Environment

What Are The Primary Inflows And Outflows Of Lake Erie?

The Niagara River is the primary outflow of Lake Erie.

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Lake Erie is the second largest of the Great Lakes but is the smallest in terms of volume and depth. The lake's northern shore is the Canadian province of Ontario, while the remaining shores are in the United States, specifically the states of New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Lake Erie has several primary inflows but only one primary outflow.

Geography of Lake Erie

Lake Erie is 214 miles long and 57 miles wide at its maximum points and has a total surface area of approximately 9,990 square miles. The lake has an average depth of 62 feet and a maximum depth of 210 feet. Since Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes, it is also the warmest. However, despite being the warmest lake in summer, it is always the first to freeze in winter. The shallowest part of the lake is the western basin, which has an average depth of between 25 and 30 feet. Lake Erie is mainly fed by the Detroit River and is drained into Lake Ontario via the Niagara River. Other rivers that serve the lake include the Sandusky River, Cuyahoga River, Buffalo River, Huron River, Maumee River, and Grand River. Lake Erie's total drainage basin covers about 30,140 square miles.

Primary Inflow

The primary inflow of Lake Erie is the Detroit River. The river flows for approximately 24 miles, from its source at Lake St. Claire to its mouth at Lake Erie. It runs through the metropolitan areas of Michigan, Detroit, and Winsor, Ontario. By definition, the Detroit River is classified as both a river and a strait because it connects two large water bodies (Lake Erie and Lake St. Claire). However, it is rarely referred to as a strait because straits are typically wider. The Detroit River has a maximum width of 2.5 miles and has a maximum depth of 53 feet. At its source, the river has an elevation of 574 feet and drops only 3 feet before it enters Lake Erie. The Detroit River has few tributaries, the largest being the River Rouge, which is almost four times longer than the Detroit. Its flow is relatively constant, with a discharge of about 5,324 cubic meters per second.

Primary Outflow

Lake Erie's outflow accounts for about 85% of the total water supplied to Lake Ontario, and thus plays an important role in Lake Ontario's hydrology. The primary outflow of Lake Erie's is the Niagara River, which flows to Lake Ontario, as well as some outflow through the Welland Canal. The Niagara River accounts for about 95% of the total outflow, while the Welland Canal accounts for about 4%. Additionally, outflow varies seasonally, with a lower flow during winter. The Niagara River forms part of the border between the province of Ontario (Canada) and the state of New York (US) and is approximately 36 miles long.

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