Lake Michigan contains more than 4.5 trillion gallons of water and serves as a critical resource for millions of people living in the Great Lakes region. It also offers abundant recreational opportunities, such as swimming, fishing, boating, and wildlife observation.
The lake also plays an important role in the local economy through both commercial fishing and tourism. Major conservation efforts are ongoing to protect this vital source of fresh water for generations to come.
Lake Michigan Facts for Kids
- Lake Michigan is one of the 5 Great Lakes.
- It is the only Great Lake located entirely in the USA.
- It is the second-largest Great Lake by volume.
- It has a total of 1,180 miles of shoreline.
- It is 307 miles long and 118 miles wide.
- Lake Michigan has an average depth of 279 feet.
- It contains 4,918 cubic miles of water.
- The lake is home to many different types of fish and other aquatic life.
History of Lake Michigan
Lake Michigan is one of North America’s five Great Lakes. It covers a surface area of 22,300 square miles, making it the second-largest by volume. It’s joined by Lake Huron at the north end by the Straits of Mackinac. The lake is bordered by Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
Shoreline cities include Chicago, Milwaukee, Green Bay, and Gary, with a combined population of 12 million people.
In 1634 Jean Nicolet from France reached Lake Michigan in his search for the Northwest Passage. Its vast lake has since become an important recreational hub for its bordering states.
Lake Michigan’s eastern shore is home to the world’s greatest freshwater dune system. Varied parks and forests boast hundreds of feet of sand dunes along the lakeside.
St. Joseph, South Haven, Grand Haven, and Holland in Michigan enjoy robust popularity among beach lovers. Indiana’s coast also boasts many state parks dotted with dunes and lush vegetation.
Explore these sandy havens; discover grandeur and charm amidst Lake Michigan’s curves.
Go kayak among wildlife, view prehistoric woodland animals, relax at picturesque camping spots and connect with nature in new and unexpected ways.
Issues with the Lake
Pollution inflicts harm on Lake Michigan. BP’s Whiting, Indiana refinery releases thousands of pounds of raw sludge every day. A spill of 1,600 US gallons into the lake happened in March 2014.
The impact is already seen with nutrient imbalances and turbidity affecting species. Industry and governments must take action to protect this important resource.
Changes are now needed to protect the ecology and promote healthy water recreation in a balanced way. With investments in new technologies and better regulations, a healthier Lake Michigan is possible.
Hydrology of Lake Michigan
Historic high water in Lakes Michigan and Huron reaches 5.92ft (1.80m) above the datum, while a typical low point is one foot (30cm) below the datum. Records are set regularly:
October 1986 for peak and winter 1964-65 for troughs that reach 1.38ft (42 cm) under chart datum. In January 2013, the lowest-ever level of 576.2 ft (175m) was recorded since records began in 1918.
The solution lies in understanding hydrology, recognizing the impacts of extreme weather events, and managing the water cycle proactively to protect our lakes.
Understanding the Water Flow and Circulation in Lake Michigan
Open waters link the Great Lakes to ocean vessels. In the late 20th century, Saint Lawrence Seaway and Great Lakes Waterway opened them up. Yet, the wider ocean-going ships can’t fit through the locks.
Instead, lake freighters carry goods across these huge waters, and breakers help ward off wintertime freezing. Illinois Waterway lets commercial tug and barge traffic pass through up to the Gulf of Mexico.
Meanwhile, New York’s Hudson River and Erie Canal offer pleasure boats routes out of the lakes to their east end or Ontario’s south side. In short, modern shipping roots connected huge freshwaters to allow them to access our oceans.
The temperature of Lake Michigan’s Water
Lake Michigan’s water temperature varies drastically. In summer, it reaches up to 60°F, sometimes even 70°F. Yet, in winter, it can be 90% frozen. Its circulation is slow and has a looping pattern like a cul-de-sac.
Waves keep it from freezing completely. It’s deepest at 925ft (282m) with an average depth of 279ft (85m). Temperature can change rapidly due to swells, coastline erosion, and navigation challenges during winter.
Uniquely unpredictable, it’s attention-grabbing and dangerous beauty all year round.
