The Great Lakes are a series of interconnected lakes along the Canada–US border consisting of Lake Superior, Huron, Michigan, Erie, and Ontario. They connect to the North Atlantic through the Saint Lawrence River and jointly form the Great Lakes Waterway. The Great Lakes are the second largest freshwater lakes in the world after Lake Baikal and account for 21% of the surface freshwater. They are also the largest freshwater lake by area extending over 94,250 square miles. The Great Lakes experience sea-like characteristics such as strong currents, distant horizon, great depth, sustained winds and rolling waves, and are sometimes known as inland seas. Lake Michigan is the only lake that is not shared by both countries as it lies entirely within the borders of the United States.
The Great Lakes By Depth
Lake Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes with an area of 31,700 square miles which is about the size of Austria or South Carolina. The lake’s average depth is 483 feet while its deepest point is 1,333 ft. Lake Superior holds 2,900 cubic miles of water which is enough to cover South and North America to a depth of 12 inches. Jeffrey Val Klump was the first person to reach the deepest point of the lake on July 30, 1985.
Lake Ontario is the smallest of the Great Lakes with an area of about 7,340 square miles. It is also the fourth smallest in volume after Lake Erie with a capacity of about 393 cubic miles. As the easternmost of the Great Lakes, Lake Ontario has the lowest elevation of 243 feet above the sea level and 326 ft lower than Lake Erie. Its average depth of is 283 feet while its deepest point is 802 feet.
Lake Michigan is located entirely within the US. It is the second largest by volume with 1,180 cubic miles of water and the third largest by area covering an estimated 22,404 square miles. Lake Michigan connects to Lake Huron through the Straits of Mackinac, and in some occasions, the pair are considered one lake. The average depth of Lake Michigan is 279 ft while its deepest point is 923 ft.
Lake Huron forms the Eastern portion of Lake Michigan-Huron. It covers about 23,007 square miles and holds 850 cubic miles of water. The average depth of Lake Huron is 195 feet while its deepest point is 750 ft.
Lake Erie is the fourth largest of the Great Lakes with an area of 9,910 square miles and the smallest by volume with 116 cubic miles of water. The lake has a mean elevation of 571 feet above the sea level, a length of 209 nautical miles and a breadth of 50 nautical miles at its widest. It is the shallowest of the Great Lakes with an average depth of 62 feet and a maximum depth of 210 feet. The lake is warmer compared to the other lakes because of its shallow depth and continues to pose a problem for the two nuclear power plants that require cold water to cool the reactors.
The Great Lakes Basin
The Great Lakes basin encompasses both the United States and Canada. The basin accounts for about 25% of agricultural production in Canada and 7% in the United States while serving 10% of the American population and 30% of the Canadian population. The Great Lakes Waterway is a faster and more effective way of transporting bulky goods from the interior to the Atlantic and across both countries, but environmental concerns have been raised over the continued pollution of the lakes and the destruction of the catchment areas.