Home > Basics > Lakes

Lake Ontario

Coordinates: 43.276°N 77.360°W

Elevation: 246 feet/75 meters


What is Lake Ontario?

Lake Ontario is one of five large, connected, fresh-water glacial lakes in North America called the Great Lakes. Lake Ontario is the most eastern of the five and, because the lakes run from west to east, is the lake that receives the outflow last before the water flows via its outlet, the St. Lawrence River, into the Atlantic Ocean. Lake Ontario is directly connected to another Great Lake--Lake Erie--by its primary inlet, the Niagara River, which flows through the Niagara River Gorge and over Niagara Falls and Horseshoe Falls into Lake Ontario.


Lake Ontario is bounded by seven New York State counties and the province of Ontario in Canada. Three of the New York State counties--Monroe, Wayne, and Cayuga--are in the Finger Lakes Region.


Lake Ontario is the smallest of the Great Lakes, but compared to the 11 Finger Lakes, it's huge, with visible tides and waves and storms that can be so severe as to sink large ships. Consequently, Lake Ontario has a number of lighthouses on both the American and the Canadian shores.

Lake Ecology

Seneca Lake, the deepest of the Finger Lakes, is 618 ft./188 m. Yet, Lake Ontario is has a maximum depth of more than 800 ft./243.8 m. It takes 100 years for the lake to completely flush itself, and it has only frozen over completely twice in recorded history--during the winter of 1874-75 and in February 1934. In those years, it would have been possible to cross from Rochester to Toronto, a distance of roughly 50 mi./80.4 km.


Because of its size, Lake Ontario creates a cooling effect in summer and a warming effect in winter. That's why so many fruit orchards can be found along the lake in Monroe, Wayne, and Cayuga counties. These orchards produce some of the best fruit in the country. (Pick your own fruit.)


The Lake Ontario shore is littered with billions (trillions?) of rounded red and tan, fist-sized sandstone rocks called cobblestones. Many of the houses in the area of the lake ridge are made of these cobblestones. Cobblestone architecture was thought to have been brought to the Finger Lakes region by English laborers who worked on the Erie Canal.


The natural shoreline of Lake Ontario in the Finger Lakes, New York, USA, is littered with billions of fist-sized cobblestones. 

Like all of the Great Lakes, Lake Ontario is heavily polluted with a toxic soup of more than 350 identified chemicals, including DDT, PCBs, mercury, lead, and carbon tetrachloride. Agricultural run-off as both feces and fertilizer are still contributing to the poor health of the lake's ecology. These contribute to algae blooms, which cause phytoplankton and zooplankton to crash, fish die-offs, and other water quality problems.


In addition, many non-native species of plants and animals, including more than 25 species of fish, have been introduced into the lake either deliberately by humans or as a result of human activity.


Despite all the abuse, Lake Ontario is still a beautiful lake that offers a wealth of recreational opportunities. The Genesee River, which begins in Pennsylvania, runs through Letchworth State Park and exits into Lake Ontario at the Port of Rochester. Along the Genesee River in the City of Rochester, you'll find the Genesee Riverway Trail and the Genesee Valley Park. At the Boathouse in Genesee Valley Park, you'll find the Genesee Waterways Center where you an rent a kayak.


Windsports are popular at Webster Park, Montana Beach, Durand Beach, and East Bay Road. For more details about locations and to connect with those who are really in the know, see Rochester Windsports.


A boat passes by the Port of Rochester in the Finger Lakes, New York, USA, as it heads upstream along the Genesee River. Lake Ontario is in the background. 

The River flows over three falls that can be photographed from strategic points overlooking the river before it spreads out at the Port of Rochester. Here you can moor a boat, eat at a number of restaurants, visit the carousel at Ontario Beach Park or check out the Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse.


To the west of the Port of Rochester is a series of ponds and bays that make up the Braddock Bay Fish and Wildlife Management Area. A great place to kayak and watch birds (especially during migration), you'll find this area a peaceful place to explore. In the Town of Greece you'll find Braddock Bay Park with its bird observation platform maintained by Braddock Bay Raptor Research.


