Currently undergoing the designation process
Under the waters of eastern Lake Ontario lie historic shipwrecks that tell the story of America’s history from early Native American settlements to today. These waters were transportation and trade routes for Native Americans and early European explorers. They were the centers for military conflicts from land and sea during the French and Indian War, Revolutionary War, and the War of 1812. And, they supported the development of the American West and the nation’s industrial core. Oswego’s harbor is the oldest freshwater port in the United States, and thus this region’s history is intertwined with the history of nearly every other Great Lakes community.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is proposing to designate the site as one of our nation’s underwater treasures: a national marine sanctuary. The approximately 1,700 square miles proposed for the sanctuary designation encompass 21 known shipwrecks and one aircraft that span over 200 years of history in the eastern waters of Lake Ontario adjacent to Oswego, Jefferson, Cayuga, and Wayne counties. Of these, the Lady Washington is the second oldest (1797) intact shipwreck discovered in the Great Lakes. The oldest, the HMS Ontario (1780), a Revolutionary-era sloop and the only fully intact British warship discovered in the Great Lakes, is also proposed as a non-contiguous part of the designation. An additional 47 shipwrecks and two historic aircraft are also likely located in the area still to be discovered.
A Great Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary designation would preserve and raise national awareness and appreciation of a historically-significant collection of shipwrecks and other maritime heritage resources; foster partnerships with researchers and educators to discover additional wonders beneath the waves and to tell the story of our past in order to shape our future; and create business and job opportunities from tourism and outdoor recreation.
New York State, in partnership with its local communities, nominated the site for designation. A diverse coalition of local, state and national elected officials, historical societies, businesses, museums and environmental, recreational, conservation, fishing, tourism, and educational groups endorsed making this site a national marine sanctuary.