LAKE ERIE (/ˈɪəri/ ; French : Lac Érié) is the fourth-largest
lake (by surface area) of the five
Great Lakes in
North America , and
the thirteenth-largest globally if measured in terms of surface area.
It is the southernmost, shallowest, and smallest by volume of the
Great Lakes and therefore also has the shortest average water
residence time . At its deepest point
Lake Erie is 210 feet (64
Lake Erie's northern shore is bounded by the Canadian
Ontario , with the U.S. states of
and New York on its southern and easternmost shores and the Lower
Michigan on the west. These jurisdictions divide the
surface area of the lake by water boundaries. The lake was named by
Erie people , a Native Americans people who lived along its
southern shore. That
Iroquoian tribe called it "Erige" ("cat") because
of its unpredictable and sometimes violently dangerous nature. It is
a matter of conjecture whether the lake was named after the tribe, or
if the tribe was called "Erie" because of its proximity to the lake.
Lake Huron , Erie's primary inlet is the Detroit River
. The main natural outflow from the lake is via the
Niagara River ,
which provides hydroelectric power to
Canada and the U.S. as it spins
huge turbines near
Niagara Falls at Lewiston, New York and Queenston,
Ontario . Some outflow occurs via the
Welland Canal which diverts
water for ship passages from
Port Colborne ,
Lake Erie, to
St. Catharines on
Ontario , an elevation difference of 326 ft (99
Lake Erie's environmental health has been an ongoing concern for
decades, with issues such as overfishing, pollution , algae blooms and
eutrophication generating headlines.
* 1 Geography
* 1.1 Geographic features
* 1.2 Islands
* 1.3 Water levels
* 2 Geology
* 3 History
* 3.1 Native Americans
* 3.2 European exploration and settlement
Great Lakes Compact
* 4.1 Weather
Lake Erie in winter
* 4.1.2 Windy conditions
* 4.1.3 Microclimates
* 4.1.4 Long term weather patterns
* 4.2 Ecosystems
Eutrophication and the infamous dead zone
* 4.2.3 Snakes
* 4.2.5 Snakehead fish
Agriculture and life around the lake
Water quality issues and restoration
* 4.2.8 Other ecosystem related issues
* 5 Economy
* 5.1.1 Species of fish
* 5.1.3 Government regulation of fishing
* 5.1.5 Ice fishing
* 5.3 Tourism
* 5.3.1 Diving for shipwrecks
* 5.3.2 Public parks
* 5.3.3 Biking
* 5.3.4 Islands
* 5.3.5 Water sports
* 5.3.6 Lighthouses
* 5.3.7 Towns along the lake
* 5.3.8 Vineyards
* 5.3.9 Summer rentals
* 5.3.10 Pleasure cruises
* 5.3.11 Folklore
* 5.4 Shipping traffic
* 5.5 Ports
* 5.6 Ferryboats
Lake Erie airspace
* 5.8 Border crossings
* 6 See also
Great Lakes in general
* 7 View
* 8 References
* 9 Further reading
* 10 External links
False-color satellite image of
Lake Erie in 2007 Lake
Erie: North Shore in mid-December 2014.
Lake Erie Basin
Lake Erie (42.2° N, 81.2W) has a mean elevation of 571 feet (174 m)
above sea level. It has a surface area of 9,990 square miles (25,874
km2) with a length of 241 statute miles (388 km ; 209 nmi ) and
breadth of 57 statute miles (92 km; 50 nmi) at its widest points.
It is the shallowest of the
Great Lakes with an average depth of 10
fathoms 3 feet (62 ft; 19 m) and a maximum depth of 35 fathoms (210
ft; 64 m) For comparison,
Lake Superior has an average depth of 80
fathoms 3 feet (483 ft; 147 m), a volume of 2,900 cubic miles (12,000
km3) and shoreline of 2,726 statute miles (4,385 km). Because it is
the shallowest, it is also the warmest of the Great Lakes, and in
1999 this almost became a problem for two nuclear power plants which
require cool lake water to keep their reactors cool. The warm summer
of 1999 caused lake temperatures to come close to the 85 °F (29 °C)
limit necessary to keep the plants cool. Also because of its
shallowness, and in spite of being the warmest lake in the summer, it
is also the first to freeze in the winter. The shallowest section of
Lake Erie is the western basin where depths average only 25 to 30 feet
(7.6 to 9.1 m); as a result, "the slightest breeze can kick up lively
waves," according to a New York Times reporter in 2004. The "waves
build very quickly", according to other accounts. Sometimes fierce
waves springing up unexpectedly have led to dramatic rescues; in one
Cleveland resident trying to measure the dock near his
house became trapped but was rescued by a fire department diver from
In a tug of war against the waves, the two were finally hauled out by
rope. After being trapped for an hour-and-a-half, Baker was back on
dry land, exhausted and battered but alive. — Tatiana Morales, CBS
News , 2004 The
Niagara River empties
Lake Erie into Lake
Ontario . This water has just passed over
Niagara Falls .
This area is also known as the "thunderstorm capital of Canada" with
"breathtaking" lightning displays.
Lake Erie is primarily fed by the
Detroit River (from
Lake Huron and
Lake St. Clair ) and drains via the
Niagara River and
Niagara Falls into
Ontario . Navigation
downstream is provided by the
Welland Canal , part of the Saint
Lawrence Seaway . Other major contributors to
Lake Erie include the
Grand River , the Huron River , the
Maumee River , the Sandusky River
, the Buffalo River , and the
Cuyahoga River . The drainage basin
covers 30,140 square miles (78,100 km2).
Point Pelee National Park , the southernmost point of the Canadian
mainland, is located on a peninsula extending into the lake. Several
islands are found in the western end of the lake; these belong to Ohio
Pelee Island and eight neighboring islands, which are part
Major cities along
Lake Erie include Buffalo ;
Erie, Pennsylvania ;
Toledo, Ohio ; and Cleveland,
Ohio . Partial map of the
Lake Erie Islands
Islands tend to be located in the western side of the lake and total
31 in number (13 in Canada, 18 in the U.S.). The island-village of
South Bass Island attracts young crowds who sometimes
wear "red bucket hats" and are prone to "break off cartwheels in the
park" and general merriment. Kelleys Island was depicted by the
Chicago Tribune as having charms that were "more subtle" than
Put-in-Bay, and offers amenities such as beach lounging, hiking,
biking and "marveling at deep glacial grooves left in limestone."
Pelee Island is the largest of Erie's islands, accessible by ferry
Leamington, Ontario and Sandusky,
Ohio . The island has a
"fragile and unique ecosystem" with plants rarely found in Canada,
such as wild hyacinth, yellow horse gentian (
Triosteum angustifolium )
and prickly pear cactus, as well as two endangered snakes, the blue
racer and the
Lake Erie water snake. Songbirds migrate to Pelee in
spring, and monarch butterflies stop over during the fall.
Lake Erie has a lake retention time of 2.6 years, the shortest of
Great Lakes . The lake's surface area is 9,910 square miles
Lake Erie's water level fluctuates with the seasons as
in the other Great Lakes. Generally, the lowest levels are in January
and February, and the highest in June or July, although there have
been exceptions. The average yearly level varies depending on
long-term precipitation. Short-term level changes are often caused by
seiches that are particularly high when southwesterly winds blow
across the length of the lake during storms. These cause water to pile
up at the eastern end of the lake. Storm-driven seiches can cause
damage onshore. During one storm in November 2003, the water level at
Buffalo rose by 7 feet (2.1 m) with waves of 10–15 feet (3–4.5 m)
for a rise of 22 feet (6.7 m). Meanwhile, at the western end of the
lake, Toledo experienced a similar drop in water level.
Lake water is
used for drinking purposes.
* HISTORIC HIGH WATER. The lake fluctuates from month to month with
the highest lake levels in June and July. In the summer of 1986, Lake
Erie reached its highest level at 5.08 feet (1.55 m) above datum. The
high water records were set from 1986 (April) through January 1987.
Levels ranged from 4.33 to 5.08 feet (1.32–1.55 m) above Chart
* HISTORIC LOW WATER.
