World Facts

The Great Lakes Ranked by Size

With a surface area of 31,700 square miles, Lake Superior is the largest Great Lake.

The Great Lakes is a series of five interconnected freshwater lakes located in North America. The lakes span across Canada and the United States. The five lakes, Lake Huron, Superior, Michigan, Erie, and Ontario form the largest freshwater hold of 21% of the Earth’s fresh water. They cover a combined area of 94,250 square miles and hold 5,439 cubic miles of water. Their vast size and volume, rolling waves, great depths, and strong currents have acquired them the nickname “inland seas.” The lakes formed about 14,000 years ago, at a time the Earth was experiencing a glacial age. They are a major transportation route connecting inland states and provinces to the Atlantic Ocean. Manmade channels, canals, and rivers join the lakes to each other. Lake Ontario connects the lakes to the Gulf of St Lawrence through the Saint Lawrence River and Seaway.

5. Lake Superior - 31,700 square miles

Lake Superior covers an area of 31,700 square miles and is the largest of the Great Lakes. The lakes extend to Ontario in Canada as well as the US states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It is the world’s second largest lake after the Caspian Sea and the world’s largest freshwater lake by area. It is also North America’s largest lake. The lake lies at the North West end of the Great Lakes chain. Lake Superior empties into Lake Huron through the St. Marys River and the Soo Locks system. Lake Superior covers an area of 31,700 square miles which is nearly the size of Austria or the State of South Carolina. Its maximum length is 350 statute miles while its maximum width is 160 statute miles. It has an average depth of 483 feet and is 1,333 feet at its deepest point. The lake holds 2,900 cubic miles of water. It is an essential route for transporting grains, iron ore, and manufactured materials. Lake freighters and ocean-going freighters transport these products through St. Marys River into Lake Huron. Between January and March, the lake is deserted because of the cold temperature that freezes the surface of the water rendering it unsuitable for transportation.

4. Lake Huron - 23,007 square miles

Lake Huron is the second largest of the Great Lakes. It occupies the eastern portion of the Lake Michigan–Huron and has the same elevation as Lake Michigan. A 5-mile-wide, 120 feet deep trait of Mackinac connects the two lakes. It is shared by the state of Michigan and the province of Ontario. It was named “Huron” after the local Huron people by early French Explorers. The lake covers an area of 23,007 square miles, of which 13,904 square miles lie in Ontario while 9,103 square miles lie in Michigan. The lake holds an average of 850 cubic miles of water. The water surface lies at an altitude of 577 feet above the sea level. Its average depth is 195 feet while its deepest point is 750 feet. Its maximum length is 206 statute miles while its width is 183 statute miles. The Georgian Bay protrudes from the Northeast end of the lake while the Manitoulin Island separates the bay and the North Channel from the main lake. On the southwest part of the lake lies the Saginaw Bay. The St. Marys River is its primary source and connects the lake to Lake Superior while St Clair river drains it.

3. Lake Michigan - 22,404 square miles

Lake Michigan is the third largest lake of the Great lakes by area and second by volume. It is the only lake that is entirely in the US; the other four are cross-border lakes. It occupies the western portion of Lake Michigan–Huron. The lake is connected to Lake Huron through the Straits of Mackinac. The lake covers an area of 22,404 square miles and extends to the states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. The lake is 307 miles long and 118 miles wide. It has an average depth of 279 feet and is 923 feet at its deepest point. Lake Michigan holds 1,180 cubic miles of water. On the Northwest corner lies Green Bay while the Grand Traverse Bay occupies the northeast. The deepest part of the lake is Chippewa Basin in the northern half. The Fox River, Grand River, St. Joseph River, and the Milwaukee River are its major inflows while the strait of Mackinac and the Calumet and Chicago rivers are its primary outflows.

2. Lake Erie - 9,910 square miles

Lake Erie ranks fourth in of the great lakes in size. It is the smallest lake by volume. The lake is the southmost of the five lakes. The lake is also the shallowest of the five lakes with an average depth of 62 feet and a maximum depth of 210 feet. It covers an area of 9,910 square miles extending to the Canadian province of Ontario and the US states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio. The lake was named after the Erie people who are natives of its southern shore. It holds 116 cubic miles of water. The Detroit River is its primary inflow while its natural outflow is the Niagara River. The Welland Canal connects the lake to Lake Ontario.

1. Lake Ontario - 7,340 square miles

Lake Ontario is the smallest of the great lakes by area. It is shared by the province of Ontario and the state of New York. The lake was named after the Canadian province of Ontario. Niagara River is its primary inlet. The lake is the outlet of the Great Lakes chains and connects to the Atlantic Ocean through Saint Lawrence River. The lake covers an area of 7,340 square miles and holds 393 cubic miles. It has the lowest elevation of the Great Lakes at 243 feet above the sea level. Its length is 193 statute miles while its width is 53 statute miles. Its average depth is 283 feet.

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