7 Fascinating Things You Didn’t Know About the Great Lakes

Each part of the world has its own unique experiences to offer. There are charming small towns, lively big cities, mesmerizing beaches, quiet countrysides, and awe-inspiring desert scenery.

Not all of us get to travel to see these places, but when we hear about them, it can inspire us to want to take a trip. It’s like stepping into a whole new world! Today, we’re exploring the beauty of the Great Lakes and what makes them so great.

Bordering the U.S. and Canada, the lakes are home to over 30,000,000 people and are a hotspot for recreation, fishing, and wildlife. We won’t bore you with a basic geography lesson, but we will share some of the area’s lore, history, and factoids about these freshwater bodies.

  1. Formed 10,000 Years Ago

    Close to 15,000 years ago, the area was covered by a huge glacier that eventually made its way into what is now Canada. The formations left by the glacier created the basic shapes for what became the Great Lakes roughly 10,000 years ago. Filled with water, they’re now known as the Great Lakes.

  2. Islands Abound

    Over 35,000 islands are spread throughout the region, with Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron being the largest. One of the biggest in the world, it contains its own rivers and lakes. Not all of the islands are habitable, but some notables include St. Joseph (known for maple syrup), Pelee (known for grapes and its wineries), and Isle Royale.

  3. Mythological Creature

    We’re all familiar with the tale of the Loch Ness monster, Nessie, but do you know about Bessie? Legend has it that there’s a lake monster living in Lake Erie. Sightings have been reported over the years about a snake-like creature swimming and playing in the water. At times, Bessie’s been blamed for boat calamities and her stories have been told through Native American legends for ages.

  4. Shipwreck Central

    Marine experts have estimated the amount of ships wrecked by the Great Lakes to be anywhere from 6,000 to 25,000. The death toll of crew members is somewhere over 30,000. Researchers, historians, and treasure hunters continue to explore the lakes to document their findings.

  5. Size is Enormous

    Individually, you probably already know that Lake Superior is the largest at nearly 32,000 square miles (and bigger than the Caspian Sea). But altogether, the lakes are roughly 95,000 square miles, and make up 6 quadrillion gallons of the planet’s freshwater surface.

    If you want to take the “Circle Tour” of all the lakes, be prepared to strap in for a 6,500 mile ride! In addition, there’s enough water in the lakes to cover all of the United States with 9 to 10 feet of water.

  6. All But One Have Names of Native American Origin

    With the exception of Lake Superior – which comes from the French lac supérieur – all the lakes are derived from words from various Native American tribes.

    Lake Michigan comes from an Ojibwa word, mishigami, meaning “large lake”. Lake Huron is named after the people who inhabited the area. Lake Erie is taken from the Iroquois word “erielhonan”, meaning “long tail”. Lake Ontario’s name means “lake of shining water”.

  7. Lake Michigan is an Outlier

    It is the only lake that is located completely within the United States. All the other lakes share borders with Canada.

Are you ready to visit one or more of the Great Lakes? Did you know the area’s rich history and offerings? Do you live near one of them?


Live Science