The largest group of freshwater lakes in the world straddles the countries of the United States and Canada. Holding about 20% of the planet’s fresh water, the Great Lakes were formed four thousand years ago when the thick glaciers melted. The five famous Great Lakes of the North American continent are; Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario. Located along the US-Canada border, these lakes form a waterbody that is visible from the space. These American lakes have played a significant role in establishing the native population of the region, since they helped in trading of goods.
Here is what you need to know about the Great Lakes:
The shallowest of all five lakes is Lake Erie, having a maximum depth of only 210 feet. Lake Erie has witnessed one of the significant historic battles of the War of 1812. The US Navy emerged victorious in the war with the British navy. The lake has its outlet in the Niagara river, sustaining an outflow which forms one of the most beautiful waterfalls of this world. The lake is however in the news regarding environmental concerns, such as overfishing, pollution, algae blooms, and ‘eutrophication’- a condition where water body becomes over-enriched with minerals and nutrients.
With maximum depth of 750 feet, Lake Huron is noted as the second largest freshwater lake in North America. The name is derived from the Huron people who were early inhabitants in the regions near the lake. The lake is known to have the longest shoreline in comparison to the other lakes, it also sustains the largest freshwater island – Manitoulin. There is a massive amount of Sulphur present in the lake, which leads to formation of numerous sinkholes deep under water.
The name itself translates into “Lake of Shining Waters.” It has a maximum depth of 802 feet. Winds and current prevailing in the lake has led to the formation of ‘baymouth bars,’ which is another name for sandbanks. This has further resulted in numerous lagoons and sheltered harbors, which are home to abundance of flora and fauna. Ice sheets may develop on the lake, but the water never freezes on the whole.
Lake Michigan is the only freshwater lake which is totally within the boundaries of the United States. It has a depth of 923 feet, but since the volume is much less than Lake Huron, it is the third largest freshwater lake on the continent. It is believed that the earliest inhabitants of the regions near the lake were Hopewell Indians. The lake has contributed tremendously in the development of Chicago and Midwestern United States during the 19th century, especially during the days of the Civil War. The lake sustains the largest freshwater sand dunes in the world.
The biggest of the five lakes is Lake Superior. With a maximum depth of 1,333 feet, and a surface area of 31,700 square miles, it is also the third- largest freshwater lake in the world. Over 200 rivers feed this lake, including the Nipigon River, the St. Louis River, the Pigeon River, the Pic River and the White River. The water level fluctuates on monthly bases, with lowest levels occurring in the month of March and April. Isle Royale in the state of Michigan is the largest island of the lake. It is known to be home to over 88 fish species. The large volume of the lake often makes it look like an ‘inland sea’ owing to its nature of rolling waves and string currents.
Sustaining a volume of 5,349 cubic miles, these lakes have witnessed degradation in the ancient days, because of the westward expansion. Fishery decline, siltation, and pollutants have caused significant damage to the environment. The water levels continue to change seasonally, and even vary dramatically for long periods. The Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 and the Great Lakes Charter of 1985, have been enacted to ensure appropriate diversion and exports of the freshwater.
Visit the following to learn more about Lakes and Rivers: