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What Are The Great Lakes

    Thousands of years ago, receding glaciers made an area known as the Great Lakes and created Michigan’s famous peninsulas. Here are ten interesting facts you’re not aware of about these unique natural treasures.

    Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world based on the surface area.

    It covers over 32,000 square miles. Lake Superior is not only the largest freshwater lake in the world (by surface area) but one of the biggest lakes on earth, second to the Caspian Sea. In reality, if you were to sum up the total water volume of Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Ontario, and Lake Erie, it would total the size of Lake Superior.

    The shore of Lake Michigan is home to the most extensive freshwater dunes in the world.

    Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and several other dunes protected along the western shores of Michigan are the most extensive collection of freshwater dunes made of sand. The highest dune at Sleeping Bear stands about 450 feet above the shores of Lake Michigan.

    The Great Lakes are the most extensive freshwater system in the world.

    The 5 Great Lakes: Superior, Huron, Michigan, Erie, and Ontario cover 94,600 square miles. They are connected by myriad rivers and lakes, making them the most extensive freshwater system in the world.

    More than 20% of the freshwater used in the world comes from the Great Lakes.

    It is believed that there are around two million cubic meters of freshwater worldwide. The Great Lakes are estimated to hold over 5,400 cubic miles of water, making up more than 20 percent of the world’s freshwater surface.

    Physical characteristics


    The evidence for the age of the Great Lakes is still not completely determined. Estimates range from 7,000 to 32,000 years old. The waters began to fill the glacially scoured basins as early as the ice melted, around 14000 years back. It is generally believed that Lake Erie reached its present size around 10,000 years ago. Lake Ontario about 7,000 years ago, as well as Lakes Huron, Michigan, and Superior about 3,000 years earlier.

    Water glass with white background. (drink clear; pure water or liquid)

    Although water is found across three states, there’s just one correct answer for the three questions on this test. So, dive in, test your water knowledge, and check whether you can swim or sink.

    The present shape in the Great Lakes basin results from the motion of massive glaciers across the mid-continental region, which began around a million years ago in the Pleistocene Epoch. Studies conducted in The Lake Superior region indicate that valleys and rivers formed by water erosion existed before that Ice Age. The glaciers have scoured the valleys, expanding and deepening them. This led to radically altering the drainage patterns of the region.

    The last glaciation in North America is called the Wisconsin Glacial Stage because it left a variety of new landforms and sediments within the state. The ice sheet was melting and receded around 14,000 years in the past; the first sections that comprise the Great Lakes were created. Lake Chicago, in what is today part of the southerly Lake Michigan basin, and Lake Maumee, in present-day western Lake Erie and its adjacent lowlands, originally flowed southward towards the Mississippi River through the Illinois and Wabash drainages and Wabash drainages, respectively. When the retreat of the glaciers progressed, Lake Maumee was drained into Lake Chicago through a valley now known as the Grand River in Michigan. In the end, water drainage towards the east and to the Atlantic Ocean was established, initially through the valleys formed by the Mohawk and Hudson rivers and later through the course of the higher St. Lawrence River. At one time, it was believed that the waters of the Huron and Michigan basins merged into one massive lake, Lake Algonquin. In the same way, Lake Duluth, in the western part of the Lake Superior basin, also drains.

    D is up to Mississippi.

    A broad range of deposits and types of rocks can be located within the Great Lakes because of their large area and glacial origin. The old rock formations of the Canadian Shield are the most significant part of Superior, as well as the Huron basins, and Paleozoic sedimentary rocks comprise the remaining basins. The limestone outcrops are plentiful, as well as massive deposits of gravel and sand typically near the shore. Organic and glacial clays are common in deeper areas.


    The Great Lakes region has been the home of Native Americans for nearly 10,000 years. It was when the first Europeans were introduced in the 16th century and soon began using the region for hunting for furs. In the ensuing years, more settlers began arriving in the area, searching for farmland.

    More than 35 million residents reside across the Great Lakes basin in Canada and the United States. The Great Lakes are important sources of drinking water, irrigation, transportation, and recreation options like fishing, hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing. These Great Lakes are a critical part of the region’s economy across the border.


    The land around the Great Lakes was once dominated by grasslands and forests, interspersed with wetlands. Most wildlife species reside in the remains of those habitats, like the gray wolf, the moose, and the beaver. Other mammals that live in the Great Lakes include the Canada lynx, the little brown bats, the river otter, and coyotes. Many bird species are also found in these remnants of habitat. This Great Lakes region is essential for a variety of resident and migratory bird species, especially the neotropical waterfowl migration and species that build colonies. This Great Lakes region provides essential habitats for breeding, feeding, and resting spots for birds such as the Northern harrier, bald-eagle Common loon and double-crested Cormorant, the common tern and bobolink most bitterns, the common merganser, and the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler.

    It is important to note that the Great Lakes are pretty different. Due to the differences, different amounts and types of fish and other aquatic creatures are present in every lake. Lake Superior, the largest of the lakes, is deep and cold. Lake Erie is one of the smaller lakes of all the Great Lakes and is relatively shallow and warm. Walleye and yellow perch lake trout, brook trout, the lake’s whitefish, and introduced salmon are among the numerous types of fish that inhabit the Great Lakes. Some fish are undergoing restoration efforts, like lake sturgeon and lake trout.

    The Great Lakes Basin

    The Great Lakes basin encompasses large portions of two nations: the United States and Canada.

    More than 25 percent of Canadian agriculture production and 7 percent of American farm production

    More than 30 million – about 10 percent of the U.S. population and more than 30 percent of the Canadian population

    The Great Lakes basin is defined by engineering, science, and the political system.

    The majority of areas of the basin are defined through hydrology. Watersheds draining into the Great Lakes and their connecting channels are part of the Great Lakes basin.

    A map of the Great Lakes basin showing U.S. counties.

    The combination of politics and engineering (Canadian) has led to Canada’s Rideau exception being added to the Great Lakes basin (the orange stripe polygon located on the Canadian side of the St. Lawrence River). The Clean Water Act defines the orange-striped polygon on the U.S. side as part of the Great Lakes basin (though hydrologically, it drains into the St. Lawrence River).

    The boundaries of the two maps are set by the 8-digit Hydrologic Unit Codings (HUC8). They may alter slightly when more precise mapping is done on these waters. These maps also show the counties within the Great Lakes basin.

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