Lake Erie experiences its lowest levels in the
winter. In the winter of 1934,
Lake Erie reached its lowest level at
1.5 feet (0.46 m) below datum. Monthly low water records were set
from July 1934 through June 1935. During this twelve-month period
water levels ranged from 1.5 feet (0.46 m) to the Chart Datum.
Sandy bluffs along
Lake Erie in Erie County,
Lake Erie and
Lake Saint Clair bathymetric map. The deepest point
is marked with "×".
Lake Erie was carved out by glacier ice, and in its current form is
less than 4,000 years old, which is a short span in geological terms.
Before this, the land on which the lake now sits went through several
complex stages. A large lowland basin formed over two million years
ago as a result of an eastern flowing river that existed well before
the Pleistocene ice ages . This ancient drainage system was destroyed
by the first major glacier in the area, while it deepened and enlarged
the lowland areas, allowing water to settle and form a lake. The
glaciers were able to carve away more land on the eastern side of the
lowland because the bedrock is made of shale which is softer than the
carbonate rocks of dolomite and limestone on the western side. Thus,
the eastern and central basins of the modern lake are much deeper than
the western basin, which averages only 25 feet (7.6 m) deep and is
rich in nutrients and fish.
Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great
Lakes because the ice was relatively thin and lacked erosion power
when it reached that far south, according to one view.
As many as three glaciers advanced and retreated over the land
causing temporary lakes to form in the time periods in between each of
them. Because each lake had a different volume of water their
shorelines rested at differing elevations. The last of these lakes to
Lake Warren , existed between about 13,000 and 12,000 years ago.
It was deeper than the current
Lake Erie, so its shoreline existed
about eight miles (13 km) inland from the modern one. The shorelines
of these lakes left behind high ground sand ridges that cut through
swamps and were used as trails for Indians and later, pioneers. These
trails became primitive roads which were eventually paved. U.S. Route
30 west of Delphos and
U.S. Route 20 west of Norwalk and east of
Cleveland were formed in this manner. One can still see some of these
ancient sand dunes that formed in the
Oak Openings Region in
Ohio . There, the sandy dry lake bed soil was not enough
to support large trees with the exception of a few species of oaks,
forming a rare oak savanna .
At the time of European contact, there were several groups of Indian
cultures living around the shores of the eastern end of the lake. The
Erie tribe (from whom the lake takes its name) lived along the
southern edge, while the
Neutrals (also known as Attawandaron) lived
along the northern shore. Near Port Stanley, there is an Indian
village dating from the 16th century known as the Southwold Earthworks
where as many as 800 Neutral Indians once lived; the archaeological
remains include double earth walls winding around the grass-covered
perimeter. Europeans named the tribe the Neutral Indians since these
people refused to fight with other tribes. Both tribes were conquered
and assimilated by their hostile eastern neighbors, the Iroquois
Confederacy between AD 1651 and 1657, in what is referred to as part
Beaver Wars .
For decades after those wars, the land around eastern
Lake Erie was
claimed and utilized by the
Iroquois as a hunting ground. As the power
Iroquois waned during the last quarter of the 17th century,
several other, mainly
Anishinaabe Native American tribes, displaced
them from the territories they claimed on the north shore of the lake.
There was a legend of an Indian woman named Huldah who, despairing
over her lost British lover, hurled herself from a high rock from
EUROPEAN EXPLORATION AND SETTLEMENT
The steamship Walk in Water, built in Buffalo, was the first
Lake Erie. Picture circa 1816.
In 1669, the Frenchman
Louis Jolliet was the first documented
European to sight
Lake Erie, although there is speculation that
Étienne Brûlé may have come across it in 1615.
Lake Erie was the
last of the
Great Lakes to be explored by Europeans, since the
Iroquois who occupied the
Niagara River area were in conflict with the
French, and they did not allow explorers or traders to pass through.
Explorers followed rivers out of
Ontario and portaged directly
Lake Huron . British authorities in
Canada were nervous about
possible expansion by American settlers across
Lake Erie, so Colonel
Talbot developed the Talbot Trail in 1809 as a way to stimulate
settlement to the area; Talbot recruited settlers from
Scotland and there are numerous places named after him, such as Port
Talbot and the Talbot River and Talbotville in southern Ontario.
Commander Perry 's message after the Battle of
Lake Erie : "We have
met the enemy and they are ours." This 1865 painting by William H.
Powell shows Perry transferring to a different ship during the battle.
War of 1812
War of 1812 ,
Oliver Hazard Perry captured an entire
British fleet in 1813 near Put-in-Bay, Ohio, despite having inferior
numbers. American soldiers swept through the
Ontario area around Port
Rowan burning towns and villages, but spared a gristmill owned by a
Canadian mason named John Backhouse, according to one report.
Generally, however, despite the two exceptions being the American
Revolutionary War and the
War of 1812
War of 1812 which involved conflicts between
the U.S. and
Great Britain , relations between the U.S. and Canada
have been remarkably friendly with an "unfortified boundary" and an
agreement "that has kept all fleets of war off the Great Lakes."
In 1837, rebellions broke about between Canadian settlers and the
British Colonial government , primarily over political reforms and
land allocation issues. Some of the rebels stationed themselves in the
U.S. and crossed the ice from Sandusky Bay to
Pelee Island wearing
"tattered overcoats and worn-out boots", and carrying muskets,
pitchforks, and swords, but the islanders had already fled. Later,
there was a battle on the ice with the Royal 32nd regiment, with the
rebels being driven to retreat. At an
Ohio history festival, the
19th-century style brig warship USS Niagara passes the Lorain
Settlers established commercial fisheries on the north coast of the
lake around the 1850s. An important business was fishing. In the
pre-Civil War years, railways sprouted everywhere, and around 1852
there were railways circling the lake. Maritime traffic picked up,
although the lake was usually closed because of ice from December to
early April, and ships had to wait for the ice to clear before
proceeding. Since slavery had been abolished in
Canada in 1833, but
was still legal in southern states of the U.S., a
Lake Erie crossing
was sometimes required for fugitive slaves seeking freedom:
When Kentucky fugitive Lewis Clarke arrived in Cleveland, he had no
idea how to find Canada. "I went out to the shore of the lake again
and again, to try and see the other side, but I could see no hill,
mountain, nor city of the asylum I sought," he once told an
interviewer. "I was afraid to inquire where (Canada) was, lest it
would betray such a degree of ignorance as to excite suspicion at
once." Many fugitives also had to overcome fears instilled by their
former masters... — Chris Lackner in the Ottawa Citizen, 2006
Merchant shippers lacked modern radar and weather forecasting, so
vessels were often caught up in intense gales:
A violent gale is blowing on
Lake Erie ... The schooner Stranger came
in this morning and reports seeing a vessel about 12 miles up, 2
miles from the
Canada shore, with three men clinging to the masts,
which alone were visible above the water–heard their cries and
screams... — The New York Times, October 1853
There were reports of disasters usually from sea captains passing
information to reporters; in 1868, the captain of the Grace Whitney
saw a sunken vessel "three men clinging to the masthead" but he could
not help because of the gale and high seas.
A balloonist named John Steiner of
Philadelphia made an ambitious
trip across the lake in 1857. He was described in The New York Times
as an eronaut or aeronaut; powered boats were called propellers; and
fast was deemed railroad speed. Here's an account of the day-long
voyage over the lake:
He arose to the height of about three miles, and started off at a
slow but steady rate ... The lake could be seen from one end to the
other nearly ... At one time Mr. Steiner counted 38 sail vessels, all
in sight, and far below him. The hands on board several of the vessels
saw him, and rightly apprehending that he was an aeronaut, cheered him
heartily ... He neared the
Canada shore a little below Long Point ...
he was accordingly driven towards Buffalo ... Night was drawing on and
it became apparent that he could not, with this current, get away from
the water before dark, and after nightfall it would not be safe to
come down. Seeing a propeller ... the Mary Stewart ... He first struck
the water about 25 miles below Long Point ... During this time Mr.
