The Last Light at Chimney Bluffs and The Missing Beach

September 09, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

The spires of Chimney Bluffs on south shore of Lake Ontario against the setting sun.Sunset over Chimney Bluffs Chimney Bluffs State Park offers quite an experience in a quite unexpected place. When I first saw the bluffs several years ago I could not believe I was still in New York State. The rock formations are like something one could imagine in Colorado, Arizona, or Utah, but not anywhere on the East Coast. At least I would not.

After a few years it was time to revisit the place under different conditions, different season, different time of day (The Location Revisiting Series: Revisit Your LocationsRevisiting Locations RevisitedThe Changes at Eighteen Mile Creek, Winter's TurnBack to the Pier for a Winter LookThe Seasons at Emery Park, a Year-Long Photo ProjectBack at the Elevator for a Different Take).

It was a blast!

One surprise about this visit to the Bluffs was the beach, or the lack of! I remembered a nice size beach from my previous visit and my original plan for this evening was to photograph the cliffs from the beach. There was no beach! Not even a foot, the cliffs went straight to the lake. Surprising? You bet! I was not sure what happened. Lake tide? The strong wind from the north? I'll have to do some research on that (keep reading) but it was one of those funny moments when you don't even know what to say. We walked down just a few feet to hit the beach trail only to be stopped by an unpassable cliff before we even picked up speed. Everything went according to the plan for about ... 5 seconds!

Last light of sunset on the Chimney Bluff spires, Sodus Bay near Rochester, New York (NY).The Last Light at Chimney Bluffs Sitting at a computer later and going over the below topics, my conclusion is that "the missing beach" phenomenon was a combination of a seasonally high water level that peaked in July and has been slowly going down since, but not much by August 3, and strong wind from the north. If the topic sounds interesting, keep reading and follow the references.

Great Lakes Tides:

Great Lakes do not have enough water and area to exhibit significant tidal expressions as oceans do, only about 1 - 4 cm. Seiches, waves, rain, melt water, etc. all have a much bigger effect that often gets attributed to "tides". The strongest tides are experienced on Lakes Superior and Erie, often masked by weather conditions.

Sustained winds and barometric pressure can push the lake water up on one end of the lake and down on the other. When these conditions subside  the lake water can oscillate back and forth before stabilizing, causing a seiche [sayshe].

This phenomenon can be the most pronounced on Lake Erie.

Seasonal water level fluctuations on the Great Lakes averages about 12 to 18 inches from winter lows to summer highs. Over the last century, the range from extreme high to extreme low water levels has been nearly 4 feet for Lake Superior and between 6 and 7 feet for the other Great Lakes.

Te day is over at Chimney Bluffs. Sky is warm, water is cold. Colorful show of nature!Blue Sunset at Chimney Bluffs

The Day is Over at Chimney Bluffs

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