Lake Ontario
National Marine Sanctuary

Designated in 2024, Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary is a historically rich area where the long interactions between human activity and the maritime environment has fostered a deep sense of meaning and place. The lake shores and bottomlands of Lake Ontario offer an intriguing window into the history of this special area. The first regional inhabitants, the ancestors of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, populated the area thousands of years ago. As the gateway between the Great Lakes and the ocean, the maritime landscape of this area represents connections between diverse cultures, between a nascent nation and the frontier, and of commerce, opportunity, and ingenuity. The cultural legacy of people who lived along its shores and journeyed across its waters is showcased by the remains left behind and the stories passed down. Forgotten shipwrecks and archaeological resources, hidden in these cold fresh waters, are among the best preserved in the world, offering a chance to learn, share, and connect to the past.

Map of eastern Lake Ontario showing Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary's boundaries
Map of eastern Lake Ontario showing Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary's boundaries, which encompasses 1,722 square miles

NOAA has published a final rule to designate Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary in eastern Lake Ontario to recognize the national significance of the area's historical, archaeological, and cultural resources and to manage this special place as part of the National Marine Sanctuary System. The final sanctuary boundary will encompass 1,300 square nautical miles (1,722 square miles) of eastern Lake Ontario waters and will border Wayne, Cayuga, Oswego, and Jefferson counties.

NOAA will co-manage the sanctuary with New York state. The sanctuary will expand on the state's stewardship of these historic sites and bring new opportunities for research, resource protection, educational programming, and community engagement. In partnership with local communities, the sanctuary will provide a national stage for promoting heritage tourism and recreation.


The robust public process to designate Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary began on January 17, 2017, when leaders of four New York counties (Oswego, Jefferson, Cayuga, and Wayne) and the city of Oswego, with support from the governor of New York, submitted a nomination to NOAA through the sanctuary nomination process. NOAA published a notice of intent to initiate the designation process on April 19, 2019, a draft environmental impact statement and draft management plan on July 7, 2021, and a notice of proposed rulemaking on January 19, 2023. The final environmental impact statement was published on April 19, 2024. The sanctuary will become effective this summer after 45 days of continuous session of Congress, beginning on the date the final rule is published.

Sanctuary Advisory Council

NOAA established a Sanctuary Advisory Council in 2020 to help inform the designation process and focus stakeholder participation. NOAA will be establishing a new Sanctuary Advisory Council to provide advice and guidance to NOAA on the management of the sanctuary once it has been designated. Stay tuned for the advisory council seat application announcement!

Designation Documents

More Information

Save the Date

Sanctuary Advisory Council
Friday, July 31, 2024
6 to 8 p.m. ET

Celebrate the designation of Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary

Friday, September 6, 2024 @ 11 am
William S. Cahill Pier
Oswego, New York

National Marine Sanctuary System

national marine Sanctuary system map

The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries serves as the trustee for a network of underwater parks encompassing more than 620,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters from Washington state to the Florida Keys, and from Lake Huron to American Samoa. The network includes a system of 16 national marine sanctuaries and Papahānaumokuākea and Rose Atoll marine national monuments.