Steiner says he thinks his balloon bounded from the water at least
twenty times. It would strike and then rebound, like a ball, going
into the air from twenty to fifty feet, and still rushing down the
lake at railroad speed ... Mr. Steiner then abandoned the balloon,
leaping into the water and swimming towards the boat, which speedily
reached him... —
The New York Times
The New York Times , July 23, 1857
In 1885, lake winds were so strong that water levels dropped
substantially, sometimes by as much as two feet, so that at ports such
as Toledo, watercraft could not load coal or depart the port.
During the history of the lake as a fishery, there has been marked
battling by opposing interest groups. Here's an 1895 newspaper account
in which critics of commercial fishing issued dire predictions and
calling for government action to solve the problem:
The preservation of the fisheries of
Lake Erie has become a serious
problem to all who have given it close attention ... the fisheries are
being exhausted by the wasteful methods which are now in vogue ... it
is still the custom of the pound fishermen about Sandusky to take fish
of all sizes, and if they are too small to be marketable they are
turned over to a fertilizer factory. If left undisturbed for two or
three years more, these little fish would be a very valuable product
The New York Times
The New York Times , 1895 View from the Peace
Memorial at Put-in-Bay,
Predictions of the lake being over-fished in 1895 were premature,
since the fishery has survived commercial and sport fishing, pollution
in the middle of the 20th century, invasive species and other
ailments, but state and provincial governments, as well as national
governments, have played a greater role as time went by. Business
boomed; in 1901, the Carnegie Company proposed building a new harbor
near Erie in Elk Creek to accommodate shipments from its tube-plant
site nearby. In 1913, a memorial to Commodore Perry was built on
Put-in-Bay island featuring a Doric column.
During the Prohibition years from 1919 to 1933, a "great deal of
alcohol crossed Erie" along with "mobster corpses" dumped into the
Detroit River which sometimes washed up on the beaches of Pelee Island
. According to one account,
Al Capone hid a "fortune" in the walls of
the Middle Island luxury club, but no money was found in it as of 2007
when the building no longer stood. The club had a basement casino
with poker tables and slot machines.
During the 20th century, commercial fishing was prevalent, but so was
the boom in manufacturing industry around the lake, and often rivers
and streams were used as sewers to flush untreated sewage which ended
up in the lake. Sometimes poorly constructed sanitary systems meant
that when old mains broke, raw sewage would spill directly into the
Cuyahoga and into the lake. A report in Time magazine in 1969
described the lake as a "gigantic cesspool" since only three of 62
beaches were rated "completely safe for swimming".
By 1975 the popular commercial fish blue pike had been declared
extinct, although the declaration may have been premature. By the
1980s, there were about 130 fishing vessels with about 3,000 workers,
but commercial fishing was declining rapidly, particularly from the
GREAT LAKES COMPACT
Great Lakes Compact
In 2005, the
Great Lakes States of
Michigan , New York ,
Minnesota and the
Canadian Provinces of
Quebec endorsed the Great Lakes-St.
Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Compact (Compact).
The Compact was signed into law by President
George W. Bush
George W. Bush in
September 2008. An international water rights policy overseen by the
Great Lakes Commission, the Compact aims to prevent diversion of water
Great Lakes to distant states, as well as to set standards for
use and conservation. It had support from both political parties,
United States Senator
George Voinovich (R-OH) and
Jennifer Granholm (D-MI), but is not popular in the
southwestern states due to frequent drought conditions and water
Lake Erie In Winter
Cold air travels over warm lake water. The air becomes warmer,
moister, less dense, so that it rises; when it passes over land, the
reduced airspace causes the air to "pile up" resulting in "frictional
convergence." This lifts the air even further to where it cools,
turning into droplets or snowflakes. The result is enhanced snowfall.
Tornadoes rarely happen around the immediate Great Lakes
region, although this one happened in 1953 in Erie,
Michigan near Lake
Lake Erie in winter
Like the other Great Lakes, Erie produces lake effect snow when the
first cold winds of winter pass over the warm waters. When the
difference in temperature between the relatively warm surface water
and the colder air reaches a threshold value of 18 to 23 degrees
Fahrenheit (10 to 13 degrees Celsius), then "lake-effect snow becomes
As cold air flows over the warm water, the lake warms and moistens
the air. Since warm, moist air is less dense than cold air, the heated
air rises. Rising air cools and water vapor condenses into cloud
droplets ... the efficiency of snow production increases when the wind
pushes the clouds over land. Friction with the ground causes air to
pile up. This frictional convergence creates lift and enhances
snowfall. — Bob Swanson and Adrienne Lewis of
USA Today , 2008
Heavy lake-effect snowfalls can occur when cold air travels 60 miles
(97 km) or longer over a large unfrozen lake. Lake-effect snow makes
Buffalo and Erie the eleventh and thirteenth snowiest places in the
United States respectively, according to data collected from
National Climatic Data Center . Since winds blow primarily
west–to–east along the main axis of the lake, lake effect snow
effects are more pronounced on the eastern parts of the lake such as
cities such as Buffalo and Erie . Buffalo typically gets 95 inches
(240 cm) of snow each winter, and sometimes ten feet (3 m) of snow;
the snowiest city is
Syracuse, New York
Syracuse, New York , which can receive heavy
snowfall from both the lake effect process and large coastal cyclones.
A storm around Christmas in 2001 pounded Buffalo with seven feet of
Lake Erie in winter
The lake effect ends or its effect is reduced, however, when the lake
freezes over. In January 2011, for example, residents of Cleveland
were glad when
Lake Erie was "90 percent frozen" since it meant that
the area had "made it over the hump" in terms of enduring repeated
snowfalls which required much shoveling. Being the shallowest of the
Great Lakes, it is the most likely to freeze and frequently does. On
February 16, 2010, meteorologists reported that the lake had frozen
over marking the first time the lake had completely frozen over since
the winter of 1995–1996. In contrast,
Michigan has never
completely frozen over since the warmer and deeper portion is in the
south, although it came close to being totally frozen during three
harsh winters over the past century. When the lake freezes over, this
usually shuts down the lake effect snowfall. In past years, lake ice
was so thick that it was possible to drive over it or go sailing on
iceboats; but in the first decade of the 21st century, the ice has not
been thick enough for such activities. Many lake residents take
advantage of the ice and travel; some drive to
Canada and back.
Here's one account of ice life around Put-in-Bay:
The first ice usually forms in late November, and by January it locks
into place. For islanders in the Western Basin, it is the equivalent
of summer vacation ... Once the lake freezes, islanders organize
impromptu ice rallies. Families gather to drink hot wine and race
all-terrain vehicles across the lake. They also race iceboats , which
resemble sailboats on skates ... Many people drive to other islands
for dinner with friends. They ride in cars with the roofs and doors
chopped off so they can escape if the vehicles fall through the ice.
Islanders stab evergreen trees into the ice every 50 yards to mark a
route ... Even in the coldest winters, there are dangerous patches of
thin ice. The cracks are so predictable that the Put-in-Bay Ice Yacht
Club prints them on a map ... On a normal winter day, the ice is
dotted with 2,000 fishing shanties. — Christopher Maag in The New
York Times , 2004
Strong winds have caused lake currents to shift sediment on the
bottom, leading to "wickedly shifting sandbars" which have been a
source of shipwrecks. But winds can have a peaceful purpose as well;
there have been proposals to place electricity–producing wind
turbines in windy and shallow points in the lake and along the coast,
both in the
United States and
Canada . In 2010, there were plans for
GE to develop five wind turbines to generate 20 megawatts of power by
2012 with plans to generate 1,000 megawatts by 2020; one proposal
called for "gearless turbines" with 176-foot long blades helped along
with magnets. A nonprofit development group near
developing plans to construct hundreds of turbines in the lake. A
former steel mill site on the eastern edge of the lake in Buffalo, NY
has been redeveloped as an urban wind farm in 2007. Known as Steel
Winds , the project currently houses 14 turbines capable of generating
up to 35 megawatts of electricity. A plan by Samsung to build an
offshore wind farm on the north shore of the lake, from Port Maitland
to Nanticoke for a distance of 15.5 mi (24.9 km), but the plan has
been met with opposition from residents for a number of reasons.