Braddock Bay on Lake Ontario in the Finger Lakes, New York, USA. 

Continuing west you'll come to Hamlin Beach State Park just before you reach the western boundary of Monroe County and the Finger Lakes Region. If your're driving, the entire route along the shore here is called the Lake Ontario Parkway. It's a lovely drive, part of the Seaway Trail that runs all along the Lake Ontario shore in New York State. Visiting historic sites on the Seaway Trail will give you some of the history of the lake and the shore. The Lake Ontario Parkway is designated a state bike route. The ride is easy on wide, well-paved shoulders. There are a number of places along here where you can stop to picnic on the lake shore.


To the immediate east of the Port of Rochester is the Durand-Eastman Park, a popular park at any time of the year. Next is Irondequoit Bay and Irondequoit Bay State Marine Park. This large bay is used for mooring boats and has a number of restaruants, kayak rental facilities, and other shops on its shores.


Sandy cliffs overlook a marina in Irondequoit Bay in the Finger Lakes, New York, USA.

 Traveling further east along the shore of the lake, you'll come, either by boat or by car, to the town of Pultneyville. Next to the marina are a restaurant and some nice shops. The town itself is small, quaint, and easy to walk around and visit.


Maxwell Bay is the next stop along the shore. This is a small bay with a state-owned boat launch for kayaks and canoes. Just to the west of the bay is the 150-acre Beechwood State Park.


Sailboats moored at a marina in Sodus Bay along the Lake Ontario shore in the Finger lakes, New York, USA.

Continuing east is Sodus Bay, a large bay with three islands, eateries, marinas, a sandy beech, and a lighthouse. Just east of Sodus Bay is Chimney Bluffs State Park with its enormous sandy cliffs. The next significant bay to the east is Little Sodus Bay in the village of Fair Haven in Cayuga County. Between Sodus Bay and Little Sodus Bay are 6,179 scattered acres that make up the Lake Shore Marshes Wildlife Management Area. Here, you'll find boat launch sites, hiking trails, and places to watch birds, snowshoe, and cross-country ski.


Fair Haven is a small but pleasant village with only a few amenities, but it does have Fair Haven Beach State Park, a large park with just about everything from camping to boat rentals. If you're driving, you may want to stop at the nearby Sterling Renaissance Festival. It's great fun!


WARNING: Many of the fish in Lake Ontario and Irondequoit Bay are contaminated with PCBs, Mirex, and Dioxin. The New York State Department of Health (DoH) recommends that people eat no carp from the lake or Irondequoit Bay and no channel catfish, no lake trout over 25", and no brown trout over 20" from the lake. It also recommends that people eat no more than one meal per month of chinook salmon, rainbow trout, white sucker, smaller lake trout, smaller brown trout, and coho salmon over 25". Women of childbearing age and children under the age of 15 should eat none. Killing or possessing American eels is illegal. DoH Advisory

Access to the Lake

Public access to Lake Ontario is good as there are a number of public parks and public and private marinas and boat launches. There are no hotels directly on the lakeshore in the three counties in the Finger Lakes, but there are a number of bed and breakfasts and campgrounds that are on or near the shore. Many people rent cottages for their stay and quite a few of these are also on or near the shore.


