What is a watershed?
A watershed is the geographic region where all of the water in an area flows downhill to a particular body of water, be it a lake, a pond, a river, or a marsh.
The Lake George watershed is 233 square miles (152,000 acres) — two-thirds the size of New York City! The Lake’s surface area is 45 square miles, which makes the watershed about five times as big as the Lake’s surface.
Three counties have land in the watershed: Warren, Washington, and Essex, and twelve municipalities have land in the watershed. The towns of Lake George, Bolton, Hague, Ticonderoga, Putnam, Dresden, Fort Ann, Queensbury and the village of Lake George are the majority of the watershed area, but three towns have minor land holdings: Horicon, Lake Luzerne and Warrensburg.
If you were to look at the land surrounding a lake, you would see high and low spots. The high elevations of a watershed form its boundaries. You can imagine a watershed as an enormous funnel. As you pour water into the funnel, its sides direct the water to the bottom of the funnel. The boundaries of the watershed are like the top edges of the funnel, or the mountains and hills surrounding the body of water. Because of gravity, all precipitation flows over the land and down to the watershed’s body of water, like the bottom of a funnel.
Watersheds are not separated, but are connected. Rain may fall on top of a high mountain. The water will flow downhill to a lake or river. Some will move as surface runoff and some will percolate into the ground and arrive at the waterbody in the form of groundwater. The water will continue to flow through the lake, exiting by surface discharge at the lake’s outlet, which may in turn, be a tributary for another watershed, and so on. Ultimately, all water will make its way to the sea, with some evaporating along the way.
The Lake George watershed
The Lake George watershed is 233 square miles. More than half of the water entering Lake George comes from streams flowing off the watershed. Learn more about how water gets into Lake George.
Lake George flows into the Lake Champlain watershed
There are 17 major watersheds within New York State. Since the Lake George watershed is small, it is part of the larger Lake Champlain watershed.
Lake George flows south to north, dropping 226 feet into Lake Champlain by way of the LaChute River in Ticonderoga. The water goes all the way through Lake Champlain and out the north end into the St. Lawrence River by way of the Richelieu River, and eventually finds it way out into the Atlantic Ocean!
For more information about the Lake Champlain watershed visit the NYS DEC site here
Credits: Text adapted from New Hampshire DES: Interactive Lake Ecology