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|The Sound Today|
To some of us, the Sound is a beautiful view from the beach. To others it is a playground for swimming, fishing, or boating. To commercial fishermen, it provides a demanding but satisfying occupation. Before we describe the conditions that threaten what the Sound means to each of us, it's important to look at the Sound as it is today.
Long Island Sound is an estuary - a partly enclosed body of water where saltwater and freshwater meet. Ocean tides drive saltwater in and out of the Sound, and most freshwater enters from the rivers of Connecticut.
Estuaries provide breeding and nursery grounds for marine animals and are among the richest and most productive areas on earth. At the mouth of each river and stream flowing to the Sound is a smaller estuary with its own specific population of plants and animals.
Long Island protects the Connecticut shoreline from the full effect of ocean winds and waves, producing what is known as a low-energy shoreline. It is, in fact, the longest stretch of lowenergy shoreline on the east coast. The Connecticut coast is composed mainly of exposed bedrock swept bare by glaciers and sandy river and stream beds formed by water and sediment from melting glaciers. On Long Island, the North Shore coast west of Port Jefferson has many bays, inlets, and harbors. To the east of Port Jefferson lies a long stretch of bluffs that are part of the terminal moraine left behind by the last glacier.
The Sound is 110 miles long and 21 miles wide at its widest point. Ocean water enters mainly at (Great blue Heron graphic and text) the eastern end through The Race, where enormous quantities of water rushing through I.the narrow inlet create the strongest currents in the Sound. The channel here is 350 feet deep, although the average depth of the Sound is 65 feet.
The tide rises and falls most at the western end. Here, the connection between the Sound and ocean by way of the East River is so narrow that it cuts down the flow, causing the water that entered the Sound on the incoming tide at the eastern end to rise higher.
To survive year-round in the Sound, plants and animals must withstand a water-temperature range of 32°F (0°C) in the winter to 75°F (24°C) in the summer. What lives where and when in the Sound is largely determined by the temperature together with the salt content, or salinity, of the water in a particular area. Like the current, salinity is higher at the eastern end where the seawater enters.