Canadians near Leamington and Kingsville have organized protest groups
to thwart attempts to bring wind turbines to the lake; reasons against
the turbines include spoiling lake views as well as possible adverse
effects regarding drinking water and commercial fishing. Plans to
install turbines in Pigeon Bay, south of Leamington were met with
opposition as well. The notion that bird and bat migration may be
hurt by the wind turbines has been used to argue against the wind
turbines; a reporter in
The Globe and Mail
The Globe and Mail wrote "Given the tendency
of turbines to make mincemeat of things airborne, it doesn’t require
great imagination to figure out what would happen."
They loom like gigantic aliens invading the farmers’ fields. There
are 66 of these creatures, each about as tall as a 25-storey building
with a face comprised of three enormous whiskers rotating 11 to 20
times per minute. Standing amidst the wind turbines of Erie Shore Wind
Farm, one feels like a doomed character in a sci-fi movie caught in
the deathly still moment just before disaster strikes. — reporter
Rebecca Field Jager in the Weekend Post, 2010
The lake is also responsible for microclimates that are important to
agriculture . Along its north shore is one of the richest areas of
Canada's fruit and vegetable production; this southernmost tip,
particularly in the area around Leamington, is known as Canada's
"tomato capital". The area around Port Rowan in
Ontario has special
trees which grow because of the "tempering effect of the lake", and
species include tulip trees, flowering dogwood, sassafras and sour
gum. In this area there are many greenhouses which produce a "variety
of tropical plants rarely cultivated so far north", including some
species of cacti , because of the lake's tempering effect. Along the
southeastern shore in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York is an important
grape growing region, as are the islands in the lake.
are abundant in northeast
Ohio to western New York.
Long Term Weather Patterns
According to one estimate, 34 to 36 inches of water evaporates each
year from the surface of the lake, which allows for rainfall and
other precipitation in surrounding areas. There are conflicting
reports about the overall effect of global warming on the Great Lakes
Lake Erie. One account suggests that climate change
is causing greater evaporation of lake water, leading to warmer
temperatures as well as ice in winter which is less thick or
nonexistent, fueling concerns that "Erie appears to be shrinking" and
is the most likely candidate among the five
Great Lakes to "turn into
a festering mud puddle." In 2010, the
Windsor Star reported that the
lake experienced "record-breaking temperatures" reaching 81 °F (27
°C) in mid-August and compared the lake to a "bath tub". But the
long term weather patterns are subject to controversy.
A coal-fired power plant in Avon Lake,
Ohio located on
Lake Erie has a complex ecosystem with many species in constant
interaction. Human activity, such as pollution and maritime ship
traffic, can affect this environment in numerous ways. The
interactions between the new species can sometimes have beneficial
effects, as well as harmful effects. Some introductions have been seen
as beneficial such as the introduction of
Pacific salmon .
Occasionally there have been mass die-offs of certain species of fish,
sometimes for reasons unknown, such as many numbers of rainbow smelt
in May 2010.
The lake has been plagued with a number of invasive species ,
including zebra and quagga mussels , the goby and the grass carp .
One estimate was that there have been 180 invasive species in the
Great Lakes, some having traveled in ballast water in international
ships. Zebra mussels and gobies have been credited with the increased
population and size of smallmouth bass in
Lake Erie. In 2008 there
were concerns that the "newest invader swarming in the Great Lakes",
which was the "bloody-red shrimp", might harm fish populations and
promote algae blooms .
Environmentalists and biologists study lake conditions via
installations such as the Franz Theodore Stone Laboratory on Gibraltar
Island . The lab, which was established in 1895, is the oldest
biological field station in the United States. Stone Laboratory was
donated to the
Ohio State University by Julius Stone in 1925 as part
of the university's
Ohio Sea Grant College Program. In addition, the
Great Lakes Institute of the
University of Windsor
University of Windsor has experts who
study issues such as lake sediment pollution and the flow of
contaminants such as phosphorus .
A list of the common invasive species in
Lake Erie include: Zebra
Mussels, Quagga Mussels, Round Gobies, Spiny European Water Fleas,
Fishhook Water Fleas, the Sea Lamprey, and White Perch. The invasive
plant species that fill
Lake Erie consist mainly of Eurasian Milfoil,
and Purple Loosestrife,
Eutrophication And The Infamous Dead Zone
A 1973 photo from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
showing beach erosion, algae, and uprooted trees as a result of
environmental issues The green scum shown in this image taken
in October 2011 is the worst algae bloom
Lake Erie has experienced in
An ongoing concern is that "nutrient overloading from fertilizers,
human and animal waste", known as eutrophication , in which additional
nitrogen and phosphorus enter the lake, will cause plant life to "run
wild and multiply like crazy". Since there are fewer wetlands , which
are like "Nature's kidneys" by filtering nutrients, as well as greater
"channelization of waterways", nutrients in water can cause algal
blooms to sprout as well as "low-oxygen dead zones" in a complex
interaction of natural forces. As of the 2010s much of the phosphorus
in the lake comes from fertilizer applied to no-till soybean and corn
fields but washed into streams by heavy rains. The algal blooms result
from growth of
Microcystis , a toxic blue-green algae that the zebra
mussels which infest the lake don't eat.
There periodically is a dead zone, or region of low oxygen, in the
lake whose exact location varies. Scientists from the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration have been studying the lake's
blue-green algae blooms, and trying to find ways to predict when they
are spreading or where they might hit landfall; typically the blooms
arrive late each summer. This problem was extreme in the mid and late
1960's and the
Lake Erie Wastewater Management Study (LEWMS) conducted
by the Buffalo District of the US Army Corps of Engineers determined
that the eutrophication was due to "point sources" such as industrial
outfalls and municipal sanitary and storm sewer outfalls, as well as
"diffuse sources", such as overland runoff from farm and forest land.
All these sources contribute nutrients, primarily phosphorus , to the
lake. Growth of organisms in the lake is then spiked to the point that
oxygen levels are depleted. LEWMS made recommendations for reducing
point source outflows, as well as reducing farm contributions of
phosphorus by changing fertilizer usage, employing "no-till " farming
and other conservative practices. Many industrial and municipal
sources have since then been greatly reduced. The improved farming
practices, which were voluntary, were followed for a while, resulting
in remarkable recovery of the lake in the 1970s.
Unfortunately, the conservative practices are not monitored, and have
not been kept up. One recent account suggests that the seasonal algae
Lake Erie were possibly caused by "runoff from cities,
fertilizers, zebra mussels, and livestock near water." A second
report focuses on the zebra mussels as being the cause of "big
oxygen-poor dead zones" since they filter so much sediment that they
have resulted in the growth of algae. One report suggests the
oxygen-poor zone began about 1993 in the lake's central basin and
becomes more pronounced during summer months, but it is somewhat of a
mystery why this happens. Some scientists speculate that the dead
zone is a naturally occurring phenomenon. Another report cited Ohio's
Maumee River as the main source of polluted runoff of phosphorus from
industries, municipalities, tributaries and agriculture, and in 2008,
satellite images showed the algal bloom heading toward Pelee Island,
and possibly heading to
Lake Erie's central basin. There have been
two-year $2 million studies trying to understand the "growing zone"
which was described as a "10-foot-thick layer of cold water at the
bottom", 55 feet (17 m) in one area, which stretches "100 miles across
the lake's center". It kills fish and microscopic creatures of the
lake's food chain and fouls the water, and may cause further problems
in later years for sport and commercial fishing.
Algae blooms continued in early 2013 but new farming techniques,
climate change and even a change in
Lake Erie’s ecosystem make
phosphorus pollution more intractable.
The northern watersnake (
Nerodia sipedon ) is nonvenomous.
Lake Erie water snake, a subspecies of the northern water snake
Nerodia sipedon ), lives in the vicinity of Ohio's Put-in-Bay Harbor,
and had been put on the threatened species list. A threatened species
is one which may soon become an endangered species . By 2010, the
water snake population was over 12,000 snakes. While they have a
non-venomous bite, they are a key predator in the lake's aquatic
ecosystem since they feed on mudpuppies and walleye and smallmouth
bass . The snake was helpful in keeping the population of goby fish
in check. They mate from late May through early June and can be found
in large mating balls with one female bunched with several males.
