If there were a game show with “Name all of the Great Lakes” as the deciding question to win, I would have lost a few months ago. Before we came into this area for the first time, I only knew there are several of them – but I wasn’t exactly sure how many, let alone where they were all located.
One of the wonderful things about our current lifestyle is that we are able to actually experience places we’ve previously only learned snippets about via books, TV or the Internet. In this case, we spent several weeks this summer (and a couple last summer) getting to know – and actually touch – all of the Great Lakes. Now we have no excuse to NOT know them all well!
So, can YOU name all of the great lakes before reading on – no peeking!
And a couple of bonus questions:
Which Great Lake lies entirely within U.S. boundaries?
Which state is bounded by the most (and how many) of the Great Lakes ?
I’m sure all of our friends who are/were teachers or historians got the answers, right? Here are a few fun facts I gathered during our visit in the region:
- The Great Lakes consist of five separate lakes, and together they form one interconnected body of fresh water. Four of them are bounded by both the U.S. and Canada – Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Only Lake Michigan is entirely within the United States.
- Think “HOMES” to enumerate the lakes:
H = Huron
O = Ontario
M = Michigan
E = Erie
S = Superior
- The Great Lakes contain 20% of the earth’s fresh surface water system, about 6 quadrillion gallons of water.
- Water from the lakes would cover the 48 contiguous states to a uniform depth of 9.5 feet.
- The Great Lakes and the islands within them have more than 10,000 miles of coastline – equivalent to three trips between California and the East Coast.
- There are about 25 million Americans who call the Great Lakes basin home, and about 8.5 million Canadians.
Here are a few tidbits I picked up about each lake, from the long list I read at the Soo Locks Visitor Center:
Lake Ontario –
- Lake Ontario is the smallest of the Great Lakes and ranks 17th largest in the world.
- Its average depth is 283 ft, with the deepest point at 802 feet.
- Surface area is 7,340 square miles, with 712 miles of shoreline.
- Despite its smaller surface area, Lake Ontario holds almost four times as much water as Lake Erie.
Lake Erie –
- Lake Erie is the 4th largest Great Lake in surface area, and the smallest in depth. It’s the 13th largest lake on the planet.
- The water in Lake Erie replaces itself in only 2.6 years, which is notable considering the water in Lake Superior takes almost two centuries to replace itself!
- Lake Erie is the shallowest on average – at 62 feet – with the deepest point at 210 feet.
- It is the warmest of the Great Lakes.
Lake Michigan –
- Lake Michigan is the 3rd largest of the Great Lakes and ranks 5th largest in the world.
- The world’s largest freshwater dunes are along Lake Michigan’s shoreline.
- As mentioned, it is the only Great Lake located entirely within in the United States.
Lake Huron –
- Lake Huron is the 2nd largest of the Great Lakes, and ranks as the 4th largest lake in the world.
- There are more than 30,000 islands within Lake Huron, including the world’s largest freshwater island – Manitoulin Island.
- Including island shorelines, Lake Huron has the longest shoreline of all the Great Lakes, at 3,827 miles.
And the grandest of them all…Lake Superior –
- Lake Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes and ranks as the largest lake by surface area in the world.
- Water from all of the other four Great Lakes would be needed to fill Lake Superior, plus three more refills from Lake Erie!
- Contained within Lake Superior is a whopping 10% of the world’s fresh surface water.
- 200 rivers empty into Lake Superior, but there’s only one outlet – through Saint Mary’s River.
- The water in Lake Superior replaces itself only once every 190 years – think about that for a minute!
Finally, the answer to the last bonus question – Michigan is bounded by four of the great lakes. The only lake it doesn’t touch is Ontario.
Although naming the Great Lakes won’t make me a Slumdog Millionaire nor a lake expert, I can easily name them now – with a vivid picture of each in my mind. I hope you passed the quiz and learned something new!
Next up: Great times on the Door Peninsula!