FACT SHEET for Proposed Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary


The following facts have been compiled by explorers* with combined experience totaling more than 200 years actively researching and discovering shipwrecks in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

TOTAL shipwrecks in the proposed Lake Ontario sanctuary are estimated to be 62**.

  • 44 of the 62 wrecks in the Lake Ontario proposed sanctuary are non-recreational diving depths of over 130 feet.
  • 6 of the 62 wrecks are in a recreational diving depth of less than 130 feet off the southern shore of Wayne, Cayuga, and Oswego counties. 
  • 12 of the 62 wrecks are in recreational diving depths of less than 130 feet off shore from Jefferson County. Many of these ships are located 10 to 20 miles out in Lake Ontario.
  • 40 of the 62 shipwrecks have been discovered by exploration teams beginning in 1970.
  • The 22 remaining undiscovered Lake Ontario shipwrecks are believed to be in depths of over 400 feet and many miles from shore.
  • Using The Abandoned Shipwrecks Act of 1987 definition*** there are 18 shipwrecks within the Thousand Islands alternative boundary.
  • 11 of the Thousand Islands shipwrecks lie under or next to the Seaway channel.
  • There are no major undiscovered shipwrecks in the Thousand Islands alternative area. All sites are known by the scuba diving community. 
  • 6 of the St Lawrence shipwrecks are popular dive sites – 2 are very HIGH RISK
  • 12 of the 18 Thousand Islands shipwrecks are not popular dive sites. Some are Some are located in high boat traffic areas or in shallow water without shore access.
  • The most actively dived shipwreck off the southern shore is the schooner St. Peter located off Pultneyville, NY.
  • Oswego shipwrecks: Tug Cormorant, Tug Mary Kay has been totally smashed up by ice, Steamer David Mills is just timbers without any hull structure.
  • Many of the Jefferson County shipwrecks have fallen apart on the bottom. Several are located in the federal channel. These shipwreck locations have not been disclosed to the public.
  • Recreational dive sites with buoys have been maintained for years by local dive clubs.

*Shipwreckexplorers/researchers: Tim Caza, Dennis Gerber, Jim Kennard, Dennis McCarthy

**Shipwrecks on land, private property or are small pieces of wreckage were not considered in this total.

***Shipwreck Definition: from the Federal Abandoned Shipwrecks Act of 1987, https://www.nps.gov/archeology/submerged/Definitions.htm 

Shipwreck as defined in the Act is a vessel or wreck, its cargo and other contents. The vessel or wreck may be intact or broken into pieces, scattered on or embedded in the submerged lands or in coralline formations. A vessel or wreck includes, but is not limited to, its hull, apparel, armaments, cargo, and other contents. Isolated artifacts and materials not in association with a wrecked vessel, whether intact or broken and scattered or embedded, do not fit the definition of a shipwreck

Legal Protection of Shipwrecks: Federal: Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1987-1988; New York State: Section 233 of NYS Education Law; Section 106 National Historic Preservation Act and Section 14.09 State Historic Preservation Act

Wind turbine development: A marine sanctuary will not prevent wind turbines from being developed within the proposed Lake Ontario Marine Sanctuary.




Add your comment

by Anonymous - Already have an account? Login now!
Your Name:  

Enter the text you see in the image below
What do you see?
Can't read the image? View a new one.
Your comment will appear after being approved.

Related Posts

A large crane and associated construction equipment with an estimate worth of over $700,000 lost in a violent October gale in 1981 has been discovered by a team of shipwreck explorers in Lake Ontario.  more »

Oswego, NY: At approximately 4:40am on the night of November 17th 1879 the crew of the dredge Gordon fought for their lives in a Lake Ontario gale. Few lived to tell the tale of the last moments before the barge turned on its side and sank in deep water....  more »

While searching for historic shipwrecks off Oswego we occasionally find modern boats on the bottom of Lake Ontario, the majority of which have been houseboats. Experienced boaters know that the lake can sometimes change very rapidly from calm waters into...  more »

Rochester, New York - A mid 1800's schooner has been discovered in deep water off the southern shore of Lake Ontario near Oak Orchard, New York. Shipwreck enthusiasts Jim Kennard and Dan Scoville finally located the old schooner after a search effort that took them more than 5 years.  more »

On June 20th 1874 the two masted scow schooner Shannon let loose her lines from the coal dock at the port of Oswego. Around 4:00pm the Shannon passed Oswego light and headed out into the lake. She had just taken on 100 tons of anthracite coal owned by...  more »

Two canal boats that may date back to the mid 1800’s have been discovered in Lake Ontario by a team of shipwreck explorers. Jim Kennard, Roger Pawlowski, and Roland Stevens located the canal boats using DeepVision side scan sonar while searching for...  more »

Rochester, New York - The wreckage of the schooner Atlas which sank in 1839 during a gale has been located in Lake Ontario. The Atlas may be the oldest confirmed commercial schooner discovered in the Great Lakes. A team of shipwreck enthusiasts, Jim...  more »

Fair Haven, New York - The steamship Bay State has been discovered in the deep depths off the southern shore of Lake Ontario near Fair Haven, NY. Shipwreck explorers, Jim Kennard and Roger Pawlowski located the shipwrecked steamer Bay State utilizing a...  more »

The Lost Ship of the Month for December is the legendary British gunboat HMS Speedy, lost with all hands in 1804 on Lake Ontario. The Speedy is one of the earliest lost ships still missing on the Great Lakes and played a significant role in Canadian...  more »

A mid 1800’s Canadian schooner has been discovered in deep water off the southern shore of Lake Ontario near Sodus Point, New York.  more »

The 152-year-old Canadian built schooner, Etta Belle, has been discovered in deep water off the southern shore of Lake Ontario near Sodus Point, New York. Shipwreck enthusiasts, Jim Kennard and Dan Scoville, located the schooner by using side scan sonar equipment.  more »

HMS Ontario, a British warship built in 1780 has been discovered in deep water off the southern shore of Lake Ontario. Shipwreck enthusiasts Jim Kennard and Dan Scoville located the ship utilizing sophisticated side scanning sonar and an underwater remote operated vehicle. HMS Ontario is the oldest confirmed shipwreck and the only fully intact British warship to have ever been found in the Great Lakes.  more »

Submit your own


Ask a Question

Shipwrecks of Lake Ontario - A Journey of Discovery Book

The National Museum of the Great Lakes is excited to announce the release of a new book titled Shipwrecks of Lake Ontario: A Journey of Discovery. This book contains stories of long lost shipwrecks and the journeys of the underwater explorers who found them, written by Jim Kennard with paintings by Roland Stevens and underwater imagery by Roger Pawlowski.

Buy Now!

Legend of the Lake - New Discovery Edition Book

The recent discovery of the wreck of the British warship Ontario, “the Holy Grail” of Great Lakes shipwrecks, solves several mysteries that have puzzled historians since the ship sank more than two centuries ago. Now, for the first time, the whole tragic story of the Ontario can finally be told.

Buy Now!