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Lake Huron

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Title: Lake Huron  
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Subject: St. Marys River (Michigan–Ontario), Saginaw, Michigan, Sanilac Shores Underwater Preserve, Alpena, Michigan, De Tour Passage Underwater Preserve
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Lake Huron

Lake Huron
Map of Lake Huron and the other Great Lakes
Location North America
Group Great Lakes
Lake type Glacial
Primary inflows Straits of Mackinac, St. Marys River
Primary outflows St. Clair River
Catchment area 51,700 sq mi (134,100 km2)[1]
Basin countries United States, Canada
Max. length 206 mi (332 km)[1]
Max. width 183 mi (295 km)[1]
Surface area 23,000 sq mi (59,600 km2)[1]
Average depth 195 ft (59 m)[1]
Max. depth 750 ft (229 m)[1]
Water volume 850 cu mi (3,543 km3)[1]
Residence time 22 years
Shore length1 1,850 mi (2,980 km) plus 1,980 mi (3,190 km) for islands[2]
Surface elevation 577 ft (176 m)[1]
Islands Manitoulin
Sections/sub-basins North Channel
Settlements Bay City, Alpena, Cheboygan, St. Ignace, Port Huron in Michigan; Goderich, Sarnia in Ontario
References [3]
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

Lake Huron (St. Marys River and the main outlet is the St. Clair.


By surface area, Lake Huron is the second-largest of the Great Lakes, with a surface area of 23,000 square miles (59,600 km2) making it the third-largest fresh water lake on Earth (and the fourth-largest lake, if the Caspian Sea is counted as a lake).[1] By volume however, Lake Huron is only the third largest of the Great Lakes, being surpassed by Lake Michigan in this aspect.[4] When measured at the Low Water Datum, the lake contains a volume of 850 cubic miles (3,540 km3) and a shoreline length (including islands) of 3,827 mi (6,159 km).[1]

The surface of Lake Huron is 577 feet (176 m) above sea level.[1] The lake's average depth is 32 fathoms 3 feet (195 ft; 59 m), while the maximum depth is 125 fathoms (750 ft; 229 m).[1] It has a length of 206 statute miles (332 km; 179 nmi) and a greatest breadth of 183 statute miles (295 km; 159 nmi).[1]

Important cities on Lake Huron include: Goderich, Sarnia, Bay City, Alpena, Rogers City, Cheboygan, Tobermory, Sauble Beach, Saugeen Shores, St. Ignace, and Port Huron.

A large bay that protrudes northeast from Lake Huron into Ontario, Canada, is called Owen Sound, Wasaga Beach, Midland, Penetanguishene, Port Severn and Parry Sound. A smaller bay that protrudes southwest from Lake Huron into the state of Michigan, U.S.A., is called Saginaw Bay.

Water levels

Historic High Water The lake fluctuates from month to month with the highest lake levels in October and November. The normal high-water mark is 2.00 feet (0.61 m) above datum (577.5 ft or 176.0 m). In the summer of 1986, Lakes Michigan and Huron reached their highest level at 5.92 feet (1.80 m) above datum.[6] The high-water records began in February 1986 and lasted through the year, ending with January 1987. Water levels ranged from 3.67 to 5.92 feet (1.12–1.80 m) above Chart Datum.[6]

Historic Low Water Lake levels tend to be the lowest in winter. The normal low-water mark is 1.00 foot (30 cm) below datum (577.5 ft or 176.0 m). In the winter of 1964, Lakes Michigan and Huron reached their lowest level at 1.38 feet (42 cm) below datum.[6] As with the high-water records, monthly low-water records were set each month from February 1964 through January 1965. During this twelve-month period, water levels ranged from 1.38 to 0.71 feet (42–22 cm) below Chart Datum.[6]

Great Lakes Circle Tour

The Great Lakes Circle Tour is a designated scenic road system connecting all the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River.[7]


Lake Huron Basin

Lake Huron has the largest shore line length of any of the Great Lakes, counting its 30,000 islands.[8]

Lake Huron is separated from Lake Michigan, which lies at the same level, by the narrow Straits of Mackinac, making them hydrologically the same body of water (sometimes called Lake Michigan-Huron and sometimes described as two 'lobes of the same lake').[8] Aggregated, Lake Huron-Michigan, at 45,300 square miles (117,000 km2), "is technically the world's largest freshwater lake."[8] When counted separately, Lake Superior is 22,300 mi² larger than Huron and higher. Lake Superior drains into the St. Marys River at Sault Ste. Marie which then flows southward into Lake Huron. The water then flows south to the St. Clair River, at Port Huron, Michigan, and Sarnia, Ontario.

The Great Lakes Waterway continues thence to Lake St. Clair; the Detroit River and Detroit, Michigan; into Lake Erie and thence – via Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River – to the Atlantic Ocean.

Like the other Great Lakes, it was formed by melting ice as the continental glaciers retreated toward the end of the last ice age. Before this, Lake Huron was a low-lying depression through which flowed the now-buried Laurentian and Huronian Rivers; the lake bed was criss-crossed by a large network of tributaries to these ancient waterways, with many of the old channels still evident on bathymetric maps.


