The Great Lakes
The five massive, freshwater, Great Lakes are located in northern-central North America. These lakes are interconnected by artificial as well as natural waterways. The five lakes include: Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, Lake Superior, Lake Ontario, and Lake Huron. These massive lakes were carved out by ancient glaciers and make up ninety five percent of the United States surface freshwater supply and a bout twenty percent of the world’s freshwater supply (surface). The great lakes are described as massive because these natural features can be spotted on Earth from the Moon.
The first inhabitants at the basin of the Great Lakes were Native Americans. The Great Lakes are historically known for playing a significant role in the lives of the Native American Societies. Over one hundred and twenty tribes of Native Americans have occupied this land over the course of history. World renowned tribes such as the Sioux, Fox, Chippewa, Huron, Ottawa, Iroquois, and Potawatomi have taken residence at the basin and depended on these lakes for resources. The Native peoples culture has played a significantly instrumental role in history when the European explorers found the region in the 1600s, particularly in the fur trade. Every Great Lake's name is derived from a Native American word or tribe name.
The United States/Canadian Border is home to the Great Lakes watershed. This watershed houses over forty million Canadians and Americans. This number represents almost ten percent of the U.S. population and almost twenty five percent of the Canadian population. The twelve largest cities in the United States are located on the border of these great lakes. These lakes also provide the largest inland water transportation service in the entire world, which has played a vital role in the economic cultivation of both Canada and the U.S.
These five Great Lakes take over ten thousand miles of coastal inland waters and have been called the fourth coast of the U.S. as well as its inland seas. The only lake that is encompassed fully by the United States and does not border Canada is Lake Michigan. The other four lakes are bordered by Ontario the Canadian province, and eight other U.S. states of New York, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. The easternmost point of the great lakes touches the northern part of Syracuse, New York while the westernmost point touches Duluth, Minnesota.
In total, the lakes cover a surface area of around ninety four thousand square miles. Together the Great Lakes add up to a volume of about five thousand five hundred cubic miles of water. THis massive volume is hard to wrap your head around but if it were spread out over forty eight states then it would average around a nine and a half foot depth. The Great Lakes primary drainage outlet is the St. Lawrence river.
Each Great Lake shore is different and is truly dependent on the lake's region. For example, Lake Michigan’s east side covered in sandy beaches and Lake Superior’s east side is mostly rocks and cliffs derived from shale and sandstone. Wetlands can be found on the shores of Lake Ontario as well as a famous National Park named Point Pelee. Each shoreline system is created by its environment to absorb surrounding wind forces and wave energy from the inland lakes.
Be sure to take pride in preserving these great lakes. They are of vital importance not just to our ecosystem but also to our economic system. Research how you can aid or donate to the preservation of one or all five of our Great Lakes today! Our planet could not survive without these sources of freshwater.