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Great Lakes Facts

The five Great Lakes – Erie, Huron, Michigan, Ontario, and Superior – contain about 20% of the world’s fresh water. Learning more about this unique area will help you to appreciate your time at Lake Erie.

Lake Erie is one of the five Great Lakes, bordering New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario. Ohio's entire, 312-mile north coast is bounded by this lake. Northern Ohio and Lake Erie are top spots for birding, fishing, watersports, and even searching for shipwrecks.

  • The five Great Lakes – Erie, Huron, Michigan, Ontario, and Superior – contain about 20% of the world’s fresh water.
  • A drop of water that enters the upper end of Lake Superior will travel through that lake, exiting via the St. Marys River into lakes Huron and Michigan. From there the droplet will eventually flow into the St. Clair River, into Lake St. Clair, and then into the Detroit River and Lake Erie. The water drop will leave Lake Erie by way of the Niagara River, drop over Niagara Falls, and enter Lake Ontario. From there, it will enter the St. Lawrence River and eventually exit into the Atlantic Ocean. The water droplet’s journey through the Great Lakes will take approximately 320 years!
  • The five Great Lakes collectively cover about 95,000 square miles of surface area – an area roughly equivalent to the states of New York and Ohio. The total shoreline of the Great Lakes is 10,900 miles – about the distance from Toledo, Ohio to Perth, Australia!
  • If the contents of all five Great Lakes were suddenly released, the water would cover the lower forty-eight states to a depth of about nine feet.
  • There are about 35,000 islands in the Great Lakes, and most of them are in Lake Huron. The world’s largest island in a freshwater lake is Huron’s Manitoulin Island, and it harbors the world’s largest freshwater lake on an island.
  • Lake Ontario is the smallest Great Lake by surface area, but Lake Erie is the smallest by volume. Because of its much greater depth, Ontario could swallow the contents of three Lake Eries.
  • Lake Superior is by far the largest of the Great Lakes. It is the world’s 2nd largest freshwater lake, after Lake Baikal (The Caspian Sea is also larger, but it is brackish). Superior is 1,332 feet deep at its deepest, and it could hold all of the other Great Lakes plus three extra Lake Eries!
  • Lake Erie is the 12th largest freshwater lake in the world and holds 116 cubic miles of water. Its average depth is 62 feet – shallowest of the Great Lakes - and the greatest depth is 210 feet. The lake is 241 miles long, and 57 miles across at its widest point.
  • Because Erie is so shallow, it is prone to developing extremely rough waters very quickly during storms. As a consequence, it is the resting place for about 1,150 shipwrecks – one of the densest concentrations of any water body in the world.
  • Lake Erie harbors world class yellow perch and walleye fisheries, which generate approximately $1.1 billion annually.
  • Lake Erie and its associated habitats are among the most bird-rich ecosystems in the United States. Large numbers of migrants pass through, and bird species that use Lake Erie radiate out to every country in Central and South America and the Caribbean.