The French, the first European visitors to the region, often referred to Lake Huron as La Mer Douce, "the fresh-water sea". In 1656, a map by French cartographer Nicolas Sanson refers to the lake as Karegnondi, a Wendat word which has been variously translated as "Freshwater Sea", "Lake of the Hurons", or simply "lake".[9][10] The lake was generally labeled "Lac des Hurons" (Lake of the Huron) on most early European maps.[10]

Storm of 1913

Ipperwash Beach, Lake Huron

On November 9, 1913, a great storm in Lake Huron sank ten ships and more than twenty were driven ashore. The storm, which raged for 16 hours, killed 235 seamen.[11]

The Matoa had passed between Port Huron, Michigan, and Sarnia, Ontario, just after midnight. On the 9th, just after six in the morning, the Senator pushed upstream. Less than an hour later, the Manola passed through. Captain Frederick W. Light of the Manola reported that both the Canadian and the American weather stations had storm flag signals flying from their weather towers.[12] Following behind at 7:00 a.m. that Sunday, the Regina steamed out of Sarnia into the northwest gale. The warnings now had been up for four hours.[13] The Manola passed the Regina off Port Sanilac, 22 statute miles (19 nmi; 35 km) up the lake. Captain Light determined that if it continued to deteriorate, he would seek shelter at Harbor Beach, Michigan, another 30 statute miles (26 nmi; 48 km) up the lake. There, he could seek shelter behind the breakwater. Before he reached Harbor Beach, the winds turned to the northeast and the lake began to rise. It would be noon before he reached Harbor Beach and ran for shelter. The waves were so violent that the Manola touched bottom entering the harbor. With help from a tug, the Manola tied up to the break wall with eight lines. It was about 3:00 p.m. when the Manola was secured and the crew prepared to drop anchor. As they worked, the cables began to snap from wind pressure against the hull. To keep from being pushed aground, they kept their bow into the wind with the engines running half to full in turns, yet the ship still drifted 800 feet (240 m) before its movement was arrested.[14] Waves breaking over the ship damaged several windows and the crew reported seeing portions of the concrete break wall peeling off as the waves struck it.[15]

Meanwhile, fifty miles farther up the lake, the Matoa and Captain Hugh McLeod had to ride out the storm without a safe harbor.[16] The Matoa would be found stranded on the Port Austin reef when the winds subsided.[17] It was noon on Monday before the winds let up and not until 11:00 p.m. that night before Capt. Light determined it to be safe to continue his journey.[18]

Modern history

On October 26, 2010,[19] the Karegnondi Water Authority was formed to build and manage a pipeline from the Lake to Flint.[20]


More than a thousand wrecks have been recorded in Lake Huron. These purportedly include the first European vessel to sail the Great Lakes, Le Griffon, built in 1679 on the eastern shore of Lake Erie, near Buffalo, New York. Sieur de la Salle navigated across Lake Erie, up the Detroit River, Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River out into Lake Huron. Passing the Straits of Mackinac, La Salle and the Griffon made landfall on Washington Island, off the tip of the Door Peninsula on the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan. Here, La Salle filled the Griffon with pelts and in late November 1679 sent the Griffon back to the site of modern-day Buffalo, never to be seen again.

Two wrecks have been identified as the Griffon, although neither has gained final verification as the actual wreck. Blown by a fierce storm after leaving, the Griffon ran aground before the storm. The people of [24][25]

Thunder Bay

The 448-square-mile Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve is home to 116 historically significant shipwrecks. It is the thirteenth National Marine Sanctuary designated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, established in 2000.[26] Glass-bottom-boat tours depart from Alpena, Michigan, providing tourists with views of some of the famous shipwrecks in Thunder Bay.

Saginaw Bay

185 of 1,000+ wrecks[27] are within the waters of Saginaw Bay.

Matoa, a propeller freighter weighing 2,311 gross tons, was built in Cleveland in 1890, and was wrecked in 1913 on Port Austin Reef.[28]

Georgian Bay, North Channel


Manola, a propeller freighter of 2,325 gross tons, was built in 1890 by the Globe Shipping Company of Midland, Ontario.[31]


Lake Huron viewed from Arch Rock at Mackinac Island

Lake Huron has a lake retention time of 22 years.

Like all of the Great Lakes, the ecology of Lake Huron has undergone drastic changes in the last century. The lake originally supported a native deepwater fish community dominated by lake trout, which fed on a number of deepwater ciscos as well as sculpins and other native fishes. Several invasive species, including sea lamprey, alewife and rainbow smelt, became abundant in the lake by the 1930s. The major native top predator, lake trout, were virtually extirpated from the lake by 1950 due to a combination of overfishing and the effects of sea lamprey. Several species of deepwater ciscos were also extirpated from the lake by the 1960s; the only remaining native deepwater cisco is the bloater. Nonnative Pacific salmon have been stocked in the lake since the 1960s, and lake trout have also been stocked in an attempt to rehabilitate the species, although little natural reproduction of stocked trout has been observed.

