, Ontario is the smallest by surface area and second-smallest in size. Water comes in from Lake Erie via the Niagara River (and Niagara Falls) and leaves via the Saint Lawrence River, headed for the Atlantic Ocean.

Although the Lake Ontario shore is heavily populated and developed in Canada, the American shore tends to be undeveloped and rural.

Nearby destinations

Lake Ontario is shared by the Canadian province of Ontario and the U.S. state of New York. The largest city on the American side is Rochester; the largest on the Canadian side is Toronto. Both countries' cities of Niagara Falls are nearby. The Thousand Islands region lies at the lake's outlet.

American destinations worth visiting along the lakeshore include the historic village of Sackets Harbor, the city of Oswego (particularly during its large Harborfest celebration each summer, renowned for its fireworks display), and state beaches such as Fair Haven, Hamlin, Southwick or Westcott. A long-running Renaissance Fair takes place in Sterling during July and August.

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Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

Lake Ontario
by Elizabeth F. Ellet
from Landmark Anthologies: Selections from the American poets (1840)

          Deep thoughts o'ershade my spirit while I gaze
             Upon the blue depths of thy mighty breast:
          Thy glassy face is bright with sunset rays,
             And thy far-stretching waters are at rest,
          Save the small wave that on thy margin plays,
             Lifting to summer airs its flashing crest;
          While the fleet hues across thy surface driven,
          Mingle afar in the embrace of heaven.

          Thy smile is glorious when the morning's spring
            Gives half its glowing beauty to the deep;
          When the dusk swallow dips his drooping wing,
            And the gay winds that o'er thy bosom sweep,
         Tribute from dewy woods and violets bring,
            Thy restless billows in their gifts to steep.
         Thou'rt beautiful when evening moonbeams shine,
         And the soft hour of night and stars is thine.

         Thou hast thy tempests, too; the lightning's home
            Is near thee, though unseen; thy peaceful shore,
         When storms have lash'd these waters into foam,
            Echoes full oft the pealing thunder's roar.
         Thou hast dark trophies: the unhonour'd tomb
            Of those now sought and wept on earth no more:
         Full many a goodly form, the loved and brave,
         Lies whelm'd and still beneath thy sullen wave.

         The world was young with thee; this swelling flood
            As proudly swell'd, as purely met the sky,
         When sound of life roused not the ancient wood,
            Save the wild eagle's scream, or panther's cry.
         Here on this verdant bank the savage stood,
            And shook his dart and battle-axe on high,
         While hues of slaughter tinged thy billows blue,
         As deeper and more close the conflict grew.

         Here, too, at early morn, the hunter's song
            Was heard from wooded isle and grassy glade;
         And here at eve, these cluster'd bowers among,
            The low, sweet carol of the Indian maid,
         Chiding the slumbering breeze and shadows long,
            That kept her lingering lover from the shade:
         While, scarcely seen, thy willing waters o'er,
         Sped the light bark that bore him to the shore.

         Those scenes are past. The spirit of changing years
            Has breathed on all around save thee alone.
         More faintly the receding woodland hears
            Thy voice, once full and joyous as its own.
         Nations have gone from earth, nor trace appears
            To tell their tale---forgotten or unknown.
         Yet here, unchanged, untamed, thy waters lie,
         Azure, and clear, and boundless as the sky.

PD-icon.svg This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

LAKE ONTARIO, the smallest andymost easterly of the Great Lakes of North America. It lies between 4 3° 11' and 44° 12' N. and 76° 12' and 79° 49' W., and is bounded on the N. by the province of Ontario and on the S. by the state of New York. It is roughly elliptical, its major axis, 180 m. long, lying nearly east and west, and its greatest breadth is 53 m. The area of its water surface is 7260 sq. m. and the total area of its basin 32,980 sq. m. Its greatest depth is 738 ft., its average depth much in excess of that of Lake Erie, and it is as a general rule free from outlying shoals or dangers.

