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Lake Erie Plain

The Lake Erie Plain is a lowland belt that, in Chautauqua County, runs in a southwest to northeast direction along the shore of Lake Erie. This Plain rises from an elevation of 572 feet at the present day wave-cut shale bluffs of the Lake Erie shoreline to about 850 feet at the base of the “Hill” a few miles inland. Also known as the Portage Escarpment, this is the steep rise that marks the northern boundary of the Allegheny Plateau. Several streams have cut narrow ravines across the Plain and flow into Lake Erie. Their courses are roughly parallel to each other. This parallel drainage pattern is in contrast to the dendritic, or branching pattern of streams that flow out of the Plateau’s highlands to feed the Allegheny River.

On Route 20, an ancient beach line runs along the roadbed parallel to the present shoreline 1.5 miles away. There are as many as five old beaches, but usually two of them are distinguishable. These rise in successive steps from the present lake level to the base of the Allegheny Plateau and mark the shores of Lake Erie’s Ice Age predecessors, Lakes Warren and Whittlesey. The Lake Erie Plain is famous agriculturally for its bountiful crops of fruits and vegetables. It is the greatest grape producing region in the country outside of California.

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Natural History Atlas sites in the Lake Erie Plain include:
Barcelona Harbor
Canadaway Creek Preserve
Dunkirk Harbor
Lake Erie State Park
Point Gratiot Park