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The Great Lakes are called so with good reason. Lake Superior, Michigan, Erie, Ontario, and Erie make up the largest body of freshwater in the world. It’s one thing to say that it’s the largest, but it’s another to state the numbers. Here are the measurements of this titanic, majestic, and especially attractive lake.

How Many Gallons of Water are there in Lake Michigan

Before we give you an answer, let’s put things into perspective. A gallon is around 16 glasses of water, twice the recommended amount you should drink in a day. A pool normally has around 3,000 to 10,000 gallons of water. That’s a whole lot of water to play and swim with. Olympic sized swimming pools have 660,430 gallons of water in them, enough to fill a, well, Olympic sized swimming pool. That amount is already bigger than usual fishing ponds. Some lakes have millions of gallons of water in them, but what about the Great Lakes?

Hundred million is not enough to measure it. Five billion gallons of water is still not enough. Is it starting to sound ridiculous? How about One trillion? One hundred trillion? Nope.

Lake Michigan, according to satellite measurements and formulas, holds One Quadrillion gallons of water. That’s 1,000,000,000,000,000 gallons of life-giving, weather altering, fish-loving water. It’s so vast that in order to raise the lake’s water level just by one inch, it would take around 400 Billion gallons of water. It really puts storms into perspective when a hurricane can raise the water level by a feet or two. Makes you realize how much rain these storms pour.

On the opposite side, Lake Michigan somehow mysteriously shrunk. The water levels dropped more than two feet. That’s half a trillion gallons of water vanishing in a short span of time. Some blamed the sun shining too much, others blamed the rains for not pouring enough. Geologists put themselves together and theorized that small underwater channels deep in the lake bottom opened, draining a huge amount of water.

Here’s a fun fact: For every inch the lake loses, all cargo ships must lighten their load by 100 tons, otherwise they would touch the lake ground. Think how much they needed to lose when it dropped 2 feet.


Is Lake Michigan Frozen?

Frozen lakes are asking for people to go on ice-skating, ice fishing, ice camping, and pretty much any other usual recreation done on land, except this time on ice. Some lakes have icy surfaces up to a foot deep, making it near impossible to collapse under the weight of ice-loving recreationists.

In the case of Lake Michigan, people ask if the lake freezes during winter time. The lake has such a large span and depth, not to mention, amount of water that it may not be enough for ice to take over.

Thankfully, Lake Michigan freezes. Not completely though, but enough to freeze the shores around it, where it counts. On average, 50% of the lake freezes during the coldest parts of winter, and in the 1900s, factors aligned just right that nearly 95% of the lake was frozen over.

Even though it’s not frozen, the unfrozen waters around Lake Michigan are a bitter 5-10 degrees Celsius or 25-40 degrees Fahrenheit. These means without immediate help, hypothermia can set in a matter of seconds.


Is Lake Michigan Saltwater?

Though people may quickly answer that calling it a lake, automatically makes it freshwater. There are some exceptions though, as the Great Salt Lake is among these land-locked saltwater bodies of water.

Others may argue that since the great lakes connect to rivers that spill into the sea, it could be said that some of the seas go into the lake, turning it salty, or at least semi-salty. There are parts around the rivers surrounding the great lakes and estuaries, where fresh and saltwater mix.

Lake Michigan is not saltwater. Though the salt levels are a tad bit higher than other lakes, it’s not enough to be classified as saltwater. You can taste the water and it may taste a bit salty, but that could be unique to the area, as some parts of the lake have rock salt around them.

This very fact makes it near impossible for saltwater denizens like sharks and whales to inhabit Lake Michigan. There is still a possibility, but if ever a whale gets lost in this lake, the poor creature wouldn’t last very long. For sharks, there are rumors that Bull Sharks can survive and inhabit freshwater, but so far, there has been zero shark sightings and attacks, and even if you’re a bull shark or a small, young whale who happened to find a river that connects to one of the great lakes, it would be very difficult for you to find your way to lake Michigan.


How Deep is the Deepest Part of Lake Michigan?

If not for the land surrounding the lake, it’s sheer size and amount of water can already be considered a freshwater see. Lake Michigan is so close to downtown Chicago that it becomes a popular diving spot. With that said, how deep is Lake Michigan?

The deepest part of Lake Michigan is 922 feet deep, or 153 fathoms. If you can’t put that into perspective, there are several, large container ships that have sunk in the lake. This deepest point is around the center of the lake.

In comparison, the average depth of Lake Michigan is around 279 feet deep, or 46 fathoms. Thankfully though, the depth of the lake is rather gradual. You’ll find yourself walking a good few meters out from the shore before it’s more than 10 feet deep.

Around the center of Michigan is the spot where people go freshwater diving. The calm and relatively cool waters are perfect for beginner deep-sea divers and those who want to hone their hobbies.

Anglers also challenge themselves by going deep cold water fishing in these parts. There are a few fish that mainly inhabit the deeper parts such as the deepwater sculpin, but it’s also home to many common fish such as the King or Chinook Salmon, the Coho Salmon, the occasional Atlantic Salmon, and the elusive Cisco species.

Unlike the ocean, where deep-sea animals take on fascinating, colorful and scary shape, the bottom of the lake is mostly flat bedrock with all manner of brown moss and all the wastes of living things from up above. The only thing scary in this lake is that the pressure at the bottom is 3.7 Megapascals. That’s equal to 536 pounds per square inch. So at any moment, you’re being crushed with about the weight of a large gorilla, or a piano.


What is the Size of Lake Michigan, Why isn’t it Called a Sea?

If it was saltwater, it could be called the sea. Yet, it’s called a lake, a great lake. The lake’s salinity is slightly higher than typical lakes, but not enough to be called a sea. The water is classified as “brackish”. One exception is the Caspian Sea. Like the sea, it’s vast, but the salinity of the water is half that of the ocean. The Caspian sea is also the largest lake in the whole world, but the argument is still up whether it should be called a lake or a sea.

How does Lake Michigan stand up to the largest lake/sea in the world? The Caspian sea has the surface area of 371,000 square kilometers. That’s 1030 kilometers long and 435 kilometers wide. It also has the depth of 3360 ft.

Lake Michigan is rather small by comparison, only having a 58,030 square kilometer area. That’s 494 kilometers long and 190 kilometers wide, with its deepest at 922 feet. Yet, in perspective, it’s enough to have more than 300 boats on it without anyone complaining about space, and have a vast population of fish, enough to keep the hundreds of anglers happy every week, and still have enough to breed for the next generation.

That’s some of the measurements and numbers of this majestic lake. There are more numbers to be considered if you ask how much fishes are there at any given time, how much money the surrounding cities make with their business, you can even ask how many people have mysteriously vanished around the lake. One thing remains the same. Lake Michigan and the four other great lakes have given life and livelihood to everyone around it. We need to do our part to make sure the lakes are healthy, and of course, enjoy ourselves in the process. It’s one of mother nature’s gifts and we should care for it for centuries to come.

For more Michigan fun, check out of Michigan Hang Loose collection.