16 Amazing Facts About Lake Erie

It’s one of the biggest and most popular lakes in North America, and in this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about Lake Erie.

1. It’s located on the Canada-United States border

Lake Erie is located right on the border between Canada and the United States. The northern shore is located in the Canadian province of Ontario, while the western, southern, and eastern shores are located in the U.S. states of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.

There are several major cities located directly on its shoreline as well, including Buffalo in New York, Erie in Pennsylvania, and Cleveland and Toledo in Ohio.

Lake Erie Cleveland
The lake with Cleveland, Ohio, is in the background. / Source

2. It’s one of the 5 Great lakes of North America

The lake is one of the so-called “5 Great lakes of North America,” which are all located on or near the Canadian-United States border.

Apart from lake Erie, there’s also Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Ontario, and Lake Michigan.

facts about lake erie

3. It’s the shallowest of the 5 Great Lakes

Even though Lake Erie is the 4th-largest of the 5 Great Lakes by surface area, it’s the smallest lake in terms of volume. That’s because it’s the shallowest of the 5 lakes with an average depth of just 62 feet (19 meters) and a maximum depth of 210 feet (64 meters).

The lake has a maximum length of 241 miles (388 km), a maximum width of 57 miles (92 km), and a total surface area of 9,910 square miles (25,667 sq km).

It’s also located at an elevation of 569 feet (173 meters) and has a total shoreline of 799 miles (1,286 km), excluding 72 miles (116 km) shoreline of its islands.

lake erie

4. It’s the warmest in summer and the coldest in winter

Because it’s the shallowest lake, it’s also the warmest of the 5 Great Lakes in the summer. One time, during the summer of 1999, a heatwave caused the water temperature to rise to 85 °F (29 °C), almost overheating a nuclear powerplant.

On the contrary, its shallow water is also the reason for the lake to be the first one of the 5 Great Lakes to freeze during the winter.

The shallowest part of the lake is the western basin which has waters with a depth of just 25 to 30 feet (7.6 to 9.1 meters).

Lake Erie in the summer

5. The lake can freeze completely over in the winter

One of the most interesting facts about Lake Erie is that it’s the only of the 5 Great Lakes that can completely freeze over during the winter months.

It doesn’t completely freeze over frequently though. The last time it has done so was on February 16, 2010, which was the first time this happened since the winter of 1996.

When this happens, it is possible to drive from the United States to Canada and vice versa over the lake!

Lake Erie frozen cleveland
Lake Erie froze over with Cleveland in the background / Source

6. Lake Erie can actually make it snow

The people living near the lake are actually happy when the lake freezes over at least 90%. Do you know why?

That’s because Lake Erie can produce “lake effect snow” which tremendously increases the snowfall in the area. This happens if the wind blows over the warm water of the lake and actually produces snow in the process.

This effect disappears as the lake freezes over, making the people happy as the roads become safer and nobody needs to shovel their driveways anymore.

Lake erie snow
Lake Erie can make it snow. / Source

7. This is how Lake Erie is fed and drained

The main inflow of water to the lake comes from the Detroit River in the west, which first flows through Lake Huron and the smaller Lake St. Clair before passing through the city of Detroit and into Lake Erie.

Multiple smaller rivers contribute to the inflow of water into Lake Erie such as the Grand River, the Huron River, the Maumee River, the Sandusky River, the Buffalo River, and the Cuyahoga River.

The lake is drained on the east side via the Niagara River and Niagara Falls, which flow into Lake Ontario afterward.

Lake erie detroit river
Detroit River and Lake Erie / Source

8. It only takes 2.6 years for new water to flow out

Lake Erie has the shortest lake retention time of all the 5 Great Lakes with just 2.6 years. The retention time is the time it takes for new water to leave the lake.

Did you swim in Lake Erie 3 years ago? Then you’re guaranteed to be swimming in new water!

Lake erie water

9. There are 31 islands on the lake

Out of the 31 islands that are located in Lake Erie, 13 are located within the borders of Canada and 18 within the borders of the United States.

