Published on June 12, 2024

NOAA Officially Designates Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary

By Oswego County Tourism

Looking for another reason to visit Oswego County? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has officially designated the Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary as its 16th sanctuary!

The designation recognizes the cultural and historical significance of Lake Ontario, providing a national stage for education, research, recreation, tourism and heritage preservation. The 1,722-square mile area encompasses parts of Oswego, Jefferson and Wayne counties.

Divers exploring shipwreck

Photo courtesy of NOAA

What is a marine sanctuary?

National marine sanctuaries are underwater areas that include archaeological sites, reefs, kelp forests, and deep-sea canyons that are considered unique special places. Similar to national parks on the land, marine sanctuaries serve to protect and conserve historically significant shipwrecks or unique environments, while promoting sustainable public use and access.

Why Lake Ontario?

Lake Ontario is a truly unique resource with an abundance of Indigenous histories and an impressive maritime past. As the first regional inhabitants, ancestors of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy had a great connection to Lake Ontario, fishing and traveling along its eastern shores. Lake Ontario also served as a major maritime trade and transportation route, playing a vital role in westward migration, upper lake trade and the development of the U.S. interior.

Today, Lake Ontario continues to be a popular destination for outdoor recreation and tourism. Oswego County is known for our superb fisheries, attracting thousands of visitors each year. Visitors also enjoy boating, paddling, and scuba diving on our waters, or going on a tour of one of two unique lighthouses within the county.

Interested in Oswego County’s maritime heritage? The H. Lee White Maritime Museum in Oswego, N.Y. has numerous displays and artifacts that would entice any seafaring enthusiast, and even offers boat tours of its lighthouse during the summer months.


Photo courtesy of NOAA

Shipwrecks and Diving Opportunities:

The Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary is a treasure trove of shipwrecks. Although many of the shipwrecks are much too deep for divers, it is a priority of NOAA to give a shipwreck experience to all through images, video and stories.

Within the sanctuary boundaries, there are 41 known shipwrecks, one known aircraft, 19 potential shipwreck sites, three potential aircraft sites, and several underwater archaeological sites. Of the known shipwrecks, the St. Peter near Pultneyville, N.Y., is on the National Register of Historic Places, and the David W. Mills, located off the shores of Oswego County, is New York State’s only Submerged Cultural Preserve and Dive Site in its Great Lakes.

More information about Oswego County diving opportunities and shipwrecks can be found at

Diver exploring shipwreck

Photo courtesy of NOAA

The Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary designation is a project 10 years in the making. In 2017, following three years of research and development, Oswego County and neighboring Cayuga, Jefferson and Wayne counties and the City of Oswego partnered to submit a nomination to NOAA to have a 1,700-square mile area designated as a national marine sanctuary. NOAA initiated the formal sanctuary designation process in 2019.

The sanctuary is designed to enhance public access and activities on the lake. There are no new restrictions on sportfishing, scuba diving, boating, water quality, commercial shipping or dredging.

For more information about the Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary, visit or view the Oswego County press release about the designation at

To view other Oswego County attractions, go to