Lake Huron was originally called La Mer Douce, or “the freshwater sea,” by French explorers.
It later got its name from the Huron people who lived along its shores. It forms the eastern outline of Michigan's "Mitten," including the distinctive "Thumb" which is dotted with port towns and shelters Saginaw Bay.
The Lake Huron shoreline of the Lower Peninsula is referred to as the "Sunrise Side" because of the stunning sunrises that can be viewed over the water. Lake Huron also touch the eastern Upper Peninsula, meeting Lake Superior to the north via the St. Marys River at Sault Ste. Marie, as well as Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac.Dozens of recreational areas dot Michigan's eastern Great Lake regions, from lakefront state parks in the Thumb to the Mackinac Bridge in the north. The automobile-free, Victorian resort destination of Mackinac Island, which is also Michigan’s first state park, continues to welcome visitors to the Straits of Mackinac as it has since the late 1800s when city dwellers began to discover the refreshing qualities of a Michigan Great Lakes escape.
Lake Huron is the second largest Great Lake with a surface area of 23,000 square miles. First paddled by Native Americans, and then voyageurs, traders and missionaries in the late 1600s, Lake Huron became a vital shipping route. The waters of this Great Lake, however, could be treacherous and its storms deadly. At the bottom of Lake Huron rests more than 1,000 known shipwrecks with about 200 of them located off the northeastern shore near Alpena. The underwater historic sites are protected by the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and are destinations for scuba divers, snorkelers and kayakers to explore. On land, visitors can tour the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center in Alpena and several lighthouses in the region.
Lake Huron celebrates its many lighthouses, and the lighthouses of all the Great Lakes, with the Annual Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival in Alpena. No matter your Lake Huron destination, there are a plenty of lighthouses waiting to be explored.
Looking to explore eastern Michigan by way of water? Here are 5 water trails to explore in the thumb region and along the Lake Huron shoreline.