10 Biggest Lakes In America

The United States of America has some of the largest lakes in the world, including the five Great Lakes (which are shared with Canada). These lakes provide freshwater sources to surrounding states, as well as scenic views, recreational areas, and fishing opportunities. From freshwater, to salt seas, and even human made resevoirs, some of the largest bodies of water can be found across the United States. The importance of these large lakes is evident by the major cities which have developed in and around the lake edges. Here are the 10 biggest lakes in the United States:

  1. Lake Superior - 82,103 km2
  2. Lake Huron - 59,570 km2
  3. Lake Michigan - 57,757 km2
  4. Lake Erie - 25,667 km2
  5. Lake Ontario - 19,011 km2
  6. Great Salt Lake - 5,483 km2
  7. Lake Of The Woods - 4,349 km2
  8. Iliamna Lake - 2,626 km2
  9. Lake Oahe - 1,774 km2
  10. Lake Okeechobee - 1,715 km2

1. Lake Superior - 82,103km2

Lake Superior Michigan
Crisp Point Lighthouse by Lake Superior in Michigan.

Lake Superior is the largest lake in North America, and one of the five Great Lakes which border the United States and Canada. In Canada it borders the province of Ontario, while on the US side it touches Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the upper peninsula of Michigan. By surface area, it is also the world’s largest freshwater lake, and ranks third largest in terms of volume. Lake Superior is the most northern and the most westernly of the Great Lakes, as well as the highest in elevation, meaning it drains into the other lakes.

2. Lake Huron - 59,570km2

Lake Huron
Lake Huron in Port Hope, Michigan, United States.

Another of the famous Great Lakes, Lake Huron is the second largest lake in the United States by surface area, at 59,570 km2 , and the third largest of the Great Lakes by volume of water. Lake Huron also has the longest shoreline of the Great Lakes. Again, Lake Huron borders Canada and the United States, in the form of Ontario, and the state of Michigan. Huron has an abundance of fish, which thrive in the deep fresh water. They include species such as walleye, lake sturgeon, Alewife, Lake trout, and Lake whitefish. The area is popular with tourists and locals for fishing, boating, and swimming in the warmer months.

3. Lake Michigan - 57,757km2

Lake Michigan
Sailboats moored on Lake Michigan, Chicago, Illinois.

Lake Michigan measures roughly 57,757 km2 in surface area, and though it is named after the state of Michigan, actually borders four different states: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. It is the only one of the great lakes to be completely within the United States, and not border with Canada, though the Great Lake System does feed into one another. Lake Michigan’s beautiful shoreline attracts many visitors each year, and the banks actually boasts areas of sand dunes, including both the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and Warren Dunes State Park. Like many of the great lakes, it is popular for fishing, boating, sailing and the like, and is home to native species such as Yellow perch, Lake trout, Smallmouth bass, Largemouth bass, and Bowfin.

4. Lake Erie - 25,667km2

Lake Erie
The beach in Lake Erie at Cleveland.

Lake Erie is another one of the great lakes, and borders several states: Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and the Canadian province of Ontario. It is the southernmost, shallowest, and has the smallest volume, though its area is still an impressive 25,667 km2. Though a smaller Great Lake, the shores of Lake Erie contain some of the largest cities in the area, including Cleveland, Ohio; Buffalo, New York; Erie, Pennsylvania; and Toledo, Ohio. The Lake’s main inlet is the Detroit River, while the primary outflow leads into the Niagara River. The Niagara River is the leading source of hydroelectric power for much of Canada and the United States, furthering the importance of Lake Erie.

5. Lake Ontario - 19,011km2

Lake Ontario
Vacation houses on the Lake Ontario shoreline, near Rochester, New York.

Lake Ontario is often associated with Canada, especially as it has the same name as the province of Ontario, which it borders, but Lake Ontario also borders New York State, and is the only great lake that does not border Michigan State. It’s surface area averages 19,011 km2. Lake Ontario is the last in the great lakes chain, and is therefore a major part of the outflow of the lakes into the St. Lawrence River, and into the Atlantic Ocean. It was, and remains, an important part of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, which allows trade ships access to the lakes and inland areas from the ocean. Additionally, Lake Ontario is a source of drinking water for roughly 9 million people across Ontario and New York state. 

6. Great Salt Lake - 5,483km2

Great Salt Lake
Coyotes walking past the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

The Great Salt Lake, in Utah, is the only lake on this list that is not a freshwater lake. As the name suggests, Great Salt Lake is high in salinity, or salt, and is the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere. Its area measures roughly 5,483 km2. On the South East and Eastern sides of Great Salt Lake are Salt Lake City and its suburbs, the largest city in Utah, with a population of around 200,000 people

7. Lake Of The Woods - 4,349km2

Like many of the Great Lakes, Lake of the Woods also borders Canada and the United States. It sits alongside Manitoba, part of Ontario, and the state of Minnesota. Interestingly, because of the location of the lake, it separates a small area of Minnesota land from the rest of the United States, meaning this part of the state can only be reached by crossing the lake, or passing into Canada. This expansive lake has an area of 4,349 km2, has 105,000 kilometers of shoreline, and contains more than 14,500 different islands. 