Cayuga County

Anchor Resort Bed and Breakfast

14424 W. Bay Rd.

Sterling, NY 13156

P.O. Box 6

Fair Haven, NY 13064


Black Creek Farm Bed & Breakfast

13615 Mixer Rd.

Fair Haven, NY 13064


Pleasant Beach Inn

14477 Fancher Ave.

Fair Haven, NY 13064


Maplegrove Bed & Breakfast

1275 State Rt. 104A

Sterling, NY 13156


Wayne County

Raked South Garden Bed and Breakfast

7826 Jay St.

Pultneyville, NY 14538


Maxwell Creek Inn Bed & Breakfast

7563 Lake Rd.

Sodus, NY 14551


Carriage House Inn Bed & Breakfast

8375 Wickham Blvd.

Sodus Point, NY 14555


The Cliffs at Sodus Point

7961 Lake Rd.

Sodus Point, NY 14555


Silver Waters Bed & Breakfast

8420 Bay St.

Sodus Point, NY 14555


Bonnie Castle Farm Bed and Breakfast

6603 Bonnie Castle Rd.

Wolcott, NY 14590


New Hartford on the Ridge

5980 New Hartford St.

Wolcott, NY 14590



Cayuga County

Fair Haven Beach State Park

A couple takes a a leisurely sail on Lake Ontraio in the Finger lakes, New York, USA.13945 Park Rd. (Rt. 104A)

Fair Haven, NY 13064


Grant's Vacation Park

Lake St. Ext.

Fair Haven, NY 13064


Shady Shores Campground

14955 West Bay Rd.

P.O. Box 24

Fair Haven, NY 13064


Shawn's Marina and Campground

14687 Lake St.

Fair Haven, NY 13064


Wildwood Lakes

610 Camp Rd.

Fair Haven, NY 13064


Duck Lake Campgrounds

Duck Lake Rd.

Red Creek, NY 13143


Sterling Creek Campground

Juniper Hill Rd.

Sterling, NY 13156


Monroe County

Hamlin Beach State Park

1 Camp Rd.

Hamlin, NY 14464


Webster Park

255 Holt Rd.

Webster, NY 14580


Wayne County

Holiday Harbor Resort/RV Park & Marina

9415 Blind Sodus Bay Rd.

Red Creek, NY 13143


SODUS POINTCanada geese, mallards, and a variety of gulls join humans on the beach at Ontario Beach Park on a warm summer's day along the shore of Lake Ontario in the Finger Lakes, New York, USA.
South Shore RV Park

7867 Lake Rd.

Sodus Point, NY 14555


Anchor Campsites

Hughes Marina

5003 Lake Rd.

Williamson, NY 14589


Cherry Grove Campground

12669 Ridge Rd.

Wolcott, NY 14590


Lake Bluff Campground

7150 Garner Rd.

Wolcott, NY 14590


Port Bay Marina & Campground

8031 E. Port Bay Rd.

Wolcott, NY 14890


Port Bay RV Park and Campground

8346 E. Port Bay Rd.

Wolcott, NY 14890



Brown's Village Inn Cottage

Stafford St.

Fair Haven, NY 13064


Chengerian on the Lake







Rental Plus

Resort Property Rentals of the Finger Lakes

Sodus Bay Lake Ontario Cottage & Boat Rentals

Vacation Rentals by Owner




Tour Boats

The Harbor Town Belle
Wild Hearts Charters


Boat Launches

Boat Rentals

Anchor Resort & Marina

14424 W. Bay Rd.

Sterling, NY 13156

P.O. Box 6

Fair Haven, NY 13064


Sodus Bay Lake Ontario Cottage & Boat Rentals



Irondequoit Bay/Irondequoit Creek

BayCreek Paddling Center

1099 Empire Blvd.

Rochester, NY 14609


Lake Ontario

Braddock Bay Paddlesports

416 Manitou Rd.

Hilton, NY 14468


Guided Tours/Sea Kayaking

Seayakers Outfitters

4300 Canandaigua Rd.

Walworth, NY 14568




Ontario Sailing Instruction & Charters

Katlynn Marine (home base)

7448 State Route 14

Sodus Point, NY 14555


Silver Waters

12025 Delling Rd.

Wolcott, NY 14590



Ontario Sailing Instruction & Charters

Katlynn Marine (home base)

7448 State Route 14

Sodus Point, NY 14555


Silver Waters

12025 Delling Rd.

Wolcott, NY 14590


See Also



Updated 25 July 2012








Your ad could go here!


Your ad could go here!