Lake Michigan is the only Great Lake to exist entirely within the United States, while all others are located on the border of both the United States and Canada. Lake Michigan the second largest volume of the Great Lakes and ranks third in terms of area. The lake occupies an area of 22,404 square miles, which is nearly the size of West Virginia. The northeastern end of the lake joins with Lake Huron through the Straits of Mackinac, and therefore the two lakes are sometimes one large lake, named Lake Michigan–Huron. If considered as one lake, Lake Michigan-Huron is the world's largest freshwater lake by surface area. A large portion of the lake lies within the state of Michigan, the eastern parts are located in Wisconsin and Illinois, and the southernmost tip is located in Indiana.
Statistics and Bathymetry
Lake Michigan occupies an area of 22,404 square miles. This total area is distributed among the four states in the following way: 13,237 square miles in Michigan, 7,358 square miles in Wisconsin, 1,576 square miles in Illinois, and 234 square miles in Indiana. Lake Michigan has a length of 307 miles, a width of 118 miles, and its shoreline stretches 1,440 miles. It has an average depth of 297 feet, a maximum depth of 923 feet, and a volume of 1,180 cubic miles of water. Twelve million people live along the lake's shorelines, especially the Milwaukee and Chicago metropolitan areas.
The Great Lakes Waterway and the Saint Lawrence Seaway connect the lake to ocean-going vessels that cannot traverse inland. During the winter a large section of the water freezes, disrupting traffic on the St. Lawrence Seaway that connects to the Atlantic. Lake Michigan connects to the Gulf of Mexico via the Illinois Waterway. The primary sources of the lake include the Fox River, Milwaukee River, Grand River, and the Muskegon River. The primary outflows include the Chicago River, Calumet River, and the Straits of Mackinac.
Lake Michigan has some of the best inland beaches in the U.S., and has even been branded the "Third Coast" after the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. The beaches are sandy and soft, while some are covered by sand cherries or grass. The lake is less polluted, and therefore its water is clear and cool. The lake's east shore has the largest freshwater dunes in the world that reach heights greater than several hundred feet. The forests and parks along the shoreline in Indiana and Michigan are characterized by unique expansive dunes. The northern east shore and the western shore are characterized by sand and rocks. Chicago's waterfront includes marinas, harbors, beaches, and residential structures. Apart from navigation, Lake Michigan is a source of clean drinking water and fish for millions of people.
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