8. Iliamna Lake - 2,626km2

Iliamna Lake is located in southwestern portion of the state of Alaska, along the Alaska Peninsula. It is the third largest lake that is found entirely in the United States (as so many of these other lakes are shared with Canada). The lake measures 2,626 km2, and is best known for its abundance of freshwater fish. Due to its more remote location wildlife is more common in Alaska, and the lake has a healthy population of sockeye salmon, as well as Dolly Varden trout, Northern pike, Rainbow trout, Chinook salmon, Coho salmon, and Lake trout.

9. Lake Oahe - 1,774km2

Lake Oahe is a reservoir, or human made lake created by the damming of the Missouri River by Oahe Dam, and spans areas of both North Dakota and South Dakota. The Lake has an area of approximately 1,774 km2, 3621 kilometers of shoreline. The lake has a strong population of major fish in it, including the endangered pallid sturgeon. Lake Oahe also has over 50 different recreation sites of facilities along its edges. These include everything from camping, to picnicking, fishing, hunting, boating, water skiing, swimming, bird watching, hiking, and biking areas. 

10. Lake Okeechobee - 1,715km2

Lake Okeechobee
American alligator in Lake Okeechobee.

Lake Okeechobee is located in the southern state of Florida, and has an area of 1,715 km2. Though this lake takes the number 10 spot on our list in terms of area, it is surprisingly shallow for its size, with an average depth of only around 2.7 meters. Unfortunately swimming and many similar recreational activities are strongly discouraged as the lake is home to an estimated 28,000 alligators (on average). However, the area does have the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail which is  part of the larger Florida National Scenic Trail which runs for 2,100 km. In Okeechobee much of the trail runs along a dike, making for a flat, easy terrain for hikers and bikers. 

Each of these lakes forms an important part of the United States landscape, whether it is home to major populations of fish, part of a dammed river, or a salt sea. Together they help make the United States the beautiful vast country that it is. 

The 50 Biggest Lakes In The United States

Rank Name U.S. states/Canadian provinces/Mexican states Area

1

Lake Superior

Michigan–Minnesota–Wisconsin–Ontario

82,103 km2

2

Lake Huron

Michigan–Ontario

59,570 km2

3

Lake Michigan

Illinois–Indiana–Michigan–Wisconsin

57,757 km2

4

Lake Erie

Michigan–New York–Ohio–Ontario–Pennsylvania

25,667 km2

5

Lake Ontario

New York–Ontario

19,011 km2

6

Great Salt Lake

Utah

5,483 km2

7

Lake of the Woods

Manitoba–Minnesota–Ontario

4,349 km2

8

Iliamna Lake

Alaska

2,626 km2

9

Lake Oahe

North Dakota–South Dakota

1,774 km2

10

Lake Okeechobee

Florida

1,715 km2

11

Lake Pontchartrain

Louisiana

1,634 km2

12

Lake Sakakawea

North Dakota

1,347 km2

13

Lake Champlain

New York–Vermont–Quebec

1,269 km2

14

Becharof Lake

Alaska

1,173 km2

15

Lake St. Clair

Michigan–Ontario

1,140 km2

16

Red Lake

Minnesota

1,106 km2

17

Selawik Lake

Alaska

1,046 km2

18

Fort Peck Lake

Montana

1,018 km2

19

Salton Sea

California

899 km2

20

Rainy Lake

Minnesota–Ontario

894 km2

21

Teshekpuk Lake

Alaska

829 km2

22

Devils Lake

North Dakota

777 km2

23

Toledo Bend Reservoir

Louisiana–Texas

736 km2

24

Lake Powell

Arizona–Utah

650 km2

25

Kentucky Lake

Kentucky–Tennessee

647 km2

26

Lake Mead

Arizona–Nevada

640 km2

27

Naknek Lake

Alaska

627 km2

28

Lake Winnebago

Wisconsin

557 km2

29

Mille Lacs Lake

Minnesota

536 km2

30

Flathead Lake

Montana

497 km2

31

Lake Tahoe

California–Nevada

495 km2

32

Pyramid Lake

Nevada

474 km2

33

Sam Rayburn Reservoir

Texas

464 km2

34

Eufaula Lake

Oklahoma

438 km2

35

Lake Marion

South Carolina

427 km2

36

Leech Lake

Minnesota

417 km2

37

Utah Lake

Utah

391 km2

38

Lake Francis Case

South Dakota

386 km2

39

Lake Pend Oreille

Idaho

383 km2

40

Lake Texoma

Oklahoma–Texas

360 km2

41

Yellowstone Lake

Wyoming

352 km2

42

Falcon Lake

Tamaulipas–Texas

339 km2

43

Lake Livingston

Texas

337 km2

44

Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake

Washington

332 km2

45

Lake Clark

Alaska

311 km2

46

Moosehead Lake

Maine

303 km2

47

Lake Strom Thurmond

Georgia–South Carolina

287 km2

48

Bear Lake

Idaho–Utah

282 km2

49

Lake Guntersville

Alabama

280 km2

50

Lake St. Francis

New York–Ontario–Quebec

272 km2

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