Most of these islands can be found in the western part of the lake, with Pelee Island being the largest covering an area of 16 square miles (42 square kilometers).

Pelee Island from the air
Pelee Island from the air. / Wiki Commons

10. Some roads around Lake Erie were created by earlier lakes

One of the most fascinating facts about Lake Erie is that it’s less than 4,000 years old. Before the current lake was formed, the area looked much different and multiple other lakes with different shorelines existed, the youngest being Lake Warren about 12,000 years ago.

This lake was much deeper than lake Erie which means that its shorelines were located about 8 miles (13 kilometers) inland compared to the current ones.

The ancient lakes created ridges which basically formed natural roads. Native Americans used these as trails and some of these trails have been incorporated into the modern-day road network. Some examples include U.S. Route 30, running west of Delphos, and U.S. Route 20, running west of Norwalk and east of Cleveland.

Lake Erie facts

11. The lake got its name from a tribe living in the area

Multiple Native American tribes lived along the shorelines of Lake Erie. One of the biggest tribes, which lived along the southern part of the lake, was the Erie Tribe. The Neutrals (also known as Attawandaron) lived along the northern shore. These were given this name because they didn’t engage in war with other tribes.

The lake was eventually named after the largest Native American tribe, an Iroquoian group named the Erie People, who were wiped out in the 17th century during the so-called “Beaver Wars.”

Lake Erie interesting facts

12. A Frenchman was the first European to see Lake Erie

The European who is believed to be the first one to lay eyes on Lake Erie was a Frenchman named Louis Jolliet, an explorer who reached the lake in the year 1669.

One of the most remarkable facts about Lake Erie is that it was the last of the Great lakes to be discovered by Europeans. That’s because some hostile Native American tribes controlled the Niagara River, making it impossible to cross it.

It wasn’t until the 19th century though, with the creation of the Talbot Trail, that the area of the lake started being developed to how it looks today.

lake erie interesting facts
The Lake / Kevin Payravi, Wikimedia Commons

13. The lake is home to fish that can grow up to 10 feet long

Similar to the stories of the Loch Ness monster in Scotland, there are some stories about sightings of an immense creature living in Lake Erie.

Whether or not these stories are true can’t be verified. What can be verified is the fact that the lake is home to a creature that can grow up to a length of 10 feet (3 meters) and weigh up to 300 pounds (140 kilos).

This monster of the lake is called a “sturgeon,” and you don’t have to worry too much to come across it, it usually dwells at the bottom of the lake.

Kinda looks like a frilled shark, don’t you think?

Sturgeon / Cacophony / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

14. Lake Erie is popular for shipwreck tourism

Because of its favorable location, the lake quickly became one of the busiest lakes in North America. This also means that a lot of ships sank to the bottom.

It’s estimated that between 1,400 and 8,000 ships and Native American watercraft can be found at the bottom of the lake. This in combination with the fact that Lake Erie is pretty shallow makes it the perfect location to spot some old shipwrecks for divers.

To make things even better, there are about 270 confirmed shipwreck locations, so divers can make their pick as to which shipwreck they want to explore!

Lake Erie shipwreck
One of the ships that sank. / Wiki Commons

15. Part of the lake is heaven for bird watchers

Apart from diving, numerous public parks around the lake are popular among people who love hiking and biking. Do you love beautiful birds? Then there’s an amazing park named the “Long Point Provincial Park.”

This park is located on sandy land that runs into the lake. It’s a popular stopover for birds migrating as well as turtles and the perfect location to enjoy nature.

Swans on Lake Erie
Swans on Lake Erie / Source

16. Lake Erie has one serious problem

Lake Erie is a magnificent lake, one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. It does have one serious problem though, which is toxic blue-green algae that cause algal blooms.

If this takes place, parts of the water of Lake Erie turn completely green because of the overpopulation of algae. Not a pretty sight and the problem seems to get worse due to climate change.

Lake Erie during an algal bloom.
Lake Erie during an algal bloom.