Lake Ontario is the smallest of the five Great Lakes in North America. Its geographic coordinates are 43°42’0.00″ N -77°54’0.00″ W. Though smaller in surface area than Lake Erie, it has more volume. Lake Ontario has a volume of 393.5 cubic miles. It more than triples Lake Erie’s volume of 115.2 cubic miles. It also has a much deeper average depth of 280 ft. Lake Erie is a much shallower body of water. Surrounded by Canada on three sides and the State of New York on the other, Ontario has a surface area of 7,320 square miles. Lake Ontario is 52.82 miles wide and has a length of 193 miles. It’s 243 feet above sea level.

Lake Ontario

All Great Lakes Connect

All the Great Lakes connect eventually exiting out the northeast corner of Lake Ontario through the St. Lawrence River into the Atlantic Ocean. Lake Erie adjoins Lake Ontario, dumping into it through the Niagara River. Lake Ontario is fed by several rivers and creeks as well. Some of the more notable ones include the Oswego River, The Salmon River, The little Salmon River, and Oak Orchard along with the Black River. The Niagara and others, contribute to the nutrient rich body of water which is Lake Ontario.

Nutrient Rich Ecosystem

Lake Ontario is home to many different species because of its nutrient richness. It has a very diverse make up of Flora and Fauna. Supporting some of the flora plant life are the dunes located along the Lake shoreline. Sandra E. Bonanno from The Nature Conservancy and David G. White the Program Coordinator of the New York Sea Grant Extension reported that over 315 different plant species inhabit the dunes. These plants stabilize the system and help to prevent erosion. There are flora in the lake body itself, too!

Aquatic Flora

Phytoplankton are present in Lake Ontario. These include Blue-green algae, Green algae, Diatoms, and Flagellates. Also included are underwater palnts and weeds such as Water Lilly’s and Duckweed. Other invasive include Brazilian Elodea, Fanwort, European Water Chestnut, European Lake Sedge, Eurasian Milfoil, Curly-Leaved Pondweed, and Anacharis with Potomogeten!

Aquatic Fauna

Zooplankton are among the smallest of the Fauna world inhabiting Ontario. Most notorious is the invasive Spiny Waterfleas. The most prolific of which are the Spiny and Fish Hook varieties. They predate on the native Raptorial waterfleas occuring naturally in the Lake. Other zooplankton present include Daphnia, Calanoid copepods, and Rotifers. These in most instances feed upon the phyto plankton present in the Lake and provide feed for smaller fish and vertebrates.

Fish Species Diversity

With such a nutrient rich body of water, it’s no wonder that it hold such a huge diversity of fish species. Interestingly, the king salmon which the Lake is most known for in the fishing world, are not native to this body of water! Neither are the Coho salmon! Being first introduced back in 1873, it wasn’t until afterwards they became a sustainable fishery in the early 1970’s. Their primary function at that time was to forage on the over abundance of Alewives, an invasive member of the herring family.

Maritime Transport And Distribution

Maritime shipping on Lake Ontario has been going on for over 200 years. Large freighters and barges are able to take advantage of the deep shipping channels available. It is a multi-billion dollar industry. Via the St. Lawrence SeaWay entrance into lake Ontario, millions of metric tons of products and materials are brought into the United States and Canada yearly. The gateway to the other four Great Lakes, Ontario is an integral part to maritime commerce to over 100 different ports in the Great Lakes chain. Most notable of the Ontario ports is the Oswego Harbor. It’s equipped to load and offload the biggest of Tankers and Freighters.

Oswego, New York

Oswego, NY is known as The Port City of Central New York and is a small historical city which serves the economy of Lake Ontario. The outdoors is in the blood of the residents and the economy centers around tourism and the outdoors. Oswego has a distinct and important history. As early as the 1700’s, the city served as a location for a British trading post and a major railroad hub connecting multiple lines. Today Oswego celebrates the Harborfest festival each year which draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to celebrate their town and their unique connection to tis body of water.

The Fishing Industry

Lake Ontario is home to a multi-billion dollar fishing industry both in the United States and Canada. It’s made up of rereational fishermen, commercial netters, and charter boats. People come from all over the world for Lake Ontario fishing. As a matter of fact, commercially harvested fish such as yellow perch are processed and sold in the United States and Europe as well. Accordingly, Ports and marinas based on the Lake cater to both charters and rec boats along the southern shore in both the US and Canada. There are marinas on the Canadian north shore as well, most notably, Bluffers Park in Scarboroug.

Taking Care Of Lake Ontario

Who takes care of this Great Lake? Being such an enormous body of water surounded by two countries, who does this! The first US-Canadian agreement to do so originated in 1972. Its primary focus was to stop pollution of the Lake, specifically a reduction in the amount of phospherous entering the Lake. The EPA has many different programs and strategies geared towards the betterment of Lake Ontario. These include eliminating pollutant sources along with clean up and restoration. The EPA is involved Internationally with Canada in managing this enormous resource. For more information contact the EPA or Ontario’s Great Lake Strategy. The New York state DEC in conjunction with Federal Fish and Wildlife is responsible for probagating and stocking trout and salmon into Lake Ontario.