FACTS for Proposed Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary


The following facts have been compiled by explorers with combined experience totaling more than 80 years actively researching and discovering shipwrecks in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

Lake Ontario:

  • 56 shipwrecks* are estimated to be in the proposed Lake Ontario sanctuary
  • Over 80% of the shipwreck are non-recreational diving depths of over 130 feet to 805 feet of water.
  • Only 5 shipwrecks are in recreational diving depths off the southern shore of Wayne, Cayuga, and Oswego counties. 
  • The shipwrecks that 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 from shore and would not be profitable for dive charters. A number of these shipwrecks have fallen apart on the bottom and some are located in the federal channel.
  • Over 70% of these shipwrecks have been discovered by exploration teams beginning in 1970.
  • Oswego: 3 shipwrecks: Tug Cormorant, Tug Mary Kay has been totally smashed up by ice, Steamer David Mills is just timbers and no hull structure. Compared to Lake Michigan Thunder Bay Preserve which has over 85 shipwrecks off Alpena, Michigan.

Thousand Islands:

  • Lawrence River - Thousand Islands area: there are no major undiscovered shipwrecks
  • There are 18 shipwrecks* within the US Thousand Islands alternative boundary only 6 are popular dive sites.
  • 12 of the 18 of the Thousand Islands shipwrecks are not popular dive sites. Some are uninteresting and others located in high boat traffic areas or in shallow water without shore access.
  • 11 of the Thousand Islands shipwrecks lie under or next to the Seaway channel. Two wrecks are very HIGH RISK.

Both areas:

  • Popular recreational dive sites have been buoyed for years by local dive clubs and dive organizations.
  • Shipwrecks in Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River have been protected by both Federal and State laws**
  • Damage to shipwrecks has been due to natural conditions, mussel attachment and downriggers snagging parts of the ship.
  • Any significant increase in recreational opportunities or tourism is highly unlikely with a marine sanctuary in Lake Ontario.

*National Register: Historic Shipwrecks in the proposed sanctuary are any shipwreck over 50 years.  The number eligible for the National Register as nationally significant is unknown. 

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



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