What’s the difference between a pond and a lake? They asked.

walking through woodsWhat’s the difference between a pond and a lake? My children recently asked.

I decided to answer their question yesterday. I needed to press the pause button and be outdoors. So after school I took them to a wood a mile away.

broken tree woodsHead towards the broken tree and you’ll soon see water.pond

And as we emerged from the shadows within the woods, the sun introduced the pond to us. A footprint left by a glacier.
path pond

pond autumn shades

Was it a lake or a pond? Well, it’s called Round Pond but is close to seven acres in size.rowboatducks

leap canoeI breathed. They took turns to leap. white trees, red leavesred leavesthrowing stickstick landing water

I rested and gazed at the season’s changing colors. They threw sticks and watched the ripples.

pond not lakeAre you sure it’s a pond? It looks like a lake, my daughter said. And then I knew I was in trouble trying to define the difference between a pond and a lake but I resorted to simple answers. We know when it’s shallow and small it’s a pond. And when it’s deep and large it’s a lake. But no one seems to agree on when a pond becomes a lake.

Just like my fears, I thought.

leaves underwaterThe experts even disagree on whether plants underwater can define a body of water.

clouds above pondAnd then we left the water someone had named a pond, not a lake. two small yellow leaves

My daughter picked two tiny leaves to take back home with us. If it had been a lake, and not a pond, she said, she would have looked for larger souvenirs.

And here’s an update…

Is there a difference between a lake and a pond? When does a pond become a lake?

There is no official distinction between a pond and a lake. Neither are definitions given by limnologists – inland water experts – always consistent. In fact they can vary in different regions and countries. Although there is no universal standard to categorize ponds and lakes, the difference between these types of waterbodies is often defined by their size and depth or even the type of plant growth in them. To make it even more confusing some experts differentiate between ‘shallow’ and ‘deep’ lakes and ponds. For example, light is able to reach the sediment and affect plant growth on ‘shallow’ lakes and ponds.

Round Pond, Sag Harbor

Round Pond was named by the early European settlers to this area near Sag Harbor in the Hamptons. It is a coastal plain pond nearly seven acres in size originally formed by glaciers and fed by groundwater seepage.

From the 1840s to early 20th century there was an ice house located on the southern side of Round Pond. In the past it was also a favorite haunt of ice skaters when the water froze. 

Round Pound can be reached by hiking on the Long Pond Greenbelt, by car either to the end of Middleline Highway or following a short trail off Round Pond Lane.

And on another adventure in the Hamptons, my kids found out what was so special about a vernal pond


30 thoughts on “What’s the difference between a pond and a lake? They asked.”

    1. This particular one is called Round Pond and is part of a series of local ponds in the area. One of the funny things I discovered is that it’s so arbitrary of a definition that sometimes people will change the name from pond to lake if it helps house prices around it!

  1. Wow, amazing photos showing off the colours of autumn so beautifully. To me a pond is ornamental and small, a lake is gargantuan.

    Nipping over from Country Kids.

    1. Thank you – yes I first thought it would be simple to explain the difference. Which it is.. if it’s a tiny pond or a huge lake but not in the area in between!

  2. What amazing photos! I think ponds tend to be smaller and shallower but who knows? But taking them out to see a pond is the best way to see what they think.Popping over from Country Kids.

  3. What absolutely stunning photos and an amazing wilderness you have a mile away from you. I love the colours of the leaves. Your children look like they really enjoyed their adventure in learning about the difference between a pond and a lake. Thank you for linking up with #CelebrateAutumn

  4. What a gorgeous place and ideal for exploring and having fun. Like you I would find it difficult to describe the difference, especially being confronted with such a large body of water like this and then calling it a pond! Thanks for linking up and sharing your lovely photos with Country Kids.

  5. First of all, stunning photographs Kriss! Just beautiful.
    We’ve had the pond/lake debate here too, as we are surrounded by them, and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the naming, some huge ones are called ponds and some small ones lakes! I’ll just stick with them being beautiful places for a walk 🙂

    1. Thank you. I guess it would have been up to the individual geography teacher as there’s no real official definition strangely enough!!

    1. Thanks! I did some research before the walk and discovered limnologists (inland water experts) can’t agree amongst themselves on pond and lake differences so it was better keeping my answers simple for the kids.

  6. What a lovely post Kriss, looks like a fabulous location especially at this time of year. I would have said lake but that’s only because I think of a pond being something in garden. I’m probably very wrong there 🙂

    1. Thank you Charly. I think the only thing that experts agree on is that they’re usually ponds in small gardens so you’re right there!! The place I visited with the kids is called Round Pond but that’s just the name given to it by early settlers. All very confusing to me which is why I opted for ultra simple answers with the kids!!

  7. Catherine Graham (Adventure Togs)

    I wouldn’t know the difference either! I love your photos, such vivid colours and the children having fun…just popped in via #countrykids

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