Top 5 Great Lakes Ranked by Size
With a surface area of 31,700 square miles, Lake Superior is the largest Great Lakes Ranked by size. The Great Lakes are a chain of five interconnected freshwater lakes in North America. The lakes are spread between Canada and the United States. Lakes Huron, Superior, Michigan, Erie, and Ontario hold 21% of the world’s fresh water. They are 94,250 square miles in size and contain 5,439 cubic miles of water. Because of their enormous size and volume, rolling waves, huge depths, and violent currents, they are known as “inland seas.” The lakes formed 14,000 years ago, during Earth’s glacial epoch. They provide an important transportation link between the interior states and provinces and the Atlantic Ocean. The lakes are linked by man-made channels, canals, and rivers. The Great Lakes are linked by Lake Ontario to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
5. Lake Superior – 31,700 square miles
Spanning a surface area of 31,700 square miles, Lake Superior claims the title of the largest among the Great Lakes when ranked by size. These interconnected freshwater lakes, located in North America and shared between Canada and the United States, include Lakes Huron, Superior, Michigan, Erie, and Ontario. Collectively, they hold a staggering 21% of the world’s fresh water, with a total size of 94,250 square miles and a water volume of 5,439 cubic miles. Due to their immense dimensions, formidable waves, considerable depths, and robust currents, they are often referred to as “inland seas.” Originating 14,000 years ago during Earth’s glacial epoch, these lakes serve as a crucial transportation link connecting interior states and provinces to the Atlantic Ocean, facilitated by man-made channels, canals, and rivers, ultimately linking Lake Ontario to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Breaking down the specifics of each lake, Lake Superior, encompassing 31,700 square miles, is the largest among the Great Lakes and is positioned at the northernmost point of the system. It ranks as the second largest lake globally, trailing only the Caspian Sea, and stands as the largest freshwater lake in terms of area on the North American continent. Serving as a vital route for transporting various commodities like wheat, iron ore, and industrial goods, Lake Superior connects with Lake Huron through the St. Marys River and the Soo Locks system. Its vast expanse, approximately the size of Austria or the state of South Carolina, spans 350 statute miles in length and 160 statute miles in width. With a maximum depth of 1,333 feet and an average depth of 483 feet, the lake undergoes seasonal abandonment between January and March due to surface freezing caused by cold temperatures.
4. Lake Huron – 23,007 square miles
As the second largest Great Lake, Lake Huron covers 23,007 square miles and shares its height with Lake Michigan. Connected by the Mackinac Channel, measuring 5 miles wide and 120 feet deep, Lake Huron is situated in the eastern section of Lake Michigan-Huron and is shared by Michigan and Ontario. Boasting a volume of 850 cubic miles on average, the lake has a surface height of 577 feet above sea level, an average depth of 195 feet, and a maximum depth of 750 feet. It spans 206 statute miles in length and 183 statute miles in width, with significant geographical features such as the Georgian Bay, Manitoulin Island, Saginaw Bay, and the St. Marys and St. Clair Rivers playing prominent roles in its hydrography.
3. Lake Michigan – 22,404 square miles
The third largest among the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan, is entirely within the borders of the United States and part of the Lake Michigan-Huron system on the western shore. Covering a surface area of 22,404 square miles, Lake Michigan connects to Lake Superior through the Straits of Mackinac and extends into Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. Measuring 307 miles in length and 118 miles in width, with a maximum depth of 923 feet and an average depth of 279 feet, Lake Michigan holds a volume of 1,180 cubic miles. Notable features include Green Bay, Grand Traverse Bay, and the Chippewa Basin, while major inflows consist of the Fox River, Grand River, St. Joseph River, and Milwaukee River, and primary outputs include the Strait of Mackinac and the Calumet and Chicago Rivers.
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2. Lake Erie – 9,910 square miles
Ranked as the fourth largest among the Great Lakes, Lake Erie spans 9,910 square miles and is the smallest in terms of volume. Located furthest south among the lakes, it borders the Canadian province of Ontario and the U.S. states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio. Recognized for its shallow depth, with an average of 62 feet and a maximum depth of 210 feet, Lake Erie contains 116 cubic miles of water. The Detroit River serves as its primary intake, while the Niagara River functions as its natural outflow, and the Welland Canal connects it to Lake Ontario.
1. Lake Ontario – 7,340 square miles
Lake Ontario, covering 7,340 square miles, holds the distinction of being the smallest among the Great Lakes in terms of surface area. Shared between the provinces of Ontario and New York, it serves as the departure point for the Great Lakes and connects to the Atlantic Ocean via the Saint Lawrence River. With a volume of 393 cubic miles, an elevation of 243 feet above sea level, a length of 193 statute miles, and a width of 53 statute miles, Lake Ontario claims the position of the lowest elevation among the Great Lakes and serves as a vital component in the intricate network of interconnected water bodies.