CLWA Receives Funding to Establish Underwater Preserve

The project aims to celebrate the local underwater history and heritage of Canandaigua Lake 

The Canandaigua Lake Watershed Association is pleased to announce the success of a $10,000 grant from the Rochester Area Community Foundation under their Historic Preservation program to fund the establishment of an Underwater Preserve for a shipwreck site in Canandaigua Lake. 

A coalition of CLWA volunteers and watershed staff members began meeting in the spring of 2022 to explore the idea of a program that would officially recognize the sites of several area shipwreck sites – the Onnalinda and the Seneca Chief. This project was the idea of Canandaigua resident Scott Hill, a local scuba diver, lake enthusiast, and founder of the Seneca Chief Steamboat Shipwreck site. With Scott’s assistance, the coalition will be working alongside Joseph Zarsynski, accredited maritime archaeologist, author, and documentary consultant, to conduct research and work on a proposal to add the shipwreck site to the National Register of Historic Places.  

The project will first focus on establishing an “Underwater Preserve” at the site of the Onnalinda site which resides off the east shore of Canandaigua Lake. By marking the site with a buoy, kayakers, paddleboarders, and snorkelers can be encouraged to interact safely with the wreck. An online presence will also be developed to educate the general public and students on the historical and cultural significance of the Canandaigua Lake steamboat era. 



The grant was submitted in June 2022, and the announcement of the successful award came this fall. The timeline for the project begins with research and development during the winter of 2022-23, with a goal of establishing preserve by summer 2023. 

 The main goals of the project are as follows: 

  • Establish the first-ever Underwater Preserve on Canandaigua Lake by marking the site with an anchoring system and navigational buoy.
  • Register the site of the Onnalinda on the National Register of Historic Places. 
  • Incorporate the Underwater Preserve into the Canandaigua Lake Water Trail, which currently serves as a 17-site location of kayak excursion points around Canandaigua Lake:
  • Develop interpretive materials highlighting the Onnalinda and other shipwreck sites on Canandaigua Lake.
  • Host public outreach activities to officially “launch” the preserve, including a guided kayak excursion.  

CLWA thanks the Rochester Area Community Foundation for this incredible boost in funding to move this project forward. We encourage our members and the general community to follow the progress in 2023 through our newsletters and Facebook page. 

More information can be found in the following articles: