Lake Erie, Great Lakes of North America

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Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes of North America, straddles the borders of Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, and the Canadian province of Ontario. The lake is named after the Native American tribe that inhabited its shores before being killed off by the Iroquois League for aiding their enemy, the Hurons.

In relation to the other four Great Lakes, Lake Erie is the fourth largest in surface area, the most southern-reaching, the shallowest, and the smallest by volume. But don’t let that fool you: Lake Erie has a surface area of 9,940 square miles (6,261,500 acres!), stretches out over 241 miles long and 57 miles wide, boasts 871 miles of shoreline, and has a maximum depth of 210 feet. Interestingly, due to the lake’s shallow average depth of 62 feet, Lake Erie is the only of the Great Lakes to frequently freeze over.

Nicknamed the “Walleye Capital of the World” and widely considered to be the best walleye fishing anywhere, Lake Erie is a sought-after angling destination. Due to its shallow depths, the lake hosts the ideal environment for walleye and is superb for ice fishing. But if walleye isn’t your pleasure, don’t despair. The lake is also well-known for its yellow perch, steelhead, salmon, and smallmouth bass. Go out to fish the depths on your own, or hire one of the many fishing charters in the area; either way, you’re sure to have an exciting and satisfying fishing experience.

Lake Erie is huge and with its size comes a wealth of recreation options. Swim in the cool blue waters, go boating, take a hike, birdwatch, observe the native flora and fauna, play on a sandy beach, water ski, dine lakeside, and participate in a number of other activities. The options are almost endless, depending on your personal preferences.

While the official number is disputed, Lake Erie is said to have at least 36 islands. Of these 36, Presque Isle is the only one located in Pennsylvania. Originally a real island, Presque Isle is now a 3,200 acre sandy peninsula. Called Pennsylvania’s only seashore, Presque Isle State Park has a beautiful coastline with 7 miles of protected, sandy beaches. Visitors enjoy swimming, boating, fishing, biking, and hiking along the park’s 21 miles of trails. Also a National Natural Landmark, the island is a popular resting ground for migrating birds and has a larger number of endangered, threatened, and rare species than any other area of comparable size in Pennsylvania.

Presque Isle has four public boat launching areas. Vista Launch is appropriate for small and personal watercraft, Niagara Launch and Lagoon Launch can accommodate up to mediums size boats, while West Pier Launch, the biggest of the four, provides space to launch your large boat. There is also a marina with about 500 boat slips for permanent or temporary mooring of your watercraft.

Twenty of the 36 islands are located in Ohio: Ballast, Buckeye, Catawba, Cedar Point, Gibraltar, Green, Gull, Johnson’s, Kafralu, Kelleys, Lost Ballast, Middle Bass, Mouse, North Bass, Rattlesnake, South Bass, Starve, Sugar, Turtle, and West Sister. Some inhabited, others abandoned, and some never-lived upon, these islands form part of the rich history and lore of Ohio’s slice of Lake Erie. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (DNR) provides State Parks on five of the islands: Catawba, Kelleys, South Bass, Middle Basse, and North Bass.

Lake Erie offers myriad activities for all ages. Go caving, explore a cavern, visit the area’s lighthouses, relax and watch a beautiful sunset, or go sightseeing along the hundreds of miles of shoreline. If you’re an animal lover, visit a real drive-through safari at the African Safari Wildlife Park. History buffs will wile away their hours at the Antique Car Museum and Johnson’s Island Preservation Society. The whole family will squeal with glee at the famous Cedar Point Amusement Park, the scary Ghostly Manor, the exciting Island Adventures Family Fun Center, the refreshing Kalahari Resort and Indoor Waterpark, and the interactive Toledo Zoo. Whatever your pleasure, Lake Erie will surely live up to your expectations.

Things to do at Lake Erie

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Water Skiing
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park
  • Museum
  • Amusement Park
  • Antiquing

Fish species found at Lake Erie

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Perch
  • Salmon
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Steelhead Trout
  • Walleye
  • Yellow Perch

Lake Erie Photo Gallery

Lake Erie Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 6,261,500 acres

Shoreline Length: 871 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 569 feet

Average Depth: 62 feet

Maximum Depth: 210 feet

Water Volume: 391,987,200 acre-feet

Water Residence Time: 2.6 years

Lake Area-Population: 12,000,000

Drainage Area: 30,140 sq. miles

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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