The 5 freshwater lakes located at the northeastern border of the United States are together referred to as the Great Lakes or the Third Coast. These 5 lakes span the geographical territory of 8 American states, namely Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, as well as the Canadian province of Quebec. This region of North America, i.e., the 8 US states and the Canadian province, is referred to as the Great Lakes Region.
5 Great Lakes Fact Sheet
The Great Lakes is the largest group of freshwater lakes on the planet, with a total surface area of 80,545 mi2 and total volume of 5,412 mi3. Around 21 percent of the total freshwater available on the surface of our planet is stored in these lakes, which makes them very important for the Great Lakes Region. More of such interesting facts about the geography of the Great Lakes are given below.
What are the Names of the 5 Great Lakes?
The Great Lakes have 9,402-mi long shoreline and a catchment area of 295,200 sq mi. Other than the 5 lakes, the Great Lakes Region also has several small lakes and around 35,000 small islands to its credit. The 5 major lakes, which are also referred to as the 5 Great Lakes of USA and Canada, are the Superior, Huron, Michigan, Eerie, and Ontario.
Lake Superior is the largest of the 5 major lakes, with a total surface area of 31,700 mi2 and total volume of 2,934 mi3. It has an average depth 489 ft., with its deepest point at 1,335 ft.
Lake Huron is the second largest of these lakes, but has the longest shoreline of the five (including the 30,000 islands in it). It has a total surface area of 22,973 mi2 and total volume of 850 mi3. While its average depth is 194 ft., the deepest point of lake Huron is 748 ft.
Lake Michigan is the third largest of these five lakes with a total surface area of 22,278 mi2 and total volume of 1,180 mi3. The average depth of lake Michigan is 279 ft., while its maximum depth is 925 ft.
Lake Eerie ranks fourth in terms of size. It also holds the distinction of being the warmest as well as the shallowest lake (with an average depth of 62 ft. and maximum depth of 210 ft.) of the lot. Its total surface area is 9,906 mi2, while its total volume is 116 mi2.
Lake Ontario is the smallest of the five North American lakes, with a total surface area of 7,340 mi2. Its total volume is 393 mi3. In terms of depth, Lake Ontario has an average depth of 282 ft. and maximum depth of 804 ft.
As Huron and Michigan are joined by the 5-mile wide Strait of Mackinac, they are at times considered a single water body and referred to as Lake Huron-Michigan. Going by this stipulation, Lake Huron-Michigan becomes the world's largest freshwater lake with a total surface area of 45,300 mi2.
How Were These Lakes Formed?
The 5 Great Lakes were formed during the last ice age when whole of Canada and parts of northern United States were covered by the Laurentide ice sheet. As the ice sheet started receding, it pushed against the land and made huge hollow spaces in the Earth's crust. The water left behind as a result of glacier melting, filled these hollow spaces and resulted in their formation. That being said, some experts in the field of geology are of the opinion that the actual base for the formation of these lakes was laid billions of years ago, with the formation of the Midcontinent Rift as a result of tectonic movement.
Lake Champlain (located within the US territories) was included as the sixth lake in the Great Lakes by the US administration for a brief period, but the decision was reverted following the outcry from the Canadian media. The existence of these lakes is a boon for various territories of the United States and Canada, as it provides drinking water to thousands of people from this region, facilitates fishing, and forms the backbone of water transport.