Lake Huron has suffered recently due the introduction of a variety of new invasive species, including zebra and quagga mussels, the spiny water flea, and round gobies. The deepwater demersal fish community of the lake was in a state of collapse by 2006,[32] and a number of drastic changes have been observed in the zooplankton community of the lake.[33] Chinook salmon catches have also been greatly reduced in recent years, and lake whitefish have become less abundant and are in poor condition. These recent changes may be attributable to the new exotic species.

See also

Great Lakes in general


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Great Lakes Factsheet No. 1". U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. June 25, 2012. Retrieved March 6, 2014. 
  2. ^ Shorelines of the Great Lakes
  3. ^ Wright, John W. (ed.); Editors and reporters of The New York Times (2006). The New York Times Almanac (2007 ed.). New York, New York: Penguin Books. p. 64.  
  4. ^ Peter Annin (2006). The Great Lakes Water Wars.  
  5. ^ Canadian Broadcasting Corporation website Seven Wonders of Canada-Manitoulin Island, Ontario Retrieved on 10/05/09.
  6. ^ a b c d Monthly bulletin of Lake Levels for The Great Lakes; September 2009; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District
  7. ^ Great Lakes Circle Tour.
  8. ^ a b c "Great Lakes Map".  
  9. ^ Huron-Wendat, by Georges E. Sioui, Jane Brierley. UBC Press, 2000;ISBN 0-7748-0715-6. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  10. ^ a b Fonger, Ron (May 3, 2007). "Genesee, Oakland counties adopt historic name for water group". The Flint Journal. Retrieved 6 December 2011. 
  11. ^ True Tales of the Great Lakes, by Dwight Boyer; p212
  12. ^ True Tales of the Great Lakes, by Dwight Boyer; p266
  13. ^ True Tales of the Great Lakes, by Dwight Boyer; p268
  14. ^ Freshwater Fury by Frank Barcus, pg 72
  15. ^ True Tales of the Great Lakes, by Dwight Boyer, pg 269
  16. ^ True Tales of the Great Lakes, by Dwight Boyer, pg 272,3
  17. ^ Shipwrecks of Lake Huron . . . The Great Sweetwater Sea, Jack Parker, Avery Color Studios, Au Train, Michigan, 1986, pg 56
  18. ^ Freshwater Fury by Frank Barcus, pg 73
  19. ^ Thorne, Blake (October 27, 2010). "Karegnondi Water Authority sets course for cutting ties with Detroit water".  
  20. ^ Fonger, Ron (October 23, 2010). "Years in the making, Karegnondi Water Authority is ready to set new course for water". Flint Journal. Retrieved 6 December 2011. 
  21. ^ For example See "Boys Life" September 1959
  22. ^ The Mississagi L(i)ghthouse © 2006/2010. Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
  23. ^ The Griffon - First Ghost Ship on the Great Lakes. Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
  24. ^ Shipwrecks of Lake Huron . . . The Great Sweetwater Sea, Jack Parker, Avery Color Studios, Au Train, Michigan, 1986, pg 25-6
  25. ^ The Mississagi L(i)ghthouse © 2006/2010. Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
  26. ^ "About Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary". Retrieved 5 November 2014. 
  27. ^ Shipwrecks of Lake Huron . . . The Great Sweetwater Sea, Jack Parker, Avery Color Studios, Au Train, Michigan, 1986, pg 50-61
  28. ^ Shipwrecks of Lake Huron . . . The Great Sweetwater Sea, Jack Parker, Avery Color Studios, Au Train, Michigan, 1986, pg 56
  29. ^ Shipwrecks of Lake Huron . . . The Great Sweetwater Sea, Jack Parker, Avery Color Studios, Au Train, Michigan, 1986, pg 65-77
  30. ^ Shipwrecks of Lake Huron . . . The Great Sweetwater Sea, Jack Parker, Avery Color Studios, Au Train, Michigan, 1986, pg 71
  31. ^ Great Lakes Vessels Index; Historical Collections of the Great Lakes; Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio
  32. ^ Riley, S. C. et al. 2008. "Deepwater demersal fish community collapse in Lake Huron". Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 137: 1879-1880.
  33. ^ Barbiero, R. P. et al. 2009. "Recent shifts in the crustacean zooplankton community of Lake Huron". Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 66: 816-828.

External links

  • NOAA chart #14860 (Lake Huron)
  • EPA's Great Lakes Atlas
  • Fish Species of Lake Huron
  • Great Lakes Coast Watch
  • Lake Huron Binational Partnership Action Plan
  • Lake Huron Data
  • Lake Huron GIS
  • Michigan DNR map of Lake Huron
  • Bathymetry of Lake Huron
  • In the Depths of Lake Huron, Secrets of an Ancient Sea
  • Interactive map of lighthouses, Georgian Bay, Lake Huron
  • Interactive map of lighthouses in North and East Lake Huron
  • Interactive map of lighthouses in North and West Lake Huron
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