On the north side of the lake the land rises gradually from the shore, and spreads out into broad plains, which are thickly settled by farmers. A marked feature of the topography of the south shore is what is known as the Lake ridge, or, as it approaches the Niagara river, the Mountain ridge. This ridge extends, with breaks, from Sodus to the Niagara river, and is distant from the lake 3 to 8 m. The low ground between it and the shore, and between the Niagara escarpment and the water on the Canadian shore, is a celebrated fruit growing district, covered with vineyards, peach, apple and pear orchards and fruit farms. The Niagara river is the main feeder of the lake; the other largest rivers emptying into the lake are the Genesee, Oswego and Black from the south side, and the Trent, which discharges into the upper end of the bay of Quinte, a picturesque inlet 70 m. long, on the north shore, between the peninsula of Prince Edward, near the eastern extremity of the lake, and the mainland. The east end of the lake, where it is 30 m. wide, is crossed by a chain of five islands, and the lake has its outlet near Kingston, where it discharges into the head of the St Lawrence river between a group of islands. Elsewhere the lake is practically free from islands. There is a general surface current down the lake towards the eastward of about 8 m. a day, strongest along the south shore, but no noticeable return current. As a result of its relatively great depth there are seldom any great fluctuations of level in this lake due to wind disturbance, but the lake follows the general rule of the Great Lakes (q.v.) of seasonal and annual variation. Standard high water (of 1870) is 2.77 ft. below the mean level, of 246.18 ft. above mean sea-level, and standard low water 3.24 ft. below the same plane. The lake never freezes over, and is less obstructed by ice than the other lakes, but the harbours are closed by ice from about the middle of December to the middle of April.

The commerce of Lake Ontario is limited in comparison with that of the lakes above Niagara Falls, and is restricted to vessels 1 ? [[Onteniente Oolite]] that can pass through the Welland canal locks, which are 2 7 0 ft. long, 45 ft. wide and 14 ft. deep. Freight consists principally of coal shipped from Charlotte, Great and Little Sodus bays and Oswego to Canadian ports in the lakes, and to ports on the St Lawrence river; of grain shipped through the Welland canal to the St Lawrence; and of lumber from Canadian ports. There is a large passenger traffic, including pleasure trips, principally radiating from Toronto. Ports on the lake are limited in capacity to vessels drawing not more than 14 ft. of water. The principal Canadian ports are Kingston, at the head of the St Lawrence river; Toronto, where the harbour is formed by an island with improved entrance channels constructed both east and west of it; and Hamilton, at the head of the lake, situated on a landlocked lagoon, connected with the main lake by Burlington channel, an artificial cut. The principal United States port is Oswego, where a breakwater has been built, making an outer harbour. The construction of a breakwater was undertaken in 1907 by the United States government at Cape Vincent to form a harbour where westbound vessels can shelter from storm before crossing the lake.

The difference of 327 ft. in level between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie is overcome by the Welland canal, which leads southward from Port Dalhousie. It accommodates vessels 255 ft. in length, with a draught of 14 ft. The Murray canal, opened for traffic on the 14th of April 1890, extends from Presqu'ile bay, on the north of the lake, to the head of the bay of Quinte, and enables vessels to avoid 70 m. of open navigation. It is i 1 ft. deep below the lowest lake level, and has no locks. It is proposed to have the eastern terminus of the Trent canal system '(see' Great Lakes) at the head of the bay of Quinte, entering through the Trent river. At Kingston the Rideau canal, extending 128 m. to Ottawa, enters the St Lawrence river at the foot of the lake.


Bulletin No. 17, Survey of Northern and Northwestern Lakes, U.S. Lake Survey Office (Detroit, Mich., 1907); Publication No. 108 D., Sailing Directions for Lake Ontario, Hydrographic Office, U.S. Navy (Washington, D.C., 1902); St Lawrence Pilot (7th ed.), Hydrographic Office, Admiralty (London, 1906).

(W. P. A.)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Wikipedia has an article on:


Proper noun

Lake Ontario


Lake Ontario

  1. One of the five Great Lakes of North America.


Simple English

File:Lake Ontario
Lake Ontario seen from near Wolcott, New York, USA
File:Great Lakes Lake
Lake Ontario shown in darker blue

Lake Ontario is the smallest of the Great Lakes in North America.

It is found on the border between Canada and the United States of America. Its inlet is the Niagara River (from Niagara Falls), and its outlet is the Saint Lawrence River. Nearly 9 million Canadians live near Lake Ontario.


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