Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Lake? Pond? What’s the difference?

Hour Pond in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness this summer.

My wife and I hiked to Hour Pond in Siamese Ponds Wilderness this summer. We walked along the western shore of Thirteenth Lake before ascending a short distance to the secluded Hour Pond. As far as we could tell, we had the beautiful still waters to ourselves that day.

But is Hour Pond even a pond? Is it a lake? Is there a difference?

Hour Pond is no pond, according to a study published last year.

An international team of researchers, including scientists at SUNY New Paltz, Cornell and Bard, published a paper offering a new definition to parse the difference between lakes, ponds and wetlands.

The researchers compiled scientific and legislative definitions for ponds and found little consensus among both scientists and policymakers. In the U.S., federal agencies use different definitions of lakes and wetlands, and while laws in around two dozen states reference “ponds,” Michigan is the only state that explicitly defines “pond” in the law.

“These examples underscore that waterbody definitions vary globally, are generally qualitative, and are rarely based on scientific evidence relating to ecosystem structure of function,” according to the study.

Download the open access paper.

The different definitions create confusion, disparate regulatory protections and could be leading to underrepresentation of ponds in water monitoring programs around the world, the paper warned.

So what is a pond? The researchers land on the following definition:

“Ponds are small and shallow waterbodies with a maximum surface area of 5 hectares, a maximum depth of 5 meters, and <30% coverage of emergent vegetation. Ponds will have light penetration to the sediments if water clarity permits and can be permanent or temporary and natural or human-made.”

Is your favorite Adirondack pond even a pond?

Hour Pond in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness this summer. Photo by Zachary Matson

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Zachary Matson has been an environmental reporter for the Explorer since October 2021. He is focused on the many issues impacting water and the people, plants and wildlife that rely on it in the Adirondack Park. Zach worked at daily newspapers in Missouri, Arizona and New York for nearly a decade, most recently working as the education reporter for six years at the Daily Gazette in Schenectady.




31 Responses

  1. Chuck M. says:

    Follensby Clear Pond 199 hectares
    But it’ll always be a pond to me!

  2. Phil Fitzpatrick says:

    I love it that we have no definition of “pond” and “lake”. We honor our ancestors in keeping the old names.

  3. Jeffrey L Weaver says:

    The ponds and lakes do not care about silly things. Please leave them alone

  4. JohnL says:

    It will only make a difference if WE make it make a difference (legally) in some future state or federal funding scheme for ‘ponds’, ‘lakes’, ‘puddles’, ‘lagoons’, or ‘lakes’. Agree completely with Chuck, Phil, Jeffrey. Leave them as they are.

  5. Alan R. Fisher says:

    Yep! It doesn’t make a difference until it does. Then there is always conflict. Mostly due to insignificant borderline interpretations. Leave it alone as long as possible. There are bigger fish to fry!

  6. Bill Ott says:

    I suggest this imponderable paradox be forwarded to Keri Lake, candidate for governor of Arizona. Unfortunately, I did not hear Biden bring this challenge up in his State of the Union Address.

    • David says:

      Keri Lake! Now that’s a shallow pond if ever I saw one.

    • JohnL says:

      Let the record show who took this relatively innocuous subject and turned it political.

    • ADKresident says:

      Even if Biden did bring this imponderable paradox up in his State of the Union Address, he wouldn’t remember it today without a cue card from his handlers, and a hefty dose of donepezil.
      Not a joke, folks, I mean it.

        • JohnL says:

          He’s talking about the presidents severe cognitive decline. He’s got dementia. Donepezil is a drug used to improve mental function in people with Alzheimers. One wouldn’t know he has that condition if one only watches the major networks or CNN/MSNBC etc. For more on that query duckduckgo.com – ‘biden mental condition’.

          • John says:

            Why don’t you people take your off-subject snark somewhere else?

            • ADKresident says:

              If it really bothers you, you should’ve commented 5-6 replies up to Bill Ott or David, not to JohnL, right?

              One political remark deserves a rebuttal, even if the rebuttal was given half tongue & cheek. Cheers!

            • JohnL says:

              Hi John. Nice name. I’ll tell ‘you people’ what I used to tell my mother when my brother and I were fighting. ‘HE (B.O.) STARTED IT’. I was being a good boy.

          • Dana says:

            Obviously didn’t keep Reagan from getting re-elected. Can anyone over 50 claim to have no cognitive decline? But I am all for limiting presidential age at 35-55 if cognitive decline is going to be considered a significant factor!

