Teresa Farrell 2017-04-05 01:49:45
The eastern shore of Lake Ontario is one of the richest outdoor recreation areas in the state and is also home to the Lakeview Wildlife Management Area, part of the largest natural fresh water barrier beach systems in New York State. The barrier system consists of a series of geologically unique sand dunes, wetlands and marshes, comprising the only ecosystem of its kind in New York State and throughout much of the northeastern U.S. Sharpshinned Hawk. Photo credit: Gwen Hall. The glacial recession that caused the Great Lakes to be formed and filled with fresh water at the end of the last ice age is also the reason for the eastern shore of the lake’s unique topography. The stretches of sand dunes that exist along the shoreline today, in addition to providing scenic beauty and unique habitat, also serve the purpose of protecting surrounding farmlands, fields, residential areas, and natural habitats from the swelling surfs of Lake Ontario. That area is today part of the Eastern Lake Ontario Dune and Wetland Area, a 17-mile stretch of protected shoreline and habitat that stretches along the shore of Lake Ontario from Oswego County to Jefferson County. Bird watchers can keep an eye out for an extensive list of birds—more than 70 species can be found within the dune system habitat areas Above: Salmon River Falls. Photo credit: Teresa Farrell. Right: Southwick Beach State Park John. Photo credit: John Farrell. This unique landscape means the area supports a unique combination of flora and fauna as well. The dune willow, dune grass, and sand cherry are all rare or endangered plants that call the dunes home, and dozens of other species thrive here as well, including 14 other plants considered rare. Eleven types of habitat make the area appealing to a variety of different species of animals. White-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, wild turkey, cottontail rabbit, red fox and beaver are just a few of the species that can be found in the woods. Water-based areas attract waterfowl, reptiles and amphibians, and plenty of fish. In fact, fishermen flock to the area to catch steel-head, trout, salmon in its streams and ponds, as well as along the lakeshore. Bird watchers can keep an eye out for an extensive list of birds— more than 70 species can be found within the dune system habitat areas. Southwick Beach State Park, which lies adjacent to the Lakeview Wildlife Management Area, offers visitors the opportunity to explore the nature and walking trails that wind through both the park and the neighboring property and observe the wildlife and the natural sand dunes. Though poison ivy is common amongst the dunes, which support their own sensitive eco system, visitors can enjoy this section of the Eastern Lake Ontario Dune System and its surrounding wetlands and habitats from observation decks, boardwalks and walkovers that wind through the area, making it possible to safely experience the natural features of the area without damaging its delicate ecosystem or getting caught in an itchy situation. Canoeists, kayakers, fishermen and birdwatchers love nearby Sandy Island Beach State Park, which doesn’t offer campsites but does include even more views of the famous sand dunes. Just down the road, but still within the town of Pulaski, Selkirk Shores offers campsites and cabins near the bluffs along the lakeshore. There is no public swimming beach at Selkirk Shores, but the park’s other natural offerings make it a popular stop nonetheless. Selkirk Shores is so popular with birdwatchers that there are bird checklists available in the park office; it’s also part of a state and national “Watchable Wildlife” program. Salmon River, which runs from Lake Ontario into the interior of the state, provides some of the most popular and diverse areas in the region. Port Ontario, where the Salmon River meets Lake Ontario, is home to the Salmon River Estuary, a marshy area where birds, f lowers and wildlife flourish. The town of Orwell offers access to the Lower Salmon River Reservoir, a popular fishing spot. Portions of the Salmon River itself are navigable in recreational kayaks and canoes, but potential paddlers should consult a guidebook or local paddling expert to find out which spots to avoid—some areas are impassible due to obstructions or other natural features, and others are rated for whitewater kayaks and rafts. If the whitewater is calling your name, sign up for a rafting trip through a local guide service. The Salmon River Falls Unique Area is just a short drive off the beaten path, and provides visitors the opportunity to walk to the upper edge of the waterfall or take the gorge trail to the bottom and observe the falls from below. Be sure to make the eastern shores of Lake Ontario part of your summer itinerary this year. For more information visit www.nysparks.com, or go to www.visitoswegocounty.com to find out more.
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