There is a concern that
Asian carp might enter the
Great Lakes region
and alter the ecosystem negatively. They have been described as
"greedy giants that suck plankton from the water with the brutal
efficiency of vacuum cleaners" and scientists worry that they may
unravel the "aquatic food web" by crowding out other species.
There was concern in 2007 that snakehead fish could get into the
Great Lakes area. Officials warn that if the fish invades, it could
"decimate the aquatic food chain". A YouTube video mentioned in a
newspaper account has a man claiming that the fish could "bite your
entire hand off". The fish can reach 5 feet 11 inches (1.8 m) in
length and "survive out of water for four days" and "has a mouth full
of teeth that can shear fish in half" and can "eat ducks and small
mammals." It should be noted however the snakehead fish can not live
in a lake that has completely frozen over. They must come to the
surface to breathe via their swim bladder.
It gets such huge sizes. It moves over land and it breathes air and
it will eat anything it comes into contact with. That's what freaks
people out about it, to see a fish moving across land gulping air.
— about the Snakehead fish, 2007, CanWest News Service
Agriculture And Life Around The Lake
In 1999, Doppler radar weather sensors detected millions of mayflies
heading for Presque Isle in blue and green splotches on the radar in
clouds measuring ten miles (16 km) long. These insects were a sign of
Lake Erie's move back to health, since the mayflies require clean
water to thrive. Biologist Masteller of Penn State Erie declared the
bugs to be a "nice nuisance" since they signified the lake's return to
health after forty years of absence. Each is an inch and a half long;
the three main species of mayflies are Ephemera simulans, Hexagenia
rigida and Hexagenia limbata. The insects mate over a 72-hour period
from June through September; they fly in masses up to the shore, mate
in the air, then females lay up to 8,000 eggs each over the water; the
eggs sink back down and the cycle repeats. Sometimes the clouds of
mayflies have caused power outages as well as causing roads to become
slippery with squashed insects. Since zebra mussels filter extra
nutrients from the lake, it allows the mayfly larvae to thrive.
The trumpeter swan (Cygnus buccinator) on
There have been incidents of birds dying from botulism , in 2000,
and in 2002. Birds affected included grebes, common and red-breasted
mergansers, loons, diving ducks, ring-billed gulls and herring gulls.
One account suggests that bird populations are in trouble, notably the
woodland warbler, which had population declines around 60 percent in
2008. Possible causes for declines in bird populations are farming
practices, loss of habitats, soil depletion and erosion, and toxic
chemicals. In 2006, there were concerns of possible bird flu after
two wild swans on the lake were found diseased, but it was learned
that they did not contain the deadly H5N1 virus. There were sightings
of a magnificent frigatebird , a tropical bird with a two-metre
wingspan, over the lake in 2008.
Water Quality Issues And Restoration
Lake Erie infamously became very polluted in the 1960s and 1970s as a
result of the quantity of heavy industry situated in cities on its
shores, with reports of bacteria-laden beaches and fish contaminated
by industrial waste. In the 1970s, patches of the lake were declared
dead because of industrial waste as well as sewage from runoffs; as
The New York Times
The New York Times reporter Denny Lee wrote in 2004, "The lake, after
all, is where the
Rust Belt meets the water."
The water quality deteriorated partially due to increasing levels of
the nutrient phosphorus in both the water and lake bottom sediments.
The resultant high nitrogen levels in the water caused eutrophication
, which resulted in algal blooms and algae masses and fish kills
increasingly fouled the shoreline during this period. There were
incidents of the oily surfaces of tributary rivers emptying into Lake
Erie catching fire: in 1969, Cleveland's
Cuyahoga River erupted in
flames, chronicled in a Time magazine article which lamented a
tendency to use rivers flowing through major cities as "convenient,
free sewers"; the
Detroit River caught fire on another occasion. The
outlook was gloomy:
Each day, Detroit,
Cleveland and 120 other municipalities fill Erie
with 1.5 billion gallons of "inadequately treated wastes, including
nitrates and phosphates ... These chemicals act as fertilizer for
growths of algae that suck oxygen from the lower depths and rise to
the surface as odoriferous green scum ... Commercial and game
fish—blue pike, whitefish, sturgeon, northern pike—have nearly
vanished, yielding the waters to trash fish that need less oxygen .
Weeds proliferate, turning water frontage into swamp. In short, Lake
Erie is in danger of dying by suffocation. — Time magazine, August
These events embarrassed officials and spurred local officials,
including Cleveland's director of public utilities, Ben Stefanski, to
pursue a massive effort to "scrub the Cuyahoga"; the effort cost $100
million in bonds, according to one estimate. New sewer lines were
built. Clevelanders approved a bond issue by 2 to 1 to seriously
upgrade Cleveland's sewage system. Federal officials acted as well;
United States Congress passed the
Clean Water Act of 1972. In
that year, the
United States and
Canada established water pollution
limits in an International Water Quality Agreement. The Cotps ' LEWMS,
mentioned above, was also instituted at that time. The controls were
effective, but it took several decades to take effect; by 1999, there
were signs that large numbers of mayflies were spotted on the lake
after a forty-year absence, signalling a return to health.
The clearing of the water column is also partly due to the
introduction and rapid spread of zebra mussels from
Europe , which had
the effect of covering "the basin floor like shag carpeting" with each
creature filtering "a liter of fresh water a day," helping to restore
the lake to a cleaner state. The 1972
Great Lakes Water Quality
Agreement also significantly reduced the dumping and runoff of
phosphorus into the lake. The lake has since become clean enough to
allow sunlight to infiltrate its water and produce algae and sea weed,
but a dead zone persists in the central
Lake Erie Basin during the
late summer. The
United States Environmental Protection Agency has
studied this cyclic phenomenon since 2005. There have been instances
of beach closings at Presque Isle off the coast of northwestern
Pennsylvania because of unexplained E. Coli contaminations, possibly
caused by storm water overflows after heavy downpours. Daybreak
Cleveland skyline Sunset from
Since the 1970s environmental regulation has led to a great increase
in water quality and the return of economically important fish species
such as walleye and other biological life. There was substantial
evidence that the new controls had substantially reduced levels of DDT
in the water by 1979. Cleanup efforts were described in 1979 as a
notable environmental success story, suggesting that the cumulative
effect of legislation, studies, and bans had reversed the effects of
The globs of oil, the multicolored industrial discharges, the flotsam
from shoreline cities, the fecal and bacterial wastes are no longer
dumped in the lakes in vast quantities. — Time magazine, 1979
Joint U.S.–Canadian agreements pushed 600 of 864 major industrial
dischargers to meet requirements for keeping the water clean. One
estimate was that $5 billion was spent to upgrade plants to treat
sewage. The change toward cleaner water has been in a positive
direction since the 1970s.
Other Ecosystem Related Issues
There was a tentative exploratory plan to capture CO2 , compress it
to a liquid form, and pump it a half-mile (800 m) beneath
surface underneath the porous rock structure. According to chemical
engineer Peter Douglas, there is sufficient storage space beneath Lake
Erie to hold between 15 and 50 years of liquid CO2 emissions from the
4,000 megawatt Nanticoke coal plant. But there has been no
substantial progress on this issue since 2007.
Species Of Fish
Summer morning west of
Lake Erie is home to one of the world's largest freshwater commercial
Lake Erie's fish populations are the most abundant of the
Great Lakes, partially because of the lake's relatively mild
temperatures and plentiful supply of plankton , which is the basic
building block of the food chain . The lake's fish population
accounts for an estimated 50% of all fish inhabiting the Great Lakes.
The lake is "loaded with superstars" such as steelhead , walleye
(American usage) or pickerel (Canadian usage), smallmouth bass ,
perch , as well as bass, trout, salmon, whitefesh, smelt, and many
others. The lake consists of a long list of well established
introduced species . Common non-indigenous fish species include the
rainbow smelt , alewife , white perch and common carp . Non-native
sport fish such as rainbow trout and brown trout are stocked
specifically for anglers to catch. Attempts failed to stock coho
salmon and its numbers are once again dwindling. Commercial landings
are dominated by yellow perch and walleye , with substantial
quantities of rainbow smelt and white bass also taken. Anglers target
walleye and yellow perch, with some effort directed at rainbow trout .
