Nature Walks: Lake Ontario

“So come get ready, don’t delay! We’re on a nature tail today.”

~Maurice Pledger, from In the Forest

Last Sunday we made a trip up to Lake Ontario to a place I worked as a Dune Steward the summer of ’04. Lake Ontario is actually large enough to make its own sand dunes, which reside on the eastern and northern shores. Sand dunes are fragile ecosystems and easily destroyed by foot traffic. In the past, the dunes were a threatened habitat, but in the due to the work of conservation efforts like the Dune Steward program, they are stable now.

Sand dunes on the shores of Lake Ontario and the other Great Lakes have two functions. First, and simply, they provide habitat for plants and animals adapted to living in the sandy terrain. Secondly, and importantly, they protect both the inland and the lake from each other. At the beach I worked at, Deer Creek Marsh Wildlife Management Area, there is a wetland complex behind the dunes. This marsh provides habitat to wildlife and plants, but it also filters the water running from the land before it enters the lake waters. This is very important for the water quality of Lake Ontario. The dunes also prevent the lake from overflowing into the wetland and washing it away. It is a very interesting and beautiful area to visit. Here are some images from our visit.

We saw a snapping turtle crossing the road to the marsh as we drove down Rainbow Shores Rd. I finally got a picture of one!

The marsh is a beautiful complex. The total acreage of the management area is 1,771 acres, which includes the beach as well. While I worked there, we were able to take canoes and paddle through the marsh. I wished I had a canoe when we went up last weekend so I could show the kids what it is like. This image is from an observation deck that stands off the trail that leads to the beach.

And the lake itself. The waves were crashing and the kids had never experience large waves before. Elizabeth enjoyed wave-surfing but Paul was a little more hesitant.

Lake Ontario’s eastern shore is rocky, though you can find areas of sand. We did some rock balancing. Elizabeth was so in love with her rocks that she took many of them home – and very determinedly carried them back to the car herself.

Paul’s rock balancing, and a sea weed seed. I recognize some of those as rocks that made it home too…

And lastly, there is A LOT of poison ivy around the trails. We didn’t go down the length of the trail that runs behind the dunes due to the poison ivy. I walked through it every day while I worked there because I had to take data on the trail. Poison ivy grows in the areas along the side of the trail which accesses the beach, but you can get to the beach without worry of getting into it. Poison ivy is an opportunistic plant and grows well in sandy soils. I tried to teach the kids that it is not bad, it is just doing its own thing.

It was a much needed get-away and I have not been to Deer Creek in at least 10 years, so it was nice to go visit again. I enjoyed taking the kids and letting them experience something different from our Finger Lakes. It was nice to spend a day out in nature and not worry about grown-up sorts of things as well.

Share your thoughts: Have you taken a mini-vacation this summer? Tell me about it.

2 thoughts on “Nature Walks: Lake Ontario

  1. Mini vacations are fun! Yours looked lovely at the lake. This summer we took two. The first was a weekend in St. George where we saw two plays and did some hiking, and the second where we spent a weekend in Salt Lake City celebrating our pioneer holiday here. That weekend we went to a rodeo and a baseball game which ended in a Star Wars themed firework show. Our next mini vacation will be next month, a weekend in Yellowstone National Park.

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