How Deep is Lake Ontario?

Toronto Waterfont What if Lake Ontario Deepest Point Depth Canada Water

How deep is Lake Ontario? This is how much of Toronto would surface if it were located at the lake’s deepest point (244m). The perspective makes a number of buildings look closer to the surface than they would be, but apart from that it’s pretty accurate!

Lake Ontario is massive. With a surface area of nearly 19,000 km2 and an average depth of 86 metres, this ‘Great Lake’ is the 14th largest in the world. People who live in Toronto are more often than not well acquainted with its ocean-like presence along the city’s waterfront.

Many, however, have no idea just how deep Lake Ontario gets. While the area directly visible in front of Toronto beyond the inner harbour ranges from 120 to 140 metres deep (the height of a 40-story residential building!), further east the basin reaches depths of up to 244 metres.

In order to highlight the enormity of those measurements, this article carries 2 conceptual pictures showing approximately what downtown Toronto would look like if it were located near Lake Ontario’s deepest point. Only a handful of buildings would reach the surface. The CN Tower, First Canadian Place (BMO), Scotia Plaza, Trump Tower’s spire, Brookfield Place’s (Canada Trust) spire, and Commerce Court’s (CIBC) antenna would be the only visible  evidence of the city if it were submerged in 244 metres of water.

Toronto under Lake Ontario Depth Deep Canada waterfront what if how deep is

Toronto underwater at Lake Ontario’s deepest point. Added a human floating on the surface for size reference. Fancy swimming in the deep end?

Lake Ontario, like the rest of the North America’s ‘Great Lakes’, was carved out by a large glacier which once stood in its place. It was over-fished and polluted during during the last half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, but its ecosystem is now relatively healthy and some of its beaches are among the world’s cleanest and best monitored.

kid girl playing lake ontario toronto canada kite flying

A child flies a kite by Lake Ontario’s shoreline in Toronto’s West End.

Note: Concept pictures are ± 25 metres in some of the landmarks due to challenges with perspective and irregular terrain in the city. For reference, Commerce Court West (CIBC) is 239 metres tall.

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6 Responses to How Deep is Lake Ontario?

  1. It’s easy to take the size of the lake for granted around the Golden Horseshoe area, since you can “see across it” on a clear day. In reality, it’s a huge body of water, like you say!

    Excellent concept art! Really well done!

  2. Patricia Johnson says:

    My husband and I are currently sitting on the shore of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, possibly the deepest lake in Central America at 360+ meters at its deepest. We linked up with your pages while searching for comparison stats on our “home” lake. Looking around at the few villages and small towns crouched on the shores of this beautiful body of water, and knowing that it’s waters are drinking-water quality for the most part, I can’t help but think that, with time and our human propensity for over-development, Lake Atitlan may one day be unsuitable for even swimming, as Lake Ontario so often is. I guess one lesson is that, whether formed by volcanic or glacial activity, all fresh-water repositories are worthy of our appreciation and protection.

    • front65 says:

      I definitely agree with your conclusions! However, I must point out that a) all the water I drink here in Toronto comes from Lake Ontario, and b) I enjoy swimming in Lake Ontario’s beaches very much! There are parts of the lake where I’d strongly advise against swimming, but there are also areas that are much cleaner than most beaches in the Caribbean!

      While the the state of the Lake’s waters was deplorable in the 60s and 70s, it is now quite healthy according to international standards. This is thanks to massive environmental initiatives that have taken place since. There’s still more to be done to bring it back to its former glory as a thriving large-scale ecosystem, of course.

  3. Patricia Johnson says:

    I did not mean to malign our beautiful lake. Actually, we just came up from a swim, and we were discussing how, even though we have the technology to travel on lakes without exhausting the gasoline motors Into them, it is not as convenient – read as fast or as quiet- to do so. This is especially impactful on smaller lakes. Our Lake Ontario is much larger than Lake Atitlan (I suppose I had smaller Ontario lakes like Rice Lake in mind). I think of our lake as a gateway to the world – you can travel on it past the Thousand Islands to the St Lawrence and out to the Atlantic, or into the Erie Canal to New York City and the Inland Waterway and points south. No wonder “Toronto” was named for the meeting place it is…
    . PS – We both know that even sewer water can be purified into drinking water! Remember “Porcelain Springs”…

  4. never understood why the NY state shore of Lake Ontario didn’t have the same urban development that the Ontario side did—Rochester is the only large city (250,000) yet the rest of the NY state coastline is rural

  5. gotbikes says:

    Simple, Americans hardly need to huddle along their northern border whereas we have to huddle in our most southerly geography.

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