Great Lakes

The Great Lakes, also called the Great Lakes of North America or the Laurentian Great Lakes,[1] are a series of large interconnected freshwater lakes in the mid-east region of North America that connect to the Atlantic Ocean via the Saint Lawrence River. There are five lakes, which are Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario and are in general on or near the Canada–United States border. Hydrologically, lakes Michigan and Huron are a single body joined at the Straits of Mackinac. The Great Lakes Waterway enables modern travel and shipping by water among the lakes.

Great Lakes of North America
Great Lakes, Laurentian Great Lakes
The Great Lakes seen from NASA's Aqua satellite in August 2010. From left to right: Lake Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, Ontario
Bathymetry map of the Great Lakes
LocationEastern North America
Coordinates45°N 84°W
Typegroup of interconnected freshwater lakes
Part ofGreat Lakes Basin
Primary inflowsPast: precipitation and meltwater
Now: rivers, precipitation, and groundwater springs
Primary outflowsEvaporation, St. Lawrence River to the Atlantic Ocean
Basin countriesCanada, United States
Surface area94,250 square miles (244,106 km2)
Average depth60–480 ft (18–146 m) depending on the lakes
Max. depth210–1,300 ft (64–396 m) depending on the lakes
Water volume5,439 cubic miles (22,671 km3) (lowest)
Frozenaround January to March

The Great Lakes are the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth by total area and are second-largest by total volume, containing 21% of the world's surface fresh water by volume.[2][3][4] The total surface is 94,250 square miles (244,106 km2), and the total volume (measured at the low water datum) is 5,439 cubic miles (22,671 km3),[5] slightly less than the volume of Lake Baikal (5,666 cu mi or 23,615 km3, 22–23% of the world's surface fresh water). Because of their sea-like characteristics, such as rolling waves, sustained winds, strong currents, great depths, and distant horizons, the five Great Lakes have long been called inland seas.[6] Depending on how it is measured, by surface area, either Lake Superior or Lake Michigan-Huron is the second-largest lake in the world and the largest freshwater lake. Lake Michigan is the largest lake that is entirely within one country.[7][8][9][10]

The Great Lakes began to form at the end of the Last Glacial Period around 14,000 years ago, as retreating ice sheets exposed the basins they had carved into the land, which then filled with meltwater.[11] The lakes have been a major source for transportation, migration, trade, and fishing, serving as a habitat to many aquatic species in a region with much biodiversity. The surrounding region is called the Great Lakes region, which includes the Great Lakes Megalopolis.[12]


Share this article:

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Great Lakes, and is written by contributors. Text is available under a CC BY-SA 4.0 International License; additional terms may apply. Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.