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Lake Erie

Lake Erie location is very interesting as US/Canadian border passes through the lake. This way it is touching four of the U.S. states; namely Michigan and Ohio then Pennsylvania and New York. Towards the Canadian side, it touches Province of Ontario. It is such a big water mass that cannot be missed on a map. By surface area Lake Erie is the 4th largest lake of the five Great Lakes in USA. This is 13th largest lake in the world by surface area. Its location is towards southernmost area and it is the shallowest of all lakes among the Great Lakes in terms of volume.

It has the shortest average water residence time but it is the smallest by volume among the Great Lakes. Lake Huron is in Canadian jurisdiction towards north of Lake Erie and gets water feed from Detroit River. The key natural outflow from Lake Erie lake is through the Niagara River providing hydroelectric power to US and Canada being power source for spinning mega turbines close to Niagara Falls.

In parallel some of the outflow goes through the Welland Canal that enables shipping for passages starting from Port Colborne in Ontario to the other side reaching St. Catharines on Lake Ontario. This has 326 feet elevation difference. Environmental concerns pertaining to Lake Erie have been decades old where issues like pollution, overfishing, and algal blooms together with eutrophication are major concerns. Some seasoned people of the area still remember the 1999 invasion by mayflies but later there was environmental recovery by balance of nature in several areas of concern.

These flies arrive around the middle of May and last through early July like a plague of insects that striking the villages, cities and towns along Lake Erie shoreline. This plague comes in great hordes of insects and invades the land and then laying it to waste. Good luck is that these insects are totally harmless unless you slide on them in the car. They are somehow, drawn to any source of light and coat anything standing like a pole or a building. These handsome bugs are with windswept transparent wings having two long beautiful hair-like tails, have streamlined body. With all beauty, they stink like dead fish.

Name of the lake is after the Erie tribe from Native Americans. They used to live along the southern banks. That was Iroquoian tribe who called it “Erige” or “cat” for its unpredictable and violent and dangerous nature. It is an academic discussion if the tribe’s name was after the lake’s name or lake was names after the tribe’s name but history has a proof that both were names like this.

Lake Erie maintains a mean elevation of 571 feet above sea level with surface area covering 9,990 square miles. The shallowest part of the Great Lakes having average depth of only 62 feet is part of this lake. The lake being the shallowest, it is the warmest of all Great Lakes as well. In 1999 this was an important issue for two nuclear power plants requiring cool lake water for cooling their reactors because in warm summer of 1999 water temperature was close to 85 °F or 29 °C and that was the temperature limit for plants. It’s being warmest is not the only issue; its shallowness also causes concerns when it is the first place to freeze during winters. The shallowest part of Lake Erie is along the western basin where average depth reaches 25 to 30 feet only. The slightest breeze kicks up quite lively waves, causing an unexpected emergency situation.

A beautiful resort is Point Pelee National Park, located along the southernmost Canadian mainland. It is on a peninsula that extends into the lake. There are several islands in the western part of the lake, all belonging to Ohio except Pelee Island with eight other islands in neighborhood but those are part of Ontario. The lake has total 31 islands of which 13 are in Canada and 18 are part of U.S. Each island is center of different activities. The island-village usually known as Put-in-Bay is on South Bass Island attracting young crowds sometimes wearing “red bucket hats” and they are prone to traditional “break off cartwheels in the park” as well as general cheerfulness.

Kelleys Island usually appears in local papers and media for variety of “more subtle” activities offering amenities like beach lounging, biking, hiking, and “marveling at those deep glacial grooves that are left in limestone. Pelee Island though, is the largest of Erie’s islands but is easily accessible by ferry through Sandusky, Ohio or Leamington, Ontario. This island has a unique ecosystem having plants that are rare in Canada. These rare items include prickly pear cactus, yellow horse gentian, wild hyacinth and two endangered snakes called the Lake Erie water snake and the blue racer. A world of songbirds regularly migrates to Pelee during spring season while beautiful monarch butterflies enjoy a stopover here during the fall time.

Because of having rich soil, the region grows lot of concord grapes while lake itself is quite prone to algae blooms. Research says that the lake is under attack from harmful algae blooms while the problem seems increasing if something is not done for reversing this trend. During the 2011 summer western part of lake turned visibly noxious green because a massive and visible algae bloom had coated the lake surface. This lapped up in mats all along the shores. At the peak of attack, this bloom had covered 2.5 times larger area than that of any type of Erie bloom on historical records. Several factors have converged to be the cause the bloom and the trend may go up in the future too as mentioned by the research at the Carnegie Institution for Science located at Stanford University.

Though all of the Great Lakes have great similarities but Lake Erie is mainly a divot formed because of a moving glacier. It is relatively young; maximum age estimated is 4,000 years in its present configuration. Lake Erie happens to be the last of all the Great Lakes when Europeans explored it. It was Louis Joliet from France who discovered this in 1669. This lake played several roles in making of America too, especially in the 1812 War. On Sept 10, 1813, the Lake Erie Battle was fought off its north shore. American Naval ships had captured the lake after defeating British Navy ships when they regained control over.

Lake Erie is very popular among the sports fishermen for having a lot of walleye fishery. Some of charter boats take the fun lovers and tourists out for catching known as “smallmouth bass”. Besides regular fishing, people can experience ice fishing by making holes in ice and seeking fortune. Lake Erie sometimes presents fun lovers with legendary lake monster called Bessie. This is most likely comes in shape of a huge sturgeon.

Though Erie Lake is an inviting place for so many activities but the unique area is diving for shipwrecks. Certain estimates claim there are 1,400 to 8,000 wrecks offering a variety of “underwater museums”. 270 ship wreck locations are confirmed. Though some of the wrecks are still undiscovered but those are believed to be in good condition resting around 200 feet below the water surface. As we compare this lake with other lakes, per square mile population of ship wrecks is maximum in Lake Erie.

Lake authorities are active in identifying shipwreck sites and carrying out lake-floor mapping to identify location of wreck sites. As mentioned, lake is warmer among the other Great Lakes, as a diver goes down, the water temperature goes down around 30 degrees. This way the diver requires a wetsuit. Considering ship wreck population in all Great Lakes, Lake Erie occupies at least 25% of the whole lot and preserved because of low temperature on lake-floor. Divers are under an agreement not to remove or touch anything underwater for preserving continued fun of the area. These divers are experienced and have the skill to work below sea level at low temperatures.