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Lake Erie

The five Great Lakes are among the world's most precious natural resources; holding one-fifth of the world's surface fresh water. It is home to 40 million Americans and Canadians as well as countless species of animals, birds, fish and plants.

Lake Erie is the eleventh largest lake in the world by surface area. It is the fourth largest of the Great Lakes in surface area but the smallest by volume of water.

Ninety-five percent of Lake Erie's total water comes from the Detroit River from all the upper Lakes -- Superior, Michigan and Huron, and the St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair. The other five percent comes from percipitation.

Lake Erie is different from all the other Great Lakes. It is shallow, warm, lies on rich soil and averages 95 percent winter ice cover. Being the shallowest of all the Lakes (average depth is 19 metres); it warms rapidly in spring and summer and freezes over in winter. It is also vulnerable to fluctuating water levels. There are times when winds push the water from one end of the lake toward the other, usually from west to east. This has been known to produce large short-term differences in water levels at the eastern and western ends of the lake. The record being more than 16 feet.

Lake Erie is exposed to the greatest stress of all the Lakes from industry, people and agriculture. Farming is intensive; 13 ports serve as major industrial distribution centers.

Lake Erie supports the largest walleye fishery in the world.


Stats At A Glance

  • Length: 241 miles/388 km
  • Breadth: 57 miles/92 km
  • Average Depth: 62 ft./19 m.
  • Maximum Depth: 210 ft./64 m.
  • Volume: 116 cubic miles/484 cubic km.
  • Water Surface Area: 9,910 sq. miles/25,700 sq. km.
  • Drainage Basin Area: 30,140 sq. miles/78,000 sq. km.
  • Shoreline Length (including islands): 871 miles/1,402 km.
  • Elevation: 569 ft./173 m.
  • Outlet: Niagra River and Welland Canal
  • Retention/Replacement Time: 2.6 years, shortest of all the Great Lakes.

How did Lake Erie get it's name?

The greater part of its southern shore was at one time occupied by the Eries, a tribe of Indians from which the lake derived its name. This name is always mentioned by the early French writers as meaning "cat"; Lac du Chat means "Lake of the Cat." Many attribute this reference to the wild cat or panther.

Additional Lake Facts (external sites)

Additional Lake Erie Facts

Lake Erie Coastal Erosion Problem

Lake Erie Lakewide Management Plan