A variety of other species are taken in smaller quantities by both
commercial and sport fleets.
Up until the end of the 1950s, the most commonly caught commercial
fish (more than 50% of the commercial catch) was a subspecies of the
walleye known as the blue walleye (Sander vitreus glaucus) sometimes
erroneously called "blue pike". In the 1970s and 1980s, as pollution
in the lake declined, counts of walleyes which were caught grew from
112,000 in 1975 to 4.1 million in 1985, with estimates of the numbers
of walleyes in the lake at around 33 million in the basin, with many
of 8 pounds or more. Not all walleyes thrived. The combination of
overfishing and the eutrophication of the lake by pollution caused the
population to collapse, and in the mid-1980s, one species of walleye
called the blue walleye was declared extinct. But the
walleye was reportedly having record numbers, even in 1989, according
to one report. There have been concerns about rising levels of
mercury in walleye fish; a study by the Canadian Ministry of the
Environment noted an "increasing concentration trend" but that limits
were within acceptable established by authorities in
It was recommended, because of PCBs, that persons eat no more than one
walleye meal per month. Because of these and other concerns, in 1990,
the National Wildlife Federation was on the verge of having a
"negative fish consumption advisory" for walleyes and smallmouth bass,
which had been the bread-and-butter catch of an $800 million
commercial fishing industry.
The longest fish in
Lake Erie is reportedly the sturgeon which can
grow to ten feet long and weight 300 pounds, but it is an endangered
species and mostly lives on the bottom of the lake. In 2009, there
was a confirmed instance of a sturgeon being caught, which was
returned to the lake alive, and there are hopes that the population of
sturgeons is resurging.
Lake Erie seen through a fishing net
Estimates vary about the fishing market for the
Great Lakes region.
One estimate of the total market for fishing, including commercial as
well as sport or recreational fishing, for all of the Great Lakes, was
$4 billion annually, in 2007. A second estimate was that the fishing
industry was valued at more than $7 billion.
But since high levels of pollution were discovered in the 1960s and
1970s, there has been continued debate over the desired intensity of
Commercial fishing in
Lake Erie has been hurt by
the bad economy as well as government regulations which limit the size
of their catch; one report suggested that the numbers of fishing boats
and employees had declined by two-thirds in recent decades. Another
concern had been that pollution in the lake, as well as toxins found
inside fish, were working against commercial fishing interests. U.S.
fishermen based along
Lake Erie "lost their livelihood" over the past
few decades described as being "caught in a net of laws and bans",
according to the
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette , and no longer catch fish
such as whitefish for markets in New York.
Pennsylvania had a special
$3 stamp on fishing licenses to help "compensate commercial fishermen
for their losses", but this program ended after five years turning
Erie's commercial fishing industry into an "artifact." One blamed the
commercial fishing ban after a "test of wills" between commercial and
recreational fishermen: "One side needed large hauls. The other feared
the lake was being emptied."
Commercial fishing is now predominantly based in Canadian
communities, with a much smaller fishery—largely restricted to
yellow perch —in Ohio. One account suggested that Canadian fishermen
are "still at it and making money" and they "know how to fish" by
"using the old nets." The
Ontario fishery is one of the most
intensively managed in the world. However, there are reports that some
Canadian commercial fishermen are dissatisfied with fishing quotas,
and have sued their government about this matter, and there have been
complaints that the legislative body writing the quotas is "dominated
by the U.S." and that sport fishing interests are favored at the
expense of commercial fishing interests. Cuts of 30 to 45 percent for
certain fish were made in 2007. The
Lake Erie fishery was one of the
first fisheries in the world managed on individual transferable quotas
and features mandatory daily catch reporting and intensive auditing of
the catch reporting system. Still, the commercial fishery is the
target of critics who would like to see the lake managed for the
exclusive benefit of sport fishing and the various industries serving
the sport fishery. In November 2010, Ontario's oldest and largest fish
processor known as
Great Lakes Fish Corporation was shut down after
operating for a hundred years; 130 workers were laid off and numerous
spinoff jobs disappeared, such as jobs at local restaurants and net
repair shops. According to one report, the Canadian town of Port
Dover is the home of the lake's largest fishing fleet, and the town
features miniature golf, dairy bars, French-fry stands, and
restaurants serving perch .
Government Regulation Of Fishing
The lake can be thought of as a common asset with multiple purposes
including being a fishery. There was direct competition between
commercial fishermen and sport fishermen (including charter boats and
sales of fishing licenses) throughout the lake's history, with both
sides seeking government assistance from either Washington or Ottawa ,
and trying to make their case in the "court" of public opinion through
newspaper reporting. But other groups have entered the political
process as well, including environmentalists , lakefront property
owners, industry owners and workers seeking cost-effective solutions
for sewage, ferry boat operators, even corporations making
electric-generating wind turbines.
Management of the fishery is by consensus of all management agencies
with an interest in the resource and include the states of New York ,
Michigan and the province of
Ontario , and work
under the mandate of the
Great Lakes Fishery Commission . The
commission makes assessments using sophisticated mathematical modeling
systems. The Commission has been the focus of considerable
recrimination, primarily from angler and charter fishing groups in the
U.S. which have had a historical antipathy to commercial fishing
interests. This conflict is complex, dating from the 1960s and
earlier, with the result in the
United States that, in 2011,
commercial fishing was mostly eliminated from
Great Lakes states. One
report suggests that battling between diverse fishing interests began
Michigan and evolved to cover the entire Great Lakes
region. The analysis suggests that in the
Lake Erie context, the
competition between sport and commercial fishing involves universals
and that these conflicts are cultural, not scientific, and therefore
not resolvable by reference to ecological data.
The lake also supports a strong sport fishery. While commercial
fishing declined, sport fishing has remained. The deep cool waters
that spawn the best fishing is in the Canadian side of the lake. As a
result, a fishing boat that crosses the international border triggers
the security concerns of border crossings and fishermen are advised to
have their passport. If their boat crosses the invisible border line
in the lake, upon returning to the American shore, passengers will
have to "drive to a local government reporting station and pose for
pictures" to Customs officers by videophone. There are cumbersome
rules for fishing boat operators as well, who will have to fax
passenger personal information to a government agency an hour before
leaving; officers will be watching and doing spot checks from patrol
boats and government aircraft". Authorities in 2008 from the
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission have tried stocking the lake
with brown trout in an effort to build what's called a
put-grow-and-take fishery. There was a report that charter boat
fishing increased substantially on the American side, from 46 to 638
charter boats in operation in
Ohio alone, during a period from 1975 to
1985 as pollution levels declined, and after populations of walleye
increased substantially in the lake. In 1984,
Ohio sold 27,000
nonresident fishing permits, and sport fishing was described as big
business. In 1992, there were accounts of fishermen catching 8, 10,
and 12 pound walleyes, and that the "runt of a five-man daily limit of
25 walleye might be a nuisance of 5 pounds." It is possible to fish
off piers in winter for a fish called the burbot , also known by
pseudonyms such as eelpout, mudblow, lawyer fish, cusk, or freshwater
cod which looks "ugly" but tastes great; the burbot make a midwinter
spawning run and is reportedly one of "Erie's glacial relics."
An ice auger used to bore hole for ice fishing
In winter when the lake freezes, many fishermen go out on the ice,
cut holes, and fish. It is even possible to build bonfires on the ice.
But venturing on
Lake Erie ice can be dangerous. In a freak incident
in 2009, warming temperatures and winds of 35 miles per hour and
currents pushing eastward dislodged a miles-wide ice floe which broke
away from the shore, trapping more than 130 fishermen offshore; one
man died while the rest were rescued by helicopters or boats.
