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.




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