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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lake Michigan
Map of Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes
Location United States
Group Great Lakes
Coordinates 44°N 87°W / 44°N 87°W / 44; -87Coordinates: 44°N 87°W / 44°N 87°W / 44; -87
Basin countries United States
Max. length 307 mi (494 km)
Max. width 118 mi (190 km)
Surface area 22,400 sq mi (58,000 km2)[1]
Average depth 279 ft (85 m)
Max. depth 923 ft (281 m)[1]
Water volume 1,180 cu mi (4,900 km3)
Residence time 99 years
Shore length1 1,638 mi (2,636 km)
Surface elevation 577 ft (176 m) [1]
Islands see list
Settlements Milwaukee, Chicago, see article for others
References [1]
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

Lake Michigan is one of the five Great Lakes of North America, and the only one located entirely within the United States. The second largest of the Great Lakes by volume[2] and the third largest of the Great Lakes by surface area (behind Lake Superior and Lake Huron),[3][4] it is bounded, from west to east, by the U.S. states of Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. The word "Michigan" was originally used to refer to the lake itself, and is believed to come from the Ojibwa Indian word mishigami, meaning "great water."[5] The lake is slightly smaller than the US state of West Virginia.



Some of the earliest human inhabitants of the Lake Michigan region were the Hopewell Indians. Their culture declined after 800 A.D., and for the next few hundred years the region was the home of peoples known as the Late Woodland Indians. In the early seventeenth century, when western European explorers made their first forays into the region, they encountered descendants of the Late Woodland Indians: the Chippewa, Menominee, Sauk, Fox, Winnebago, Miami, Ottawa, and Potawatomi. It is believed that the French explorer Jean Nicolet was the first non-Native American to discover Lake Michigan in 1634 or 1638.[6]

After Louis Jolliet, Jacques Marquette, and Robert de LaSalle explored the area in the late 17th century, Lake Michigan became part of a line of waterways leading from the Saint Lawrence River to the Mississippi River and thence to the Gulf of Mexico.[7] French coureurs des bois and voyageurs established small ports and trading communities, such as Green Bay, on the lake during the late 17th and early 18th centuries.[8]

The first permanent settlement on the Lake Michigan shoreline was made in 1779 at the site of present-day Chicago by Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, who had been born in Santo Domingo.[9]

The first person to reach the deep bottom of Lake Michigan was J. Val Klump, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Klump reached the bottom via submersible as part of a 1985 research expedition.[10]


Lake Michigan is the only one of the Great Lakes wholly within the borders of the United States; the others are shared with Canada. It has a surface area of 22,400 square miles (58,016 km²),[1] making it the largest lake entirely within one country by surface area (Lake Baikal, in Russia, is larger by water volume), and the fifth largest lake in the world. It is 307 miles (494 km) long by 118 miles (190 km) wide with a shoreline 1,640 miles (2,633 km) long. The lake's average depth is 279 feet (85 m), while its greatest depth is 923 feet (281 m).[1] It contains a volume of 1,180 cubic miles (4,918 km³) of water. Its surface averages 577 feet (176 m)[1] above sea level, the same as Lake Huron, to which it is connected through the Straits of Mackinac.



Chicago is the largest city on Lake Michigan.

Twelve million people live along Lake Michigan's shores. Many small cities in Northern Michigan and Door County, Wisconsin are centered on a tourist base that takes advantage of the beauty and recreational opportunities offered by Lake Michigan. These cities have large seasonal populations that arrive from nearby urban areas such as the Chicago, Milwaukee and Detroit areas, as well as from southern states, such as Florida and Texas.[citation needed] Some seasonal residents have summer homes along the lake shore, and return home for the winter. The southern tip of the lake is heavily industrialized. Cities on the shores of Lake Michigan include:


Connection to ocean and open water

The Saint Lawrence Seaway and Great Lakes Waterway opened the Great Lakes to ocean-going vessels. The move to wider ocean-going container ships — which do not fit through the locks on these routes — has limited shipping on the lakes. Despite their vast size, large sections of the Great Lakes freeze over in winter, interrupting most shipping. Some icebreakers ply the lakes.

The Great Lakes are also connected to the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Illinois River (from Chicago) and the Mississippi River. An alternate track is via the Illinois River (from Chicago), to the Mississippi, up the Ohio, and then through the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway (combination of a series of rivers and lakes and canals), to Mobile Bay and the Gulf. Commercial tug-and-barge traffic on these waterways is heavy.

Pleasure boats can also enter or exit the Great Lakes by way of the Erie Canal and Hudson River in New York. The Erie Canal connects to the Great Lakes at the east end of Lake Erie (at Buffalo, NY) and at the south side of Lake Ontario (at Oswego, NY).


Lake Michigan beaches, especially those in Michigan and Northern Indiana, are known for their beauty. The region is often referred to as the "Third Coast" of the United States, after those of the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. The sand is soft and off-white, known as "singing sands" because of the squeaking noise (caused by high quartz content) made when one walks across it. There are often high sand dunes covered in green beach grass and sand cherries, and the water is usually clear and cool (between 55 and 80 °F [13 and 27 °C]),[11] even in late summer. However, because prevailing westerly winds tend to move the surface water toward the east, there is a flow of warmer water to the Michigan shore in the summer.[12] Lake Michigan beaches in Northern Michigan are the only place in the world, aside from a few inland lakes in that region, where one can find Petoskey stones, the state stone.

The Milwaukee Lakefront.

The beaches of the western coast and the northernmost part of the east coast are rocky, while the southern and eastern beaches are sandy and dune-covered. This is partly because of the prevailing winds from the west which also cause thick layers of ice to build up on the eastern shore in winter.

Most of the Chicago city waterfront is parks. Where there are no beaches or marinas then stone or concrete revetments protect the shoreline from erosion. The rest of the lakefront is residential developments in the north and south and ex-industrial sites in the south.

Some environmental problems still plague the lake. Steel mills are visible along the Indiana shoreline, and the pollution caused by these mills is believed to contribute to the color of sunsets. Also, the Chicago Tribune reported that BP is a major polluter, dumping thousands of pounds of ammonia and raw sludge into Lake Michigan every day from its Whiting, Indiana, oil refinery.[13]

The Chicago skyline can be seen from the Indiana shore and lower Michigan (on a clear day), but when standing on the beaches in Wisconsin and Illinois it is impossible to see across the lake, providing a view similar to that of the ocean. A view across the lake is possible from many buildings in Chicago. It is possible from some of the taller buildings in Chicago to clearly make out points in Indiana and Michigan such as the NIPSCO (Northern Indiana Public Service Company) cooling tower of its power plant in Michigan City, Indiana.

The Great Lakes Circle Tour is a designated scenic road system connecting all of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River.[14]

Car ferries

Sunset over Lake Michigan from Grand Traverse Point

People can cross Lake Michigan by the SS Badger, a ferry that runs from Manitowoc, Wisconsin, to Ludington, Michigan. The Lake Express, established in 2004, carries motorists across the lake between Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Muskegon, Michigan.



The National Park Service maintains the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Parts of the shoreline are within the Hiawatha National Forest and the Manistee National Forest. The Manistee National Forest section of the shoreline includes the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness. The Lake Michigan division of the Michigan Islands National Wildlife Refuge is also within the lake.

There are numerous state parks located on the shores of the lake or on islands within the lake. A partial list follows.

Saugatuck Dunes State Park
Waugoshance Light in Lake Michigan



The Milwaukee Reef, running under Lake Michigan from Milwaukee to a point between Grand Haven and Muskegon, divides the lake into northern and southern pools. Each pool has a clockwise flow of water, deriving from rivers, winds, and the Coriolis effect. Prevailing westerly winds tend to move the surface water toward the east, producing a moderating effect on the climate of western Michigan. There is a mean difference in summer temperatures of 5 to 10 degrees between the Wisconsin and Michigan shores.[12]

Hydrologically Michigan and Huron are the same body of water (sometimes called Lake Michigan-Huron), but are geographically distinct. Counted together, it is the largest fresh water body in the world by surface area. The Mackinac Bridge is generally considered the dividing line between them. Both lakes are part of the Great Lakes Waterway. In earlier maps of the region, the name Lake Illinois has been found in place of "Michigan".

Historic High Water
The lake fluctuates from month to month with the highest lake levels in October and November. The normal highwater mark is 2.00 feet (0.61 m) above datum (577.5 ft or 176.0 meters). In the summer of 1986, Lakes Michigan and Huron reached their highest level at 5.92 feet (1.80 m) above datum.[15] The high water records began in February 1986 and lasted through the year, ending with January 1987. Water levels ranged from 3.67 feet (1.12 m) to 5.92 feet (1.80 m) above Chart Datum.[15]
Historic Low Water
Lake levels tend to be the lowest in winter. The normal lowwater mark is 1.00 foot (0.30 m) below datum (577.5 ft or 176.0 meters). In the winter of 1964, Lakes Michigan and Huron reached their lowest level at 1.38 feet (0.42 m) below datum.[15] As with the highwater 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 feet (0.42 m) to 0.71 feet (0.22 m) below Chart Datum.[15]


Lake Michigan is home to a variety of species of fish and other organisms. It was originally home to lake trout, yellow perch, panfish, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, carp, bowfin, as well as some species of catfish. In recent years overfishing has caused a decline in lake trout, ultimately causing an increase in the alewife population. As a result, coho and chinook salmon were introduced as a predator of alewives to decrease the alewife population. This program was so successful that the salmon population exploded, and the states surrounding Lake Michigan promoted Salmon Snagging. This practice has since been made illegal in all of the great lakes states with the exception of a limited season in Illinois. Lake Michigan is now being stocked with several species of fish. However, several invader species introduced, such as lampreys and mussels, threaten the vitality of fish populations.