The day began with fishermen setting down wooden pallets to create a
bridge over a crack in the ice so they could roam farther out on the
lake. But the planks fell into the water when the ice shifted,
stranding the fishermen about 1,000 yards offshore ... When fishermen
realized late Saturday morning that the ice had broken away, they
began to debate the best way off. Some chose to sit and wait for
authorities, while others headed east in search of an ice bridge ...
Others managed to get to land on their own by riding their all-terrain
vehicles about five miles east to where ice hadn't broken away. ...
When the rescued fishermen made it to shore, authorities had them line
up single-file to take down their names. — John Seewer, February
Sour cherry orchard on shoreline
Middle Bass Island
The lake's formerly more extensive lakebed creates a favorable
environment for agriculture in the bordering areas of Ontario, Ohio,
Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York. The
Lake Erie sections of
western New York State have a suitable climate for growing grapes, and
in Chautauqua County there have been many vineyards and wineries in
the area as well as in Erie County in northwestern Pennsylvania. Much
grape juice is produced in this region. The Canadian region of Lake
Erie's north shore is becoming a more prominent wine region as well;
it has been dubbed the
Lake Erie North Shore, or LENS region, and
Pelee Island , and since it is farther north than comparable
wine-growing areas in the world, the season is longer in terms of
light. A longer growing season due to the lake-moderated temperatures
make the risk of early frosts less likely.
The drainage basin has led to well fertilized soil. The north coast
Ohio is widely referred to as its nursery capital.
Diving For Shipwrecks
Lake Erie is a favorite for divers since there are many shipwrecks,
perhaps 1,400 to 8,000 according to one estimate, of which about 270
are "confirmed shipwreck locations." Most wrecks are undiscovered but
believed to be well preserved and in good condition and at most only
200 feet (61 m) below the water surface. One report suggests there
are more "wrecks per square mile" than any other freshwater location,
including wrecks from Native American watercraft. There are efforts to
identify shipwreck sites and survey the lake floor to map the location
of underwater sites, possibly for further study or exploration. While
the lake is relatively warmer than the other Great Lakes, there is a
thermocline, meaning that as a diver descends, the water temperature
drops about 30 degrees Fahrenheit change (17 °C), requiring a
wetsuit. One estimate is that
Lake Erie has a quarter of all 8,000
estimated shipwrecks in the Great Lakes. They are preserved because
the water is cold and salt-free creating "intact time capsules down
there". Divers have a policy of not removing or touching anything at
the wreck else the "next person won't be able to see it"; when
artifacts were removed on occasion, it was met by "outrage" by the
diving community. The cold conditions make diving difficult and
"strenuous" requiring divers with skill and experience. One charter
firm from western New York State takes about 1,500 divers to
shipwrecks in a typical season from April through October.
Among the diving community, they are considered world class, offering
opportunities to visit an underwater museum that most people will
never see. — reporter Shannon M. Nass of the Pittsburgh
Post-Gazette , 2010 The Anthony Wayne side-wheel passenger and
cargo steamship sank in 1850 but was rediscovered in 2006 by diver Tom
Kowalczk about six miles (10 km) north of Vermilion, Ohio. It is
believed to be the oldest archaeological steamship wreck in
according to the
Great Lakes Historical Society.
In 1991, the 19th-century sidewheeler Atlantic was discovered. It
had sunk in a collision with the Ogdensburg, a steamship sometimes
referred to as a "propeller" according to 19th-century parlance, in
1852, six miles (10 km) west of Long Point,
Ontario and survivors from
the Atlantic were saved by the Ogdensburg. One account suggests 130
people drowned while another suggests about 20 drowned. The
aftermath of the disaster led to calls for authorities to seize
captains of both ships so "that the cause of the collision may be
correctly ascertained" as well as calls for more lifeboats and
improved life preservers since the earlier ones proved to be "totally
useless." There was speculation that the sunken vessel had been a
gambling ship, and therefore there might have been money aboard, but
most historians were skeptical. In 1998, the shipwreck of the vessel
Adventure was the first shipwreck registered with the state of
an "underwater archaeological site"; when it was discovered that the
Adventure's propeller had been removed and given to a junkyard, the
propeller was rescued days before being converted to scrap metal and
brought back to the dive site and back to its underwater home. In
2003, divers discovered the steamer Canobie near Presque Isle, which
sunk in 1921. Other wrecks include the fish tub Neal H. Dow (1910),
the Elderado "steamer-cum-barge" (1880), the W. R. Hanna, the Dundee
which sank north of
Cleveland in 1900, the F. H. Prince, and The
Craftsman. In 2007, the wreck of the steamship named after Mad
Anthony Wayne was found near Vermilion,
Ohio in 50 feet (15 m) of
water; the vessel sank in 1850 after its boilers exploded, and 38
people died. The wreck belongs to the state of
Ohio and "salvaging it
is illegal" but divers can visit it after it is surveyed. In
addition, there are wrecks of smaller vessels, with occasional
drownings of fishermen.
The finding of the well-preserved wreck of the Canadian-built British
troop transport warship Caledonia, sunk during the War of 1812, has
led to accusations about plundering of the site and legal wrangling
about whether the vessel should be resurfaced in time for the 2013
Research into shipwrecks has been organized by the Peachman
Shipwreck Research Center, or PLESRC, located on the grounds of the
Great Lakes Historical Society. In 2008, the
Great Lakes Historical
Society announced plans to survey the underwater battle site of the
Lake Erie in preparation for the bicentennial celebration of
the battle in 2013.
Presque Isle State Park is a peninsula that juts out into Lake
Pennsylvania and is popular during summers with swimmers and
There are numerous public parks around the lake. In western
Pennsylvania, a wildlife reserve was established in 1991 in
Springfield Township for hiking , fishing , cross-country skiing and
walking along the beach. In Ontario, Long Point is a peninsula on the
northwest shore near Port Rowan that extends 20 miles (32 km) into
Lake Erie which is a stopover for birds migrating as well as turtles;
one reporter found a "turtle-crossing" sign along the road; Long Point
Provincial Park is located there and has been designated as a UNESCO
Biosphere reserve. In Ontario's Sand Hill Park, east of Port Burwell
, there is a 450-foot (140 m) high dune which is so steep it requires
people to "crawl like crabs to the summit" but they are rewarded with
spectacular lake views.
Crystal Beach, in the Village of Crystal Beach,
Ontario , at the
eastern end of the lake, is one of many South-facing beaches on the
Canadian side. As such, it is perfectly situated for sun-lovers and
bathers, facing the sun from sunrise to spectacular sunset. The beach
is gently sloping with no sharp drop-offs or rip currents, and is
usually cooled by southwest breezes, even on the hottest days.
In southern Michigan,
Sterling State Park
Sterling State Park offers campgrounds, 1,300
acres (530 ha) for hiking, biking, fishing, boating, with a sand beach
for sunbathing, swimming, and picnicking.
The New York Times
The New York Times reporter Donna Marchetti took a bike tour around
Lake Erie perimeter in 1997, traveling 40 miles (64 km) per day
and staying at bed and breakfasts . They went through the cities of
Cleveland , Erie , Windsor , Detroit and Toledo as well as resort
towns, vineyards, and cornfields. The trip highlights were the "small
port towns and rural farmlands of southern Ontario". There are few
bike repair shops in
Ontario on the route.
Lichen, moss and grasses on karstic limestone surface on
Lake Erie islands tend to be in the westernmost part of the lake and
have different characters. Some of them include:
* Kelleys Island has activities such as beach lounging, hiking,
biking, and viewing the deep glacial grooves in the bedrock limestone
Pelee Island is reached by ferry from
Leamington, Ontario or by
plane or ferry in Sandusky,
Ohio and is the largest of the
islands. The island has a unique ecosystem with plants rarely found
Canada such as wild hyacinth, yellow horse gentian, and prickly
pear cactus. There are two endangered snakes including the blue racer
Lake Erie water snake. Songbirds migrate there in spring, and
monarch butterflies stop over during the fall.
South Bass Island has the island-village of Put-in-Bay,
attracts young crowds who sometimes are prone to general merriment.
It has been described as a party island with scenic rocky cliffs with
a year-round population in the hundreds that grows during summer.
Kite surfing is increasingly popular on the lake.
