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Situated on the borders of Ontario, Canada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan, Lake Erie is the fourth-largest of the Great Lakes in North America. It’s also the 13th largest lake in the world and has a surface area of 25,667 square kilometers (9,910 square miles).

Lake Erie was named after the Native Americans who lived along on the southern shore. The Iroquoian tribe called the lake “Erige” which means “cat” because of its unpredictable and violent nature.

From all the Great Lakes, Lake Erie has the smallest and shallowest volume of water in its southernmost part. Because of its volume which measures about 484 cubic kilometers (116 cubic miles) of water, the lake has the shortest average of water retention time of 2.6 years.  Sitting at 173 meters (569 feet) above sea level, Lake Erie is about 92 kilometers at its widest and approximately 388 kilometers long. The depth of Lake Erie reaches 64 meters or 210 feet at its deepest with an average depth of 19 meters or 62 feet.


Source of Water & Fun

The water source of Lake Erie comes from Detroit River and flows out from the lake via the Niagara River. This outflow is used as an important hydroelectric power supply for both Canada and the US.  Water from the lake exits through Welland Canal, this created passages from Port Colborne, Ontario to St. Catherines on Lake Ontario. Passages along Lake Erie provide transportation, food, employment, and some recreational activities to both locals and tourists alike.


A Brief History of Lake Erie

Its beginning can be traced back to the Great Ice Age, where receding glaciers helped form the Lake Erie that we know today. Glacial Grooves found on Kelly’s Island supports this theory. Experts believe the trenches are the largest glacial grooves in the world.

In 1669, a French trader and explorer named Louis Jolliet first recorded Lake Erie. The lake also played an important part in history – particularly in the famous Battle of Lake Erie. During the War of 1812, Oliver Hazard Perry defeated the British Empire near Put-in-Bay. As a reminder of the war and victory, the Perry Monument was built on South Bass Island.  


Environmental Concern in Lake Erie

Lake Erie houses more than 26 islands including Kelly’s Island, Pelee Island, and Bass Island. Most of the islands are located on the western side of the lake. It stretches about 1,402 kilometers (871 miles).  Of all the Great Lakes in North America, Lake Erie is the warmest, which helps to produce abundant fish harvests. The lake fishery industry supports about 10,000 jobs annually and generates income of more than $1 billion, which easily makes it one of the largest fisheries in the world.

However, in the past decades, pollution, over fishing, algae blooms and eutrophication have plagued Lake Erie, raising concern about its environmental health.

For nearly five decades, Lake Erie has become so polluted that some publications have deemed that “Lake Erie is dead”.  The source of the pollution is from heavy industrial companies lined up in major cities along its shores, particularly in Cleveland. Factories deliberately dumped their waste into the lake. The government was not able to provide any regulations and sanctions for a long time.  Additionally, agricultural waste like pesticides made their way into the lake’s water system. As if that wasn’t enough, even city sewers waste gets dumped into Erie, making pollution even worse.

These pollutants have resulted in the increase of phosphorus and nitrogen level in Lake Erie. It also triggers algae blooms in the water suffocating fish which led to massive epidemics of fish death.

Today, residents and local businesses alongside state and national politicians have made a conscious effort for a massive clean-up of Lake Erie. Also, cities bordering the lake are taking initial steps in improving their sewer facilities to help bring the water back to pristine conditions.

If you ever head out to help clean up or spend some leisurentime at Lake Erie, you might want to grab some protection from the sun with a comfortable ballcap.