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See Beneath Sound’s Surface In Westport

Cold water has left wonderful clarity in Long Island Sound, but with warmer weather approaching, that may not last too long.
Cold water has left wonderful clarity in Long Island Sound, but with warmer weather approaching, that may not last too long. Photo Credit: John Haffey

NORWALK, Conn. -- Head to your local beach, pier, and jetty, and take a look down at the water.  In many instances rocks, shells and sea life should be surprisingly visible despite the depth. 

Sometimes unfairly categorized as “filthy,” “toxic,” or “disgusting” by local residents, the Long Island Sound’s water quality has steadily been improving over the past decade. 

Even with this clean up, it comes as a surprise to be able to look and see sometimes up to a dozen feet beneath the surface.

The main reason for the Sound’s current clarity is due in large part to the region’s irregularly harsh winter and drenching spring rains.  Due to record-setting snowfall and constantly sub-freezing weather, winter water temperatures plummeted to lows not seen in years. 

The recent bout of wet weather has kept temperature from rising as the drenching fills both in the Sound and its surrounding watersheds with additional cold water.

Despite this weekend marking the unofficial beginning summer, water temperatures in the Western Sound have yet to break 60 degrees.  Besides deterring all but the hardiest swimmers, these frigid waters have prevented the growth of seasonal algae and plankton.

These microorganism thrive on nutrient-rich waters, which come only with an influx of warm water.  When the heating occurs, these tiny creatures explode in population and give the Sound its not-so-beautiful summertime haze, reducing visibility to a minimum.

However, until season temperatures begin to rise water temperatures will remain low and prevent the cloudy invasion.

For the truly bold, these chilly water temperatures offer a chance to view the Long Island Sound’s ecosystem with incredible clarity.  With an inexpensive wetsuit, snorkel and a pair of fins, one can see an incredible underwater world few know exists. 

Cold water reefs can be found off many of the Norwalk Islands, and even a dive around a simple piling or seawall can be teeming with life.  Even from the warmth of a boat or pier, it is truly incredibly to be able to see crabs, fish, and other sea life many feet below the ocean’s surface. 

Be sure to take advantage of this seasonal opportunity, because once the weather heats up the beautiful views will be lost in the haze.

John Haffey Jr. is a Norwalk resident and Long Island Sound enthusiast and has navigated and fished Coastal Connecticut for years.

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