10 Great Lakes Fun Facts You May Not Know

Boat cruising by cliffs at Pictured Rocks
Pictured Rocks | Photo Courtesy of Instagram Fan visualsbyandrewpaul

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Thousands of years ago, receding glaciers formed the Great Lakes and created Michigan’s iconic peninsulas. Here are ten fun facts you may not know about these incredible natural treasures.


1. Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area

Spanning nearly 32,000 square miles, Lake Superior is not only the largest freshwater lake in the world (by surface area) but it is also one of the largest lakes in the world, second only to the Caspian Sea. In fact, if you were to add up all the water in Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Ontario, and four of Lake Erie it would total the volume of Lake Superior.


2. Lake Michigan’s shore is home to the largest freshwater sand dunes in the world.

Sleeping Bear Dunes
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore | Photo Courtesy of Instagram Fan hamiltonnumber4

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, as well as many other protected dunes along the western coast of Michigan, make up the world’s largest collection of freshwater sand dunes. The tallest dune at Sleeping Bear stands about 450 feet above the shore of Lake Michigan.


3. The Great Lakes are the largest freshwater system in the world.

The five Great Lakes - Superior, Huron, Michigan, Erie and Ontario - span a total surface area of 94,600 square miles and are all connected by a variety of lakes and rivers, making them the largest freshwater system in the world.


4. More than 20% of all the world’s freshwater is in the Great Lakes.

Black Rocks at Presque Isle
Black Rocks at Presque Isle, Lake Superior

It is estimated that there are nearly 24,000 cubic miles of surface freshwater on earth. The Great Lakes hold over 5,400 cubic miles of water -- therefore accounting for more than 20% of the world’s surface freshwater.


5. Lake Superior contains half of the water in all the Great Lakes.

Aerial view of Isle Royale on Lake Superior
Isle Royale in Lake Superior

As mentioned before, the Great Lakes hold over 5,400 cubic miles of water. Of this amount, Lake Superior holds 2,900 cubic miles, or 3 quadrillion gallons -- accounting for more than 50% of the water. The rest is distributed among the other four lakes, with Lake Michigan holding the second most, Huron third, Ontario fourth, and Erie holding the least. To raise the water level of Lake Superior by one inch, you would need to pour more than 500 billion additional gallons into it!


6. Lake Michigan is the only Great Lake that is entirely within U.S. territory

Wind Surfing in South Haven
South Haven, Lake Michigan

The Great Lakes touch 8 states – but Michigan is the only state that touches four lakes, with borders on Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie. While two Canadian provinces also touch the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan is the only Great Lake that doesn’t touch Canada.


7. The Empire State Building would sink beneath the surface of Lake Superior.

Lake Superior’s deepest point is 1,330 feet – for comparison, the Empire State building is 1,250 feet tall from ground to roof. If you built the Empire State Building on the deepest point of Lake Superior, the only thing peeking above the waves would be the antenna.


8. The Great Lakes Region is the primary water source for more than 40 million people.

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Mackinac Island, Lake Huron

It accounts for more than 90% of the surface freshwater in the United States. The freshwater system is also an important shipping route, tourist attraction and energy source.


9. Michigan has the most freshwater coastline of any U.S. state.

Paddleboarding on Grand Traverse Bay
Grand Traverse Bay, Lake Michigan

Michigan also ranks in the top 10 for shorelines in the U.S. Who needs the ocean when you can go boating, surfing, paddle boarding and swimming in the fresh waters of the Great Lakes?


10. Lake Michigan has a ‘Bermuda Triangle’ of its own. 

There’s an area of Lake Michigan where many unexplained occurrences have left people bewildered that has been dubbed the Michigan Triangle – similar to the Bermuda Triangle. Occurrences have included unexplained ship disappearances and missing planes. North of the triangle near Traverse City, a strange, Stonehenge-like rock formation rests below the lake’s surface. Some believe the two phenomena are related to each other.


Bonus:  Lake Erie has a Loch Ness-like sea monster.   

Lake Erie is allegedly home to Bessie, a ‘sea monster’-like creature that has been spotted on multiple occasions for decades. The Cleveland baseball team - the Lake Erie Monsters - were named after this legend.