Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Water, Water, Every Where, Nor Any A Drop to Drink

Eastern Lake Ontario

Southwick Beach State Park

As gardeners we have a responsibility to take care of our natural resources and water is one of them, and probably the most important. Without an abundant supply of water our gardens would wither and die.

I stopped by Southwick Beach State Park early in October for some pictures for this issue of the blog. The park was still open for visitors and camping.

On any weekday (except holidays) if you are a New York state resident age 62 or older, you can obtain free vehicle access to any state park or state boat launch with a few exceptions. See Golden Park Program link: NY State Admission- Golden Park Program

We are fortunate enough to have one of the largest, freshwater Great Lakes in the WORLD border part of our State. Lake Ontario connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean through the St. Lawrence River. They were formed by melting glaciers about 10,000 years ago.

Ontario Dune Coalition

This area of Lake Ontario features a 17 mile long area of barrier beaches of dunes, marshes, and ponds that are home to endangered plants and animals. This is the only freshwater dune ecosystem in New York State. More than eight miles of this area is owned and protected by New York State, The Nature Conservancy and Oswego County. Because the dunes are fragile they could possibly be destroyed by overuse of summer tourists to the beaches.

As pictured above in the first picture of this blog post, wooden dune walk-overs have been constructed to protect the dunes from further erosion by use of visitors. Also, in some areas of the wetlands, the dunes have been damaged by past storms, water erosion, and overuse of visitors. The major problem has been from wind-blown waves.

Nursery-grown beach grass has been planted to keep the dunes from further erosion.

Dune stewards have also been hired to monitor the dunes, provide personal communication with visitors, observations of conditions, collection of data from recreational use, and placement of signs and barriers between the beach and sand dunes including snow fencing, where recreation is not permitted.
Snow fencing installed by dune stewards to protect the dunes from recreational use
 and wind-blown waves at Southwick Beach.

Nursery-grown beach grass planted to protect the dunes

Another thing we must be mindful of is the release of mylar balloons or any other helium-filled balloons for public activities. While it's a nice way to remember an event or honor a loved one, they do pose a threat to wildlife. Waterfowl can get tangled in the strings and the balloons are not biodegradable.

Certain pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers should not be used near any body of water or ponds.  They pose a danger to the fresh water because runoff from them can harm the natural balance of the lake. Read the labels before you purchase, use or dispose of a pesticide. They can also harm your wells if they get in the groundwater. Avoid mixing, storing or disposing pesticides within 100' of a well.

The monarch butterflies' fall migration south for the winter follows
 along the shoreline and lays its eggs on the milkweed.

All the photographs in this post were taken in Southwick Beach State Park. They have 28 campsites on the water and several other additional campsites. Hiking, swimming, nature trails, playgrounds, picnic areas, and playing fields are available as well. Cross-country skiing & snowmobiling in the winter. See link below for additional information.

"Water, Water, Every Where, But Nary A Drop to Drink"*

Sadly, the following pictures were taken a few years ago off the eastern end of Lake Ontario (just north of Southwick Beach). One of the largest freshwater lakes on earth, and yes, there is pollution in it. Don't know where this came from. . . city storm sewers, fishing boats, lake freighters, cities like Oswego, Rochester, Niagara Falls, Chicago, Detroit, or even Canada ? ? ? All the great lakes empty into Lake Ontario.

This mess came in after a big storm on the lake which also contained a lot of seaweed. This time of year (which was in August 2009), in this specific little bay, it is normal to get this type of seaweed because the sun and heat speeds up the growth of algae.

There is so much plastic that washes up on the beaches on the eastern end of the lake in the spring and summer. The wind is predominately out of the west so that is why a lot of this garbage ends up here. You see people in the spring bringing bags with them to the beach to help pick up the trash that washes in.

Another threat to the Great Lakes are tiny bits of plastic or "micro beads". These plastics bits may be coming from storm sewers or city wastewaters. It hasn't been determined yet if fish are eating the plastic pieces. It they are these pieces could very well be in the food chain. The tiny bits of plastic appear to be coming from facial scrubs, body washes, toothpaste and other items containing "micro beads". Here is an article about tiny bits of plastic in the Great Lakes. Tiny Bits of Plastic Threat to Great Lakes.

We have been recycling for several years now in our county. I know I am guilty of forgetting to use my reusable shopping bags when I head out to the store. I need to be more mindful myself and make more of a conscientious effort lessen my use of plastic bags.

It's so sad to think that in the 21st century we still have these pollution problems in our fresh waters. . .

* Water, Water, Every Where, Nor Any Drop to Drink - from the Rime of the Ancient Marnier by
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Great Lakes- Wikipedia

Ontario Dune Coalition:

Journal of Extension:

New York State Parks- Southwick Beach:

Lake Ontario most stressed of all Great Lakes: Lake Ontario's Troubled Water

This is a large [pdf] file, but there are beautiful aerial pictures of the dunes, beaches, and wetlands. New York's Eastern Lake Ontario Wetland System: Guidelines for Resource Management of the 21st Century

#LakeOntario #NYStateParks #waterpollution


  1. Such a different Lake Ontario from what we have here. Your end really does get all the mess. Those dunes are beautiful and there is nothing like that at this end. We have both Lakes at our end and Lake Erie does have some deeper beaches. I have quite a few friends that have summer homes on both Lakes at all of them have severe erosion problems.

    1. Yes, the dunes are really beautiful and we are fortunate to have such beautiful beaches at this end of the lake. We have severe erosion problems here as well. What does help this end of the lake is when we get a cold winter and the ice builds up along the shoreline. This actually protects the shoreline from the strong winter and early spring storms that create high waves. Also, in 1973, property owners along the lake had a lot of damage from high lake levels from Hurricane Agnes. I think there was a grant which helped property owners purchase rip-rap to place along the shoreline to protect their properties.