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Rise and Fall of Water Level is Nothing New

It is interesting to note that the rise and fall of the water level of Lake Ontario is not some strange phenomenon that has suddenly developed within the past two years. This article appeared in the Oswego Daily Commercial Times on July 6, 1853: (Spelling shown as written in 1853

Rise and Fall of Lake Ontario

A correspondent in the last number of “Hunt’s Merchants Magazine”, give an interesting account of a phenomena connected with Lake Ontario. It has been long known that this lake is subject to frequent risings and fallings of the waters, and by many it has been supposed that such changes were regular. This, by long observation, has been found to be incorrect; the risings and fallings of the water are not regular but often times sudden and produce wonderful effects.

At Port Hope, Coburg, Grafton, and Colbourne, the water receded suddenly and leaves the harbor bare, and then returns with a violent roar, and invades the land. This portion of Lake Ontario is subject to great submarine convulsions, and sometimes the water ebb and flow every ten minutes.Hunts Mechanics Magazine

A convulsion of the Lake took place in September 1845, which gave birth to a terrific thunder storm, and was accompanied by a severe tornado. Another took place on the 5th of July 1850, which created a terrific water spout, was broken by a bolt of electricity, that appeared to have come from the bottom of the lake. Part of the water-spout in a dark cloud, passed over the land depositing its waters at the head of the Canada Creek, which raised the said creek so suddenly as to carry away the railroad bridge of the Schenectady and Utica Railroad, before the trains could be informed of the event.

The waters of Lake Ontario have been known to fall fourteen inches in thirty six hours and these water could not have been carried away in that short period by the River St. Lawrence. The Lake is underlaid with fossil-ferrous limestone, from the north shore of Canada, to the south shore, and it is not long since that Watertown and Lowville were severely shaken by an earthquake; these places having been built on the same limestone strata. This section of the lake sometimes produces a fearful lightning storm one of which visited the county of Oswego on the 10th of February 1851, while there was three feet of snow on the ground. These facts seem to corroborate the view expressed in the Scientific American:

“If some convulsion of nature were to take place so as to tumble down the falls of Niagara, Lake Erie would become a river.” Such a convulsion would need to open up a channel through the rock above the present falls a few miles long; some suppose that was done once before and the falls were down at Lewiston. There is a mystery connected with the rise and fall of the water of Lake Ontario, which cannot be accounted for by continued rains or the melting of the snows.

Throughout the spring Islanders will be watching the 2018 water levels. Here is one Web link to watch.

Tidal Observations


Review the webpage – Fisheries and Oceans Canada: St Lawrence for the area that interests you. This photograph as take at the beginning of April 2018,

Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River

Port Weller






Iroquois above

Iroquois below





Submitted by Richard Palmer

Richard F. Palmer is a retired newspaper editor, and reporter, and was well known for his weekly historical columns for the “Oswego Palladium-Times”, called "On the Waterfront." His first article for TI Life was written in January 2015 and since then, he has written a half-dozen others.  He is a voracious researcher and TI Life readers benefit from his interesting findings. Click here to see Richard Palmer’s TI Life Articles.

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