Kayaking has become more popular along the lake, particularly in
places such as Put-in-Bay, Ohio. There are spectacular views with
steep cliffs with exotic wildlife and "100 miles of paddle-friendly
shoreline." Long distance swimmers have swum across the lake to set
records; for example, a 15-year-old amputee swam the 12-mile (19 km)
stretch across the lake in 2001. In 2008, 14-year-old Jade
Scognamillo swam from New York's
Sturgeon Point to Ontario's Crystal
Beach and completed the 11.9-mile (19.2-km) swim in five hours, 40
minutes and 35 seconds, and also became the youngest swimmer to make
the crossing. It is illegal for swimmers younger than 14 to attempt
such a crossing. In Port Dover, Ontario, brave swimmers do high-dives
at the annual Polar Bear Swim on the beach; in 2011, the water was 32
°F (0 °C), although the air was warmer, which did not deter
14-year-old youth Austin Merrell. Currents can pose a problem, and
there have been occasional incidents of drownings.
Mohawk Island ,
Ontario The West Pierhead
The lake is dotted by distinct lighthouses. A lighthouse off the
Cleveland , beset with cold lake winter spray, has an unusual
artistic icy shape, although sometimes ice prevents the light from
being seen by maritime vessels.
Towns Along The Lake
A New York Times reporter, biking through the region in 1997, found
Ontario town of Port Stanley to be the "prettiest of the port
towns" with a lively "holiday air" but no "ticky-tacky commercialism".
There are numerous vineyards around the lake, including ones on Pelee
Island which makes wines including pinot noir, riesling and
People can rent summer houses and cabins near the lake to enjoy the
beaches, swimming, as well as be close to activities such as wine
tours and fishing and water parks. Presque Isle is a peninsula
jutting out into the lake in northwestern
Pennsylvania which has nice
beaches, although there were incidents in 2006 when beaches had to be
closed because of unexplained unhealthy water conditions with E. Coli
It was described as a "spit of sand, trees and swamp that arcs off
the shore" with seafood restaurants and beautiful sunsets. Pelee
Island, Canada's southernmost point and only three miles away from
Ohio, is a place that "forces you to do nothing":
I spent the next couple of hours riding that guy's creaky, brown
three-speed across the flat, open island in a flawless summer breeze.
I saw kilometres of gentle, swaying soybean fields. Occasional dense
stands of trees. A red-brick schoolhouse attended by 10 children. A
dozen cars – most of the drivers offering a wave. And ... that's
about it. No stoplights. Few businesses other than a bakery, a few B">
Navigating the locks in the
* LAKE ERIE MIRAGE EFFECT. There have been sporadic reports of
Cleveland being able to see the Canadian shoreline as if it
were immediately offshore, even though
Canada is 50 miles (80 km) from
Cleveland. It has been speculated that this is a weather-related
phenomenon, working on similar principles as a mirage.
Sunset near a
Lake Erie shipping port
The lake has been a "bustling thoroughfare" for maritime vessels for
centuries. Ships headed eastward can take the
Welland Canal and a
series of eight locks descending 326 feet (99 m) to
takes about 12 hours, according to one source. Thousands of ships
make this journey each year. During the 19th century, ships could
enter the Buffalo River and travel the
Erie Canal eastward to Albany
then south to New York City along the
Hudson River . Generally there
is heavy traffic on the lake except during the winter months from
January through March when ice prevents vessels from traveling safely.
In 2007, there was a protest against Ontario's energy policy which
allows the shipping of coal in the lake;
GreenPeace activists climbed
a ladder on a freighter and "locked themselves to the conveyor belt
device that helps to unload the ship's cargo"; three activists were
arrested and the ship was delayed for more than four hours, and
anti-coal messages were painted on the ship.
The ship traffic in
Lake Erie being the highest among the Great Lakes
and roughest of the lakes has led to it having the highest number of
known shipwrecks in the Great Lakes. There have been other accidents
as well; for example, in 2010 according to The Star, crewmen from the
freighter Hermann Schoening were sickened by phosphine gas which had
been used to fumigate or control pests; rescuers took them by tugboat
to receive medical attention.
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Cleveland skyline in winter
The Port of
Cleveland generated over $350 million and over 15 million
tons of cargo in a recent year. The current port facility is unable to
handle larger cargo ships, and the cranes needed to lift goods such as
steel to truck trailers are insufficient to meet current shipping
Ferryboats operate in numerous places. But plans to operate a
ferryboat between the U.S. port of Erie and the
Ontario port of Port
Dover ran into a slew of political problems, including security
restrictions on both sides as well as additional fees required to hire
border inspectors. In particular,
Canada was described as having a
"sticky set of laws"; the project was abandoned.
Great Lakes Circle Tour is a designated scenic road system
connecting all of the
Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. One
reporter thought the roads on the Canadian side were narrower,
sometimes without shoulders, but were less trafficked except for the
roads around the
Ontario towns of Fort Erie and
Port Colborne .
Drivers can cross from the
United States to the Canadian town of Fort
Erie by going over the
Peace Bridge .
LAKE ERIE AIRSPACE
Three US Army Golden Knights paratroopers linked in a
tri-by-side maneuver descend to the
Cleveland International Airshow.
In 2004, debris from a plane carrying 9 people was found off Lake
Since the border between the two nations is largely unpatrolled, it
is possible for people to cross undetected from one country to the
other, in either direction, by boat. In 2010, Canadian police arrested
persons crossing the border illegally from the
United States to
Canada, near the
Ontario town of Amherstburg .
Lake Erie AVA
List of lakes by area
* List of lakes in
GREAT LAKES IN GENERAL
Great Lakes Areas of Concern
Great Lakes census statistical areas
Great Lakes Commission
Great Lakes Waterway
Great Recycling and Northern Development Canal
Great Storm of 1913
International Boundary Waters Treaty
* List of cities along the
* Sixty Years\' War for control of the Great Lakes
Panoramic view of
Lake Erie from Beach 7 (Waterworks Beach)
Presque Isle State Park in Erie County,
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* ^ Josh Noel (April 21, 2010). "
Pelee Island is the
best place to do nothing". Nanaimo Daily News. Retrieved January 26,
* ^ Raechel Donahue, Demand Media (January 26, 2011). "Dinner
Cruises in Cleveland, Ohio". USA Today: Travel. Retrieved January 26,
2011. Cleveland, Ohio, might not be the first destination that springs
to mind when you think of dinner cruises, but
Lake Erie – the
smallest of the
Great Lakes – accommodates several cruise
operations, as does the Cuyahoga River. Ranging from romantic to
Cleveland dinner cruises are affordable, entertaining and
* ^ A B Bob Batz Jr. (June 3, 2010). "The
Lake Erie Monster is
coming!". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved January 24, 2011.
* ^ Associated Press. "Erie Mirage May Be Real". Discovery.com.
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* ^ A B Staff writer (January 6, 1991). "Last Ship Clears Great
Lakes". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 24, 2011.
* ^ Peter Gorrie (August 31, 2007). "3 Greenpeace members held in
Lake Erie stunt". The Star. Retrieved January 24, 2011.
* ^ John Flesher, Associated Press (November 26, 2010). "Asian carp
create nagging fear in
Lake Erie towns". USA Today. Retrieved January
24, 2011. Although the shallowest of the five lakes
* ^ Canadian Press (December 22, 2010). "Fumes sicken
freighter crew". The Star. Retrieved January 24, 2011.
Great Lakes Circle Tour
* ^ Tribune news services (January 18, 2004). "Debris from plane
carrying 9 found off
Lake Erie isle". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved
January 24, 2011.
* ^ Trevor Wilhelm (August 19, 2010). "5 nabbed on
Lake Erie beach
Canada illegally". The Windsor Star. Archived from the
original on September 24, 2010. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
* Assel, R.A. (1983).
Lake Erie regional ice cover analysis:
preliminary results . Ann Arbor, MI: U.S. Department of Commerce,
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Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.
* Saylor, J.H. and G.S. Miller. (1983). Investigation of the
currents and density structure of
Lake Erie . Ann Arbor, MI: U.S.
Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric
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American Cyclopædia article