World Facts

The World's Largest Freshwater Lakes

North America's Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world.

Most of the world's lakes are made up of freshwater, and the majority of lakes lie in the Northern Hemisphere. Most lakes have at least a natural outflow in the form of a river or a stream while some lakes do not have an outflow and only lose water through evaporation. There are thousands of freshwater lakes spread across planet Earth. Canada alone has more than 2 million lakes, with 31,750 of these lakes being larger than 1.2 square miles. 122 lakes measure at least 390 square miles. The following is a list of the largest freshwater lakes in the world.

Largest Freshwater Lakes in the World

Lake Superior

Lake Superior is the largest lake in North America and also the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area and the third-largest by volume. Its surface area is approximately 31,700 square miles. The lake is shared by the province of Ontario in Canada, and the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan in the US. Lake Superior has a volume of 2,900 cubic miles. The lake measures 350 miles long, 160 miles wide, and 483 feet deep on average.

Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria is an African Great Lake named after Queen Victoria. It has a surface area of approximately 26,600 square miles, making it the second largest freshwater lake in the world by area. With a volume of 2,700 cubic miles, Lake Victoria is the 9th largest continental lake. The lake is shared by Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania and receives much of its water directly from the rain. Victoria has a maximum length of 209 miles, a width of 160 miles and an average depth of 130 feet.

Lake Huron

Lake Huron is one of the Great Lakes of North America, comprising of a part of Lake Michigan-Huron. It is shared by the Canadian province of Ontario and the state of Michigan, the US. Lake Huron has a surface area of 23,007 square miles, the second-largest Great Lake. It averages a volume of 850 cubic miles and measures a maximum of 206 miles long, 183 miles wide, and is about 195 feet deep.

Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan is located entirely in the US. With a volume of 1,180 cubic miles, it is the second largest Great Lakes by volume. However, Michigan is the 4th largest lake in the world by surface area, averaging 22,404 square miles. The lake has a maximum length of 307 miles, 118 miles wide, and 923 feet.Lake Michigan is shared by several states including Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana.

Other Notably Large Fresh Water Lakes

Other freshwater lakes with significant surface areas in the world include Tanganyika, Baikal, Great Bear Lake, Malawi, and Great Slave lakes. These lakes have a surface area of more than 10,000 square miles.

Ranking Freshwater Lakes by Volume

Freshwater lakes can be ranked by either the volume or surface area. Some of the large lakes by surface area are slightly shallow and do not hold a lot of water. Although Lake Superior is the largest lake by surface area, by volume it ranks 3rd after Baikal and Tanganyika. However, lakes are commonly ranked by surface area since the volume of a lake changes throughout the year. Because of the changing volumes, information on the volume of lakes varies from source to source.

World's Largest Freshwater Lakes

RankLakeContinentSize (surface area in square miles)
1SuperiorNorth America31700 sq mi
2VictoriaAfrica26600 sq mi
3HuronNorth America23000 sq mi
4MichiganNorth America22000 sq mi
5TanganyikaAfrica12700 sq mi
6BaikalEurasia12248 sq mi
7Great Bear LakeNorth America12028 sq mi
8MalawiAfrica11400 sq mi
9Great Slave LakeNorth America10500 sq mi
10ErieNorth America9910 sq mi
11WinnipegNorth America9465 sq mi
12OntarioNorth America7320 sq mi
13LadogaEurasia6800 sq mi

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