Lake Erie is among North America’s five Great Lakes, and is located along the international border between the United States and Canada. The northern shore of Lake Erie is situated in the Canadian province of Ontario, specifically on the Ontario Peninsula. In terms of surface area, Erie is the fourth largest of the five Great Lakes, and ranks 11th largest in the world. The lake is also the smallest by volume, shallowest, and the southernmost of the five Great Lakes.
Description of Lake Erie
The Canadian province of Ontario is located on the northern shores of the lake, while the US states of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York are located along the western, southern, and eastern shores of Lake Erie. The lake extends from the northeast to the south, covering a length of about 241 miles and has a maximum width of 27 miles. The lake has a surface area of 9,910 square miles and its drainage basin covers an area of 30,140 square miles. The lake’s primary tributary river is the Detroit River, which carries the discharge of Lake Huron. Other tributary rivers include the Raisin, Sandusky, Portage, Maumee, Cuyahoga, and Grand Rivers of Ohio. The lake discharges its water through the Niagara River at the eastern end. Several islands are located in the western end of the lake, the largest of which is Pelee Island, Ontario. Lake Erie has a mean elevation of 570 feet above sea level. It is the shallowest of the five Great Lakes, with a maximum depth of 210 feet, and as a result the lake has the shortest water retention time of the Great Lakes, with an average of about 2.6 years.
History of Lake Erie
Various indigenous communities inhabited the Lake Erie basin area for several centuries, including the Iroquois Confederacy. In 1669, French Canadian exlorer Louis Jolliet was likely the first European to visit Lake Erie, although other sources suggest Etienne Brule, also a French explorer, reached the lake in 1615. British colonists, together with the Iroquois, established trade routes around the lake during the 17th century. In 1759, the British took control of two strategic forts that were held by the French: Fort Niagara and Fort Conti. One year later, the British seized two more forts in the region: Fort Detroit and Fort-Pontchartrain-du-Détroit.
Freshwater commercial fishing is significant to the economy surrounding Lake Erie. In fact, it is home to one of the largest freshwater commercial fisheries in the world. Additionally, the extraction of iron ore has also been important economically. The steel industry, especially in Pittsburgh and Detroit, were dependent on the movement of limestone and iron ore across the Great Lakes, particularly the ports of Ohio, which include Ashtabula, Cleveland, and Conneaut. To this day, the port of Toledo, Ohio is known for handling soft coal shipments, while the port in Buffalo is significant in grain handling. Other significant ports include Huron, Colborne, Fairport, Lorraine, and Sandusky. In the 1960s, serious pollution of the lake led to the closure of several beaches and resorts.
Recreational Opportunities in Lake Erie
Lake Erie is famous for sport fishing, especially walleye fishing, as the species is common in the lake. Many fishing boats operate on the lake and take tourists out for fishing and other water sports. Ice fishing is also one of the most popular activities in Lake Erie.