Lake Erie is the smallest of the four Great Lakes that lap against Michigan's shores and accounts for a relatively brief stretch of coastline from the Ohio boarder to the mouth of the Detroit River in the southeast region of the state.
Named for the tribe of Indians that lived on its southern beaches, the water surface of Lake Erie is 9,910 square miles, making it the 11th largest lake in the world by that measure. The shallowest of the Great Lakes, with an average depth of just 62 feet (210 feet deep at its maximum), Lake Erie is often overshadowed by the higher profile lakes of the region, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan and Lake Superior that wrap around Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas. But Lake Erie has played an important role in transportation to the upper Great Lakes region, in the development of shipping and other industries, and in the War of 1812. A key confrontation of that war took place at the settlement of Monroe on the River Raisin, which flows to Lake Erie. The site of the bloody conflict of January 1813 was recently designated the River Raisin National Battlefield Park.
Lake Erie is known for its sport fishing, particularly of walleye and yellow perch, and several charter fishing services operate out of Bolles Harbor at Monroe. Michigan's only state park on Lake Erie is the 1,300-acre of Sterling State Park, which offers over one mile of sandy beach, lagoon and shore fishing, a boat launch, six miles of trails for hiking, biking, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing, and lakefront sites at the seasonal campground.
The nearby Lake Erie Metropark, with about three miles of Great Lake shoreline, is home to coastal marshes and wetlands that allow for notable wildlife viewing of muskrat, turtles, waterfowl and migrating birds. The Metropark is particularly known for the raptors, or birds-of-prey, that pass through from September to November. This is the site of the annual Hawkfest in September, when it's possible to see up to 50,000 migrating hawks in a single day.
Also, known for wildlife viewing and hunting is Pointe Mouillee State Game Area just south of the Metropark. The 4,000-acre site boasts one of the world's largest fresh water marsh restoration projects, less than an hour south of the city of Detroit on Lake Erie.
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