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Bottoms Up…

Bottoms up for the St. Lawrence River… but not the kind you would tip your glass for. 

The bottom of the St. Lawrence has managed to make its way to the surface it almost seems, as water levels plummet quickly. While debate over the Bv7 Plan rages on, boat props continue to be dinged and seaweed has managed to engulf marinas.

“As we approached the end of August and started to see water levels similar to last November, combined with heavier than normal seaweed growth, the usability of our slips started to be affected,” said Peter Johnston of Ed Huck Marine in Rockport. 

This has been a common situation across the region as marina and individual boat owners scramble to retrieve their boats from the river before they find them sitting on the bottom, while still tied to the dock.

“We started hauling boats a week earlier than usual, most of these early boats were cottage owners that had decided to close up early due to limited access to their docks,” Johnston explained.

Last week the Brockville Yacht Club announced to its members that haul outs will begin the weekend of September 22. Boats at Alexandria Bay’s Bonnie Castle Yacht Basin have crept lower and lower from their docks. Yacht House 3, the furthest from the shipping channel, had become overgrown with weeds and boats churn the river bed every time they leave the dock. 

Like most marinas, Johnston and his team are now in full haul out mode.

“We are into a normal haul out cycle, but having to be very careful handling some of our larger boats due to the lower levels around the marina.”

Levels at marinas are a concern, not only for the marina owners who are trying to remove boats, but also individuals using boat ramps. Cedar Point State Park, located between Cape Vincent and Clayton, had barely enough water to remove a jetboat two weeks ago. At the same time a family was trying to take a 23-foot cruiser out, but gave up after not being able to get the trailer deep enough. They had to resort to another location.

And though levels dropped quickly this summer, it wasn’t a total wreck on business according to Johnston. “Water levels have been a great topic of conversation, but the reality is that it did not affect our boater's typical summer or their usage until the end of August.”

So while water disappeared, gas consumption and dockage fees remained somewhat steady in the region. Where businesses will feel affects most will be in the event there is a strong ‘Indian Summer,’ which marinas likely won’t have the ability to capitalize on as we head into the winter of unknown. A fairly dry winter would surely cause havoc on business come next spring.

Michael Folsom,   

Michael Folsom is a regular contributor to TI Life. He covers the Seaway News on his popular web site,, as well as a twitter site: His work has been featured in other various outlets, including Thousand Islands Sun, Know Your Ships, and more. In addition, he is the creator and organizer of Sailing Seaway Clayton and currently serves in the role of Campaign/Public Relations Manager for the Lynx Educational Foundation and tall ship Lynx.

Note:  Be sure to see TIA enters the 21st Century… in the August 2012 TI Life.  Both TIA and Save the River place shoal markers around the River, this fall even the main channels have low water, so take care.  If there was ever a good reason to support these organizations – it is this one!

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Comment by: Mike
Left at: 10:21 AM Monday, September 17, 2012
When my Dad had his boat at Calumet Island Marina in the 1960's I recall one weekend we left her tied tightly to the dock, and upon arrival the next weekend she was practically hanging off the dock by the mooring lines. Not sure if this was a managed drop back then, but it sure was uncomfortable to see; luckily the cleats didn't pull off the dock. Thanks for a good article!