How Much Do You Know About the Great Lakes?
Remember in elementary school, your teachers taught you how to remember the Great Lakes – HOMES (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior). The following information is from the Great Lakes Information Network (www.Great-Lakes.net):
Lake Huron is the third largest of the lakes by volume, with 850 cubic miles of water. Lake Huron is hydrologically inseparable from Lake Michigan, joined by the wide Straits of Mackinac. The Huron lakeshore extends 3,827 miles, and is characterized by shallow, sandy beaches and the rocky shores of Georgian Bay. The lake measures 206 miles across and 183 miles north to south, with an average depth of 195 feet (approximately 750 feet, maximum). Lake Huron’s drainage area, which covers parts of Michigan and Ontario, is relatively large compared to the other Great Lakes. It’s more than twice the size of Huron’s approximately 23,000 square miles of surface water. The Saginaw River basin is intensively farmed and contains the Flint and Saginaw-Bay City metropolitan areas.
Lake Ontario is similar to Lake Erie in length and breadth (193 miles by 53 miles). Yet with its greater average depth (approximately 283 feet), Lake Ontario holds almost four times the volume (395 cubic miles) and has a retention time of about 6 years. The drainage basin covers parts of Ontario and New York, and a small portion of Pennsylvania. Major urban industrial centers, such as Hamilton and Toronto, are located on its shore. The U.S. shore is less urbanized and is not intensively farmed.
Lake Michigan the second largest Great Lake by volume with just under 1,180 cubic miles of water, is the only Great Lake entirely within the United States. Approximately 118 miles wide and 307 miles long, Lake Michigan has more than 1,600 miles of shoreline. Averaging 279 feet in depth, the lake reaches 925 feet at its deepest point. The lake’s northern tier is in the colder, less developed upper Great Lakes region, while its more temperate southern basin contains the Milwaukee and Chicago metropolitan areas. The drainage basin, approximately twice as large as the 22,300 square miles of surface water, includes portions of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. Lake Michigan is hydrologically inseparable from Lake Huron, joined by the wide Straits of Mackinac.
Lake Erie is the smallest of the Great Lakes in volume (119 cubic miles) and is exposed to the greatest effects from urbanization and agriculture. Measuring 241 miles across and 57 miles from north to south, the lake’s surface is just under 10,000 square miles, with 871 miles of shoreline. The average depth of Lake Erie is only about 62 feet (210 feet, maximum). It therefore warms rapidly in the spring and summer, and frequently freezes over in winter. The drainage basin covers parts of Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Ontario. Because of its fertile soils, the basin is intensively farmed and is the most densely populated of the five lake basins.
Lake Superior is not only the largest of the Great Lakes, it also has the largest surface area of any freshwater lake in the world. It contains almost 3,000 cubic miles of water, an amount that could fill all the other Great Lakes plus three additional Lake Erie’s. With an average depth approaching 500 feet, Superior also is the coldest and deepest (1,332 feet) of the Great Lakes. The lake stretches approximately 350 miles from west to east, and 160 miles north to south, with a shoreline almost 2,800 miles long. The drainage basin, totaling 49,300 square miles, encompasses parts of Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ontario. Most of the Superior basin is sparsely populated, and heavily forested, with little agriculture because of a cool climate and poor soils.
Although not officially a Great Lake, Lake St. Clair (between lakes Huron and Erie) is the smallest lake in the Great Lakes system. Heart-shaped and shallow (averaging only 10 feet/3 meters deep), the lake requires periodic dredging to ensure bottom clearance for large ships. The northeastern portion of Lake St. Clair is an extensive delta system, the largest within the Great Lakes. The Michigan portion of the delta has been urbanized, while Ontario has set aside much of the wetlands as the Walpole Indian Reservation. Wetland loss from urban and recreational encroachment continues to be a problem on the U.S. side; and in Ontario, many of the wetland areas have been wiped out by agricultural drainage.
The St. Lawrence River & Seaway is of vital geographic and economic importance to the Great Lakes system, connecting the lakes to the Atlantic Ocean and providing navigation to deep-draft ocean vessels. Approximately 800 miles (1,287 km) long, the St. Lawrence River can be divided into three broad sections: the freshwater river, which extends from Lake Ontario to just outside the city of Quebec; the St. Lawrence estuary, which extends from Quebec to Anticosti Island; and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which leads into the Atlantic Ocean.
The St. Lawrence River drops 226 feet between Lake Ontario and Montreal, Canada. To allow vessels to pass through the river and in and out of the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence Seaway, a massive American-Canadian navigational project, was begun in 1954 and completed in 1959. The Seaway created the final link in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River system, connecting Duluth, Minnesota, some 2,340 miles (3,766 km) away, with the head of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, through a complex system of lakes, rivers, deepened channels, locks, and canals.
The Soo Locks have been referred to as one of the great wonders of the world and are still the largest & one of the busiest waterway traffic systems on earth! Watching huge vessels pass through the Locks is a unique experience that cannot be seen anywhere else in the United States. The Locks consist of two canals and four locks that allow vessels of many types/sizes to safely traverse the 21-foot drop in elevation of the St. Mary’s River between Lake Superior and Lakes Michigan and Huron. From viewing decks, you can watch “Lakers” and “Salties” (ocean-going vessels) as they travel the seaway between ports and navigate the rise/drop of the water levels. The Soo Locks Park Visitors Center is open from 9am to 9pm mid-May thru mid-October. The Locks themselves operate most of the year, but are routinely closed from Jan. 15th – Mar. 25th of each year
Additional information of interest about the Great Lakes:
- 6 quadrillion gallons of fresh water
- One-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water (only the polar ice caps and Lake Baikal in Siberia contain more)
- 95 percent of the U.S. supply
- 84 percent of the surface water supply in North America.
- Spread evenly across the continental U.S., the Great Lakes would submerge the country under about 9.5 feet of water.
- More than 94,000 square miles/244,000 square kilometers of water (larger than the states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire combined, or about 23 percent of the province of Ontario).
- About 295,000 square miles/767,000 square kilometers in the watershed (the area where all the rivers and streams drain into the lakes).
- United States and Canada – 10,900 mi/17,549 km (including connecting channels, mainland and islands).
- The Great Lakes shoreline is equal to almost 44 percent of the circumference of the earth, and Michigan’s Great Lakes coast totals 3,288 mi/5,294 km, more coastline than any state but Alaska.
75th Annual Grand Rapids Boat Show: February 19-23, 2020 at DeVos Place, Downtown Grand Rapids
Wednesday, February 19 2:00pm – 9:00pm
Thursday, February 20 12:00pm – 9:00pm
Friday, February 21 12:00pm – 9:00pm
Saturday, February 22 10:00am – 9:00pm
Sunday, February 23 11:00am – 5:00pm