See also

Great Lakes in General


  1. ^ a b c d e f g 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. ISBN 0-14-303820-6. 
  2. ^ "Lake Michigan". 2009-06-18. Retrieved 2010-01-14. 
  3. ^ Wikipedia - Lake Superior
  4. ^ Wikipedia - Lake Huron
  5. ^ "Superior Watershed Partnership Projects". 
  6. ^ Bogue, Margaret Beattie (1985). Around the Shores of Lake Michigan: A Guide to Historic Sites, pp. 7-13. University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0299100049.
  7. ^ Bogue (1985), pp. 14-16.
  8. ^ Shelak, Benjamin J. (2003). Shipwrecks of Lake Michigan p. 3. Big Earth Publishing. ISBN 1931599211.
  9. ^ Shelak (2003), p. 85.
  10. ^ "Variations In Sediment Accumulation Rates And The Flux Of Labile Organic Matter In Eastern Lake Superior Basins". The Journal of Great Lakes Research. 1989. Retrieved 2009-08-09. 
  11. ^ "Michigan Sea Grant Coastwatch". Retrieved 2010-01-14. 
  12. ^ a b Hilton, George Woodman (2002). Lake Michigan Passenger Steamers, pp. 3-5. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0804742405.
  13. ^ Register - New
  14. ^ Great Lakes Circle Tour.
  15. ^ a b c d Monthly bulletin of Lake Levels for The Great Lakes; September 2009; US Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District

Further reading

  • Hyde, Charles K., and Ann and John Mahan. The Northern Lights: Lighthouses of the Upper Great Lakes. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1995. ISBN 0814325548 ISBN 9780814325544.
  • Oleszewski, Wes, Great Lakes Lighthouses, American and Canadian: A Comprehensive Directory/Guide to Great Lakes Lighthouses, (Gwinn, Michigan: Avery Color Studios, Inc., 1998) ISBN 0-932212-98-0.
  • Penrod, John, Lighthouses of Michigan, (Berrien Center, Michigan: Penrod/Hiawatha, 1998) ISBN 9780942618785 ISBN 9781893624238
  • Penrose, Laurie and Bill, A Traveler’s Guide to 116 Michigan Lighthouses (Petoskey, Michigan: Friede Publications, 1999). ISBN 0923756035 ISBN 9780923756031
  • Wagner, John L., Michigan Lighthouses: An Aerial Photographic Perspective, (East Lansing, Michigan: John L. Wagner, 1998) ISBN 1880311011 ISBN 9781880311011
  • Wright, Larry and Wright, Patricia, Great Lakes Lighthouses Encyclopedia Hardback (Erin: Boston Mills Press, 2006) ISBN 1550463993

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

LAKE MICHIGAN, the only one of the great lakes of North America wholly within the boundaries of the United States, and the second largest body of fresh water in the world. It lies S. of Lake Superior and W. of Lake Huron, between 41° 37' and 46° 05' N. and 84° 45' and 88° W.; is bounded on the N. and E. by the state of Michigan, on the W. by Wisconsin, while Illinois and Indiana touch its S. end. It is 320 m. long, and has an average width of 65 m. The maximum depth recorded by the United States Lake Survey is 870 ft.; the mean level of the surface is 5813 ft. above mean sea-level, being the same as that of Lake Huron and 21 ft. below that of Lake Superior. Its area is 22,400 sq. m., and it has a basin 68,100 sq. m. in area.

The shores of Lake Michigan are generally low and sandy, and the land slopes gradually to the water. The northern shore of the lake is irregular and more rugged and picturesque than the other shores, the summit of the highest peak being about 1400 ft. above the sea. On the eastern side are numerous sand hills, formed by the wind into innumerable fantastic shapes, sometimes covered with stunted trees and scanty vegetation, but usually bare and rising to heights of from 150 to 250 ft. The south-western shore is generally low, with sand hills covered with shrivelled pines and bur oaks. Along the western shore woods and prairies alternate, interspersed with a few high peaks. The cliffs on the east shore of Green Bay form a bold escarpment, and from this ridge the land slopes gradually to the lake. With the exception of Green and Traverse bays, Lake Michigan has few indentations of the coast line, and except at the north end it is free from islands. The waters near shore are shoal, and as there are few harbours of refuge of easy access navigation is dangerous in heavy storms. Around the lake the climate is equable, for, though the winter is cold and the summer hot, the waters of the lake modify the extremes, the mean temperature varying from 40° to 54° F. The average annual rainfall is 33 in. The finest agricultural land in the United States is near the lake, and there is an immense trade in all grains, fruits, livestock and lumber, and in products such as flour, pork, hides, leather goods, furniture, &c. Rich lead and copper mines abound, as also salt, iron and coal. Abundant water power promotes manufactures of all kinds. Beer and distilled liquors are largely manufactured, and fine building stone is obtained from numerous quarries.

