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.
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
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
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),
Lakes, and, of course, Long Island's
And now....you 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."
Go to the next section!