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St. Lawrence River Ecosystem

The Upper St. Lawrence River has a wonderfully complex ecosystem and is home to the Thousand Islands region, a globally unique archipelago.

Linking Great Lakes to the Ocean

The St. Lawrence River is one of the largest Rivers in the world, linking the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. The Great Lakes hold nearly 20% of the world's freshwater, placing the St. Lawrence River in a unique position. As the only natural outflow to the Great Lakes, the health of the St. Lawrence is forever directly tied to the health of one of the world's greatest freshwater ecosystems.

Thousand Islands

Flowing over ancient glaciated rock, the upper St. Lawrence River has formed a unique island paradise known as the Thousand Islands, consisting of 1,864 islands. The islands provide a variety of habitats supporting all kinds of plants and wildlife.


imageThe St. Lawrence River valley is teeming with wildlife throughout the year.

The River is home to several species of concern including threatened and endangered species such as Blanding's turtle, bald eagles, osprey, black tern, and the Indiana bat.

Numerous north woods mammal species find their home on the shores and islands of the River including muskrat, beaver, flying squirrels, mink, deer, porcupine, and many others. Winter ice cover on the River provides important passage for animals from the shoreline and to/from many of the islands.

Known as one of the great freshwater sport fishing grounds in the northeast, anglers travel from around the country to fish for pike, bass (particularly smallmouth bass), and muskellunge on the River.

The St. Lawrence River Valley is a key part of the Atlantic Migratory Fly-Way - the main pathway for seasonal migration of many bird species. The region has also been listed as an Important Bird Area by Audubon New York.

Bald eagles, which have not been seen in the River valley for many years, are making a comeback and can be seen frequently on the River in the winter. Visit our bald eagle page to learn more.


The St. Lawrence River is home to extensive coastal wetlands which provide filtration for runoff, flood retention, and provide wildlife with food and shelter. Wetlands also act as a nursery for the species of the River including waterfowl, numerous fish species as well as amphibians and reptiles.

For more information about the River's ecosystem visit the following:

Latest News

Long Awaited Report Released on How to Stop Asian Carp
The much anticipated Army Corps of Engineers' report identifying options to stop the spread of Asian Carp and other aquatic invasive species between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River waterways has been released. Now it is time for citizens from around the Great Lakes St. Lawrence River Basin to speak up and demand the most robust solution - physical separation. read more

Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper Urges Governor to Support Bv7
Tuesday, August 14th, Lee Willbanks, Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper and Executive Director of Save The River delivered a letter to Governor Cuomo urging him to support Plan Bv7 before the opportunity is lost. The health of the River is an end in itself. But the letter makes the equally important point that “the St. Lawrence is ... read more

Clayton Village & Town Support Bv7 to Benefit Local Economy
Tuesday, August 14th, Twyla Webb, Village of Clayton Trustee, joined Jeff Garnsey, Garnsey’s Classic Island Tours, and Stephanie Weiss and Lee Willbanks of Save The River for a meeting in Albany with Governor Cuomo’s executive staff to discuss their support for Plan Bv7 as a way to help the River region’s struggling economy. They made the ... read more

See our blog for more news!     

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409 Riverside Drive
Clayton, NY 13624
p: (315) 686-2010

River Photos

Off to the races by Pam Quimby  Resting by Pam Quimby  On the Rocks by Nick Apel  Classic Sunset by Barb Hupp  TI Park Library by Meg Kerr  Fall by Carrie Kerr  Girls by Juliane Bauer  Winter Navigation by Sherman Ward 
 Pictures from our Flickr photostream

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