Island The
Seaway Region

Seaway Map

Geography is not an indoor sport! Get out and explore New York State!


Physical Geography

Human Geography

Economic Geography

Regions of NYS

Winter Lk Ontario

Winter Ice Pack on Lake Ontario. Notice that the lake is unfrozen in the middle, the source of many winter storms in the Seaway Country. However, extremely low temperatures are rare on the shoreline, a micro- climate that promotes fruit farming.


Sunset at Sodus Point: Although winters are fierce along the lakeshore, summer is a very pleasant season. Many "city-dwellers" have camps on the lake, which brings jobs to the region. It is also the source of conflict between tourists with money and the less-prosperous locals.


The Seaway Region:

The Geography of an Inland Coast

Like many states, New York has several highways that are designated "trails." This is one way of promoting tourism, of bringing much needed money into communities, large and small, across the state. One such route is the Seaway Trail, which roughly parallels the shores of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River. The Seaway itself is a series of lakes and connecting rivers or canals that joins the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean, making it possible for large sea-going vessels to travel as far inland as Duluth, Minnesota. And New York's "Inland Coast" is an integral part of that system.

For the purposes of this website on the geography of New York State, I am defining the Seaway Region as the strip of land that borders Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, stretching from just east of Rochester to the Quebec border near Massena. (The rest of the "trail" is discussed in the sections on the Genesee Valley and the Niagara Frontier.) Of course, this is partially an arbitrary geographical decision on my part.  Defining a region is never an exact science.

 There are some common physical characteristics of this region that give it some cohesiveness. First, you need to look at a relief map of the state. To see one visit the Color Landform Atlas website. Notice the ribbon of green that parallels Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. To the east are the Adirondack Mountains and a very isolated area called the Tug Hill Plateau. To the south are the highlands of the Finger Lakes Region. These physical barriers nearly cut the Seaway off from the rest of the state. The Region seems to face away from New York and towards the water.

This is a predominantly rural part of New York State. The largest cities - Oswego, Watertown, Massena - all have populations less than 50,000. Dairy farms and apple orchards dot the landscape. And hauntingly, there are the remains of abandoned farms, slowly returning to the native state. Much of the economy here is tourist-dependent: boating, salmon fishing, summer camps, and sightseeing in the Thousand Islands.

And then there is the climate. The faint of heart do not live here year round. Winters here can be exhausting. The St. Lawrence Valley sees some of the coldest temperatures in the state outside the Adirondacks. For those living near the "Big Lake" there are the dreaded lake effect snows. Winds blowing off Lake Ontario pick up moisture and are warmed by the water. When they reach the coast and the hills beyond, they dump this moisture as snow. The snowfall is not measured just in inches but in feet.
To learn more about Lake Effect Snow, I recommend visiting Buffalo's National Weather Service website. They have a nice map that shows the areas in the state that get hit the hardest.

The news is not all bad. Large bodies of water are slow to warm and slow to cool down. This means that places near the Great Lakes have slightly more moderate temperatures than locations farther inland. These microclimates make the fruit industry possible along the shoreline. Cool breezes off the lake prevent apple trees from blossoming too soon, and it extends the growing season into October. Of course, the moderate summer temperatures make those summer cottages even more inviting when Manhattan is sizzling in the upper 90's.
(A similar scenario of microclimates can also be found along the shores of Lake Erie (Niagara Frontier), the Finger Lakes, and, of course, Long Island's coast. )

And are ready to explore the Seaway!

You are now ready to travel along the Seaway Trail.
Follow this link to find out "What You Should See."

  Webster Park

  Boldt Castle

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