I’ve pulled together some amazing facts about the Great Lakes. The lakes are a source of fascination for people all over the world because they are so big. Let’s face it, when you look at a map of North America, they sure do stand out. Read on to be amazed by some facts about the Great Lakes.
1. The Great Lakes Collectively Hold 20% of the World’s Fresh Water
One of the most unbelievable facts about the Great Lakes is that the five lakes – Superior, Michigan, Ontario, Erie and Huron – contain 20% of the fresh water in the world. However, although this is surprising, when you consider that the surface of the 5 Great Lakes is around the same size as the entire United Kingdom, it becomes understandable that such a large portion of our fresh water is in those lakes. Perhaps even more surprising is that a total of 95% of the fresh water in North America is contained within the 5 Great Lakes!
2. The Lakes Were Discovered in the 17th Century
It only took Europeans until the early 17th century to discover the first of the Great Lakes, Lake Huron. Samuel de Champlain, a French explorer famous for his creation of the first map of Canada, discovered the Lakes in 1615. When he discovered Lake Huron he named it Lac Attigouautau, before it was later renamed Lake Huron after the native Huron people who lived around the area and had done so for centuries before the Europeans came.
3. Only Lake Michigan is Located Solely in the United States
Despite the lakes being almost synonymous with the United States, one of the facts about the Great Lakes is that Lake Michigan is the only one of the five lakes located solely in the United States. All of the others cross the border into Canada. Despite being the second-largest Great Lake by volume, Lake Michigan ranks third in terms of surface area.
4. There Are over 30,000 Islands on the Lakes
It’s no coincidence that the first European explorers who came across the Great Lakes referred to them as “freshwater oceans.” One of the most amazing Great Lakes facts is that collectively, they hold over 30,000 islands. The majority of these islands are too small for humans to live on, but Manitoulin Island on Lake Huron (Ontario) is the largest lake island on the globe. Today, over 13,000 people inhabit the island, spread across two towns, eight townships and six reserves. During the summer, even more people inhabit the island due to the excellent sailing opportunities that are afforded by the island’s location.
5. They Are an Economic Powerhouse
You might associate the Great Lakes with peace and tranquility, and for the most part that is true. However, the Lakes have a much deeper significance to the United States and Canada – they provide a massive benefit to the economics of both nations. Around $180 billion is earned each year for both countries through trade agreements focusing on the Lakes, with almost half of Canada’s industrial output being reliant on the Lakes. $350 million is earned each year by fishermen who use the Lakes’ great resources of fresh fish to their advantage. The next time you want to share facts about the Great Lakes with your friends, forget about the depths and surface areas: tell them that their economy is dependent on the Lakes!
6. Drinking Water for 40 Million People
Not only are the economies of the United States and Canada reliant on the Lakes, the citizens are as well. In addition to keeping 33 million people employed, the Lakes provide drinking water to around 40 million North Americans, 8.5 million of which are Canadian. Without the Lakes, both the United States and Canada would have a lot of problems trying to get drinking water to large portions of their population.
7. The Combined Shoreline is around 45% of the Earth’s Circumference
One of the most astounding things to know about the Great Lakes is that their shoreline, when combined, would stretch to almost halfway around the globe. This is because in addition to being extremely deep, the Lakes are also wide. We all knew that the Lakes were huge, but now you know just how huge they are!
So, how many of these facts about the Great Lakes did you already know?