Shipping and Shipwrecks in Lake Michigan
Lake Michigan has seen its share of shipwrecks. The Westmoreland, sunk in 1854, is one of the most notable. In 2010, a diver found it remarkably intact.
The Straits of Mackinac were treacherous until radar was available. Many ships succumbed while navigating these waters. An underwater preserve now preserves 12 known wrecks.
The Sandusky was hit by a gale in 1856 as it sailed loaded with grain – no survivors. The Maitland collided in 1871, but all crew safely leaped into a yawl boat. And the Eber Ward sank within 10 minutes after encountering ice and claiming five crew lives in 1909.
Underwater exploration reveals stories from the past and provides new perspectives on navigation safety today.
Islands in Lake Michigan
Beaver Island is the largest island in Lake Michigan, at 55.8 square miles (145 km2). It’s located in Charlevoix County and includes Garden Island, Grape Island, Gull Island, Hat Island, and more. Fisherman’s island is also found there.
In Leelanau County are North Fox and South Fox Islands. The Manitou Islands are made up of North Manitou and South Manitou. Grand Traverse Bay holds Bassett Island, Bellow Island, and Power island.
Delta County features Gravelly, Gull, Little Gull, and Summer islands, along with Poverty Island and Rocky Island. In Big Bay de Noc are Round, St Vital, and Snake islands, while Butlers and Sand belong to Little Bay de Noc.
The Wilderness Spa in Emmet County has Waugoshance & Temperature islands; Epoufette & Naubinway host Ile Aux Galets – nearby Gravel, Little Hog in Mackinac county.
Green & St Helena make up the Mackinac Bridge area whilst Chambers Fish Gravel Spider-island Horseshoe Sister Detroit Green Hog Pilot Plum Rock Strawberry & Washington surround Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula – cut off by Sturgeon Ship Canal in half!
Chicago’s 91-acre Northerly island hosts Adler Planetarium plus Meigs Field & Huntington Bank Pavilion.
What is on Lake Michigan?
Lake Michigan offers major habitats for wildlife, like marshes, tall-grass prairies, savannas, forests, and dunes. It’s also a great spot for fishing for trout, salmon, walleye, and smallmouth bass. Aquatic life includes crawfish, freshwater sponges, and even sea lampreys.
Bird watchers can observe various species that flock to the lake, including crows, robins, bald eagles, and aquatic birds like ducks, geese, and swans. You may even spot hawks and vultures preying on the avian population.
A unique feature of the lake is the Petoskey stone – a fossilized coral in the shape of a pebble found only in northern Michigan along its shores. The stone is so iconic it was named after its place of origin – Petoskey – and was made the state stone of Michigan.
Lake Michigan a Place to Unwind and Reconnect
The Great Lakes offer many opportunities for tourism and recreation. Cruise ships, sailing vessels, and other water sports can be enjoyed on the lakes. Since the 19th century, passenger steamers have sailed around the lakes. People sail, dive, kayak, kitesurf, and lake surf on these majestic bodies of water.
For history buffs and nature lovers alike, there’s something for everyone at the Great Lakes! Experience a unique collection of maritime artifacts, or take your camera for wildlife viewing along shorelines of breathtaking beauty.
Hike through lush forests or simply walk along sandy beaches to experience the tranquility of Lake Michigan or one of the other Great Lakes. Whether you want to explore on land or sea, there are endless opportunities to enjoy quality time with family and friends in a beautiful environment with lots of activities available.
Take your vacation to new heights while kitesurfing in Lake Superior or sailing across Lake Erie – an unforgettable adventure awaits! Make sure you find some time between activities to relax and savor life to its fullest, surrounded by some awesome views.
Come explore why generations after generations love visiting this natural paradise together with their families!
Important Facts and Overview
Lake Michigan is the largest lake in the US. It is one of the Great Lakes with a total area of 22,404 square miles, a maximum depth of 923 feet, and a shoreline of 1,640 miles.
Water pollution from industrial, agricultural, sewage, and urban runoff is a problem.
Native Americans have lived in the region for thousands of years, with tribes like Potawatomi, Chippewa, and Menominee calling it home. Henry Ford built factories along its shore and used the lake’s water for industrial use.