We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What are the Great Lakes?

By Alan Rankin
Updated Jun 04, 2024
Our promise to you
All Things Nature is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At All Things Nature, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The Great Lakes are a group of five interconnected freshwater lakes along the border of Canada and the northern United States. Together, they form the largest landlocked body of water on Earth and are clearly visible from space. They were vital to travel, commerce, and immigration during the early history of the two nations. In modern times, they are no longer used for travel but remain important to the economy, culture, and environment of the surrounding area.

The Great Lakes were formed by melting and receding glaciers at the end of the last Ice Age, roughly 10,000 years ago. They consist of Lake Ontario, bordering upstate New York; Lake Erie, running along the northern borders of New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio; Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, surrounding the state of Michigan; and Lake Superior, bordering Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. All except Lake Michigan form most of the southern border of the Canadian province of Ontario. They compose 21 percent of the planet’s available fresh, or salt-free, water.

All of the Great Lakes except Lake Superior are named for words in the languages of the Native American tribes who originally inhabited the region. Early settlers used the lakes to transport goods, raw materials, and passengers, including generations of immigrants who populated the major cities on the shores of the Great Lakes. These cities include Toronto, Chicago, and Detroit. Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Thunder Bay also lie along the Great Lakes, many of which have strong ethnic subcultures to this day. In the 1800s, canals linked the lakes with the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, allowing water to travel from New York to the Gulf of Mexico. Despite this, passenger and freight trade declined in the 19th century as overland travel became possible.

The Great Lakes remain an important part of the region’s economy, supporting commercial and recreational fishing and boating, industry, and tourism. A significant segment of Canada’s economy is dependent on the lakes. The ecosystem of the lakes is threatened by human activity, including sewage disposal and pollution from nearby cities and industrial centers, invasive species, and widespread development. Canada and the United States have both launched initiatives to protect the Great Lakes environment from further decline. Many local communities depend on the lakes for drinking water.

The Great Lakes are a vital part of the region’s culture. Locals and visitors alike explore the lakes and their surrounding rivers, islands, and smaller lakes for sport and relaxation. There is even a surfing scene on the lakes, made up of hardy all-weather surfers. Milwaukee’s Summerfest is only one of many annual festivals held on the shores of the Great Lakes. In 1976, singer Gordon Lightfoot released the folk-rock classic The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, about a famous shipwreck on Lake Superior.

All Things Nature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Inaventu — On Feb 11, 2015

I was surprised to learn that some of the Great Lakes, especially Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, aren't all that deep. I know Lake Superior and Lake Michigan are really deep, and they can get some mighty powerful storms out there. I grew up near Buffalo, New York, and we always braced ourselves for a bad snowstorm whenever the Great Lakes froze over. They called it "lake effect snow", when the moisture over the lakes evaporates and gets pulled into storm clouds. If other cities expected two to four inches of snow, we would expect two to four feet.

By RocketLanch8 — On Feb 10, 2015

I grew up near Lake Erie, and one of the things I really liked about the Great Lakes was the shoreline. The beach and the water were just as nice as any ocean beach I've seen, and I didn't have to worry about getting salt water in my eyes when I swam. Sometimes we took a charter boat cruise around Lake Erie and look at Cleveland from a distance. I know a lot of people want to retire near the ocean, but I think any of the Great Lakes would be great places to settle down.

There are some really nice island towns in the Great Lakes, too. I really liked visiting a place called Put-in-Bay on Lake Erie. It reminded me of the Florida Keys, but with different weather.

All Things Nature, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

All Things Nature, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.