      • Harley says:

        You must have seen a different speech than I did. I saw Biden paint the Publicans into a corner on their long-term goals to cut Social Security and Medicare on live TV, then throw the brush at them. I’m a big fan of conversions, too.

  7. John says:

    The last time I crossed The Pond to the land of my forebears, nobody tried to call it a lake. Good grief! What some people do for a grant! Please keep this out of the hands of the Legislatures and Congress, Keri Lake notwithstanding.

  8. David says:

    So the beautiful Chapel Pond is not a pond, but the equally lovely Cascade Lakes are. Gotcha!

  9. Monique Weston says:

    I too have asked many times what is the difference betwen a lake and a pond in the ADKS. Designationsm seem arbitrary except perhpas for very small bodies of water = ponds. Like Lost Pond. But Licolnd Pond?

  10. Todd Miller says:

    As an example of an extreme ambiguity in defining pond vs lake is that many people affectionally refer to the Atlantic Ocean as “The Pond”.

  11. Tim Humphrey says:

    I’ve always thought that ponds were fed from underground water, while lakes were fed by rivers and streams.

    • Todd Miller says:

      I’m pretty sure that whether a pond or lake has a inlet and/or outlet or not doesn’t factor in defining a pond vs lake. Many ponds have an inlet and/or outlet and although most lakes have inlets and outlets, some lakes do not, mainly due to the geologic setting. For example, many glacial kettle ponds and lakes where detached blocks of glacial ice melted in place in the sediments and formed depressions in moraines and in pitted outwash plains in front of moraines that became filled with water do not have inlets and outlets-these water bodies are fed by groundwater and springs, and by precipitation that falls directly on top of them.

  12. Charlie Stehlin says:

    David says: “Keri Lake! Now that’s a shallow pond if ever I saw one.”

    JohnL says: “Let the record show who took this relatively innocuous subject and turned it political.”

    You guys are too much! Thank you for the laughs!

  13. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “Even if Biden did bring this imponderable paradox up in his State of the Union Address, he wouldn’t remember it today without a cue card from his handlers, and a hefty dose of donepezil. Not a joke, folks, I mean it.”

    You might, if your lucky, reach his age ADKresident. It might be far worse for you when, and if, you realize that. You might be a lot more crooked anatomical-wise, or mental, and not by your own doing neither….or worse. We all age we all become frail we all become dust soon or late. That youthful vigor and arrogance eventually softens; eventually we come to realize we’re not the young pups we used to be. Eventually we see more and more how we have become those whom we once heckled. If wisdom sets in we see!

  14. Bill Ott says:

    Do you Think Henry Fonda would have starred in his last theatrical performance in a movie titled “On Golden Lake.” Of course not – it HAD to be “On Golden Pond”.

  15. Charlie Stehlin says:

    JohnL says: “It will only make a difference if WE make it make a difference (legally)…”

    That terminology “legally’ caught me. Lawmakers are pro at terminology, especially when there’s a partisan bent to their framework, and when they’re attached to donors who contribute to their campaigns when they’re running to get erected or re-erected. To them a pond and a lake are the difference between a cesspool and a spring. If there is a prejudice due to monetary gain, as so often is the case,
    lawmakers, due to that prejudice, will enact such laws which say a pond does not meet the same standard as a lake only because that pond would be in the way of a housing development, or a new car wash, or a Chuck-e Cheese. Is why so many of our ponds and pools, creeks, and even lakes have dried up, or magically disappeared into thin air over the past hundred years and more. Is why there are ten-thousands less of the same impressed upon our once uncorrupted landscape.

  16. Charlie Stehlin says:

    ADKresident says: “Even if Biden did bring this imponderable paradox up in his State of the Union Address, he wouldn’t remember it today without a cue card from his handlers, and a hefty dose of donepezil.”

    At least he’s not up on his podium telling the American public to inhale disinfectant so as to avoid catching Covid hey ADK?

  17. Boreas says:

    More importantly, when does a crick become a creek?

    • ADKresident says:

      Somewhere between the South Jersey Pine Barrens and NY border, I reckon.
      haha, jk.

    • JohnL says:

      Good question Boreas. I’d say about 1967……about the time kids lost the unlimited freedom to poke around under bridges looking for crawdads and frogs. Crick to me is more a state of mind than a definablle body of water. It’s a kid thing.

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