PLEASE NOTE: Portions of El Dorado are closed to provide critical habitat for coastal wildlife. Please remain on the trail and observe all closure notices. Closures are enforced.
El Dorado's beautiful shoreline was shaped by dramatic forces of nature. It all began about 20,000 years ago when the one-mile thick ice sheet that covered most of New York State began to melt. Torrents of meltwater poured out of the retreating ice sheet and with it came sediment of all shapes and sizes. Sand, gravel, and enormous boulders that were once encapsulated in the ice were now flowing across the landscape.
Eventually, the meltwater pooled into a giant lake, called Lake Iroquois. This pre-historic lake was about three times the size of modern-day Lake Ontario.
Over time, the lake level receded to its present size. Lake currents moved sand deposits along the lake’s southern shore toward the lake’s eastern shoreline. Westerly winds and waves transported sand from this underwater sandbar and piled it up to form dunes along the beach. This process of dune formation still occurs today.
This freshwater dune barrier system along Lake Ontario is one of the Conservancy's first conservation areas in central New York, acquired in 1969. It is now part of our Eastern Lake Ontario priority conservation landscape, a 17-mile stretch of Eastern Lake Ontario that contains the largest and most extensive freshwater dune system in New York.
How We Work Here
Dunes are fragile. The beach grass and other vegetation that blankets them can be easily damaged by trampling or motor vehicle use. Once the vegetation is gone, winds can blow away the sand and destroy the dunes.
The Nature Conservancy has worked cooperatively with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and New York Sea Grant to establish an educational program that helps inform beachgoers and other recreational users how they can enjoy their visit to Eastern Lake Ontario without impacting the dunes, birds, or wildlife.
Every summer, five dune stewards patrol the 17 miles of Eastern Lake Ontario beaches, reminding people to stay out of the dunes, keep their dogs leashed and avoid areas set aside for birds and wildlife.