What Are The Primary Inflows And Outflows Of Lake Michigan?

Shoreline of Lake Michigan.

Lake Michigan is the third largest Great Lake by surface area at 22,404 square miles and the second largest by volume holding 4,900 cubic kilometers of water. In addition, the lake is very deep, with depths of up to 900 feet. Lake Michigan stretches from west to east through the states of Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana. Lake Michigan is the only Great Lake located entirely inside the United States, the other four sitting along the border with Canada. Lake Michigan has several primary inflows and outflows. 

Lake Michigan Geography

The 1,640 mile-long shorelines of Lake Michigan have been described as the third coast of the United States after the shorelines of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. This is attributed to its many beaches. To the north of Lake Michigan, is a watershed characterized by a sparse population and presence of thick forests. The economy of this area wholly depends on tourism and natural resources. The southern part of Lake Michigan is highly populated with the presence of rich agricultural land on which mechanized agriculture is carried out. It is associated with the intensive development of industries.

Major Inflows of Lake Michigan

There are many inflows in the form of rivers and tributaries that flow into Lake Michigan. The primary inflows to the lake include Grand River, Fox River, Kalamazoo River, Muskegon River, and the St. Joseph River. These are the rivers that feed the lake daily volume. The waters in Lake Michigan move slowly in a circulatory pattern. The winds blowing across the lake keeps the water from freezing in cold months of winter. 

Grand River

Covering 252 miles in length, the Grand River is the longest river in the state of Michigan. It cuts through the cities of Lansing, Lowell, Grand Rapids, and Jackson among others. Grand River is fed by tributaries upstream before emptying the water in Lake Michigan. Some of the major tributaries include Red Cedar River, Maple River, Base River, and Rogue River. There are of several dams along the river. The predominant fish species on the river is trout.

Fox River

Fox River river is 36 miles long. This is a major tributary of the Manistique River. It joins it upstream before emptying into Lake Michigan. Some major fishing is carried out in this river by locals.

Muskegon River

Fed by the Hersey and the Cedar Creek tributaries, Muskegon River empties into the Muskegon Lake. This lake is connected to Lake Michigan with a mile long channel. This river is famous for logging in the 1980s. Some of the recreation activities are paddling down the river and fishing.

Major Outflows

The primary outflows include the Chicago River and the Strait of Mackinac. 

Chicago River

This river has its source in Lake Michigan and empties at the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. Some fishing is carried out within its length.

Strait of Mackinac

The Strait of Mackinac connects Lake Michigan to Lake Huron. Some geographers have argued that these two lakes can be technically referred to as one lake. This strait is famous as an important route for fur traders. It is a major shipping lane, providing passage to raw materials and finished goods to industries like the steel mills in Indiana and the iron industry at Minnesota. The Strait covers a distance of 8 miles, a bridge was built to help ease communication between the islands separated by the strait of Mackinac. The strait freezes during winter, navigation by ships becomes difficult. Transportation is eased by using icebreaker ships. It is an important gateway to the Lower Great Lakes region.


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