The lake is practically tideless, though true tidal pulsations amounting to 3 in. in height are stated to have been observed in Chicago. In the water of the lake there is a general set of current towards the outlet at the strait of Mackinac, following the east shore, with slight circular currents in the main portion of the lake and at the northern end around Beaver island. These currents vary in speed from 4 to so m. per day. Surface currents are set up by prevailing winds, which also seriously affect water levels, lowering the water at Chicago and raising it at the strait, or the reverse, so as greatly to inconvenience navigation. The level of the lake is subject to seasonal fluctuations, reaching a maximum in midsummer and a minimum in February, as well as to alternating cycles of years of high and low water. Standard highwater of 1838 was 3.36 ft. above mean level and standard low-water of 1895, 2.82 ft. below that datum, giving an extreme recorded range slightly over 6 ft.

The northern portion of the lake only is covered with ice in winter, and ice never reaches as far south as Milwaukee. Milwaukee River remains closed on an average for one hundred days - from the beginning of December to the middle of March. The average date of the opening and closing of navigation at the strait of Mackinac, where the ice remains longest, is the 17th of April and the 9th of January respectively.' Regular lines 'of steamers specially equipped to meet winter conditions, most of them being car ferries, cross the lake and the strait of Mackinac all winter between the various ports.

No notable rivers flow into Lake Michigan, the largest being the Big Manistee and Muskegon on the east shore, and on the west shore the Menominee and the Fox, both of which empty into Green Bay, the most important arm of the lake. The numerous harbours are chiefly artificial, usually located at the mouths of streams, the improvements consisting of two parallel piers extending into the lake and protecting a dredged channel. Sand bars keep filling up the mouths of these channels, necessitating frequent dredging and extension of the breakwaters, work undertaken by the Federal government, which also maintains a most comprehensive and completeystem of aids to navigation, including lighthouses and lightships, fog alarms, gas and other buoys, life-saving, storm signal and weather report stations.

1 Report of Deep Waterways Commission (1896).

Chicago, the principal port on the lake, is at its south-west extremity, and is remarkable for the volume of its trade, the number of vessels arriving and departing exceeding that of any port in the United States, though the tonnage is less than that of New York. It is a large railway centre, and the number and size of the grain elevators are noticeable. The port is protected by breakwaters enclosing a portion of the lake front. The level of the city above the lake being only 14 ft., much difficulty arose in draining it. A sanitary and ship canal 34 m. long was therefore completed in 1900 to divert the Chicago river, a small stream that flows into the lake, into the head waters of the Des Plaines river and thence through the river Joliet into the Mississippi at St Louis. The discharge of water is by law so regulated that the maximum flow shall not exceed 250,000 cub. ft. per minute. The effect upon the permanent level of the lakes of the withdrawal of water through this artificial outlet is receiving much attention. Milwaukee, situated on the shore of Milwaukee Bay, on the western side of the lake, is, next to Chicago, the largest city on the lake, and has a large commerce and a harbour of refuge. Escanaba, on Little Bay de Noc (Noquette), in the northern part of the lake, is a natural harbour and a large iron shipping port. Green Bay and Lake Michigan are connected by a canal extending from the lake to the head of Sturgeon Bay. Lake Michigan is connected at its north-east extremity with lake Huron by the strait of Mackinac, 48 m. long, with a minimum width of 6 m.; the water is generally deep and the shoals lying near the usually travelled routes are well marked.


Sailing directions for Lake Michigan, Green Bay, and the Strait of Mackinac, U.S. Navy Hydrographic office publication No. 108 B (Washington, 1906); Bulletin No. 17: Survey of Northern and North-western Lakes, U.S. Lake Survey Office (Detroit, Michigan, 1907); St Lawrence Pilot, 7th ed., Hydrographic Office Admiralty (London, 1906); Effect of Withdrawal of Water from Lake Michigan by the Sanitary District of Chicago, U.S. House of Representatives' Document No. 6, 59th Congress, 1st session (Washington, 1906). (W. P. A.)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


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Proper noun

Lake Michigan


Lake Michigan

  1. One of the five Great Lakes of North America, and the only one located entirely within the United States.


Simple English

[[File:|thumb|200px|right|Map of the Great lakes, dark blue: Lake Michigan]] Lake Michigan is one of the five Great Lakes in North America.

It has a surface area of 22,300 square miles (57,750 square km). It is 307 miles long by 118 miles wide. Lake Michigan is the 5th largest lake in the world.

It is bounded by the U.S. states of Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan. The largest city on Lake Michigan is Chicago.


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