Facts about Lake Erie

  • Lake Environment

    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. Like the other Great Lakes, Erie produces lake effect snow when the first cold winds of winter pass over the warm waters. 

  • History

    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. During the 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. 

  • Geology

    Sandy bluffs along Lake Erie in Erie County, Pennsylvania.

  • Geography

    Lake Erie (42.2° N, 81.2° W) has a mean elevation of 571 feet (174 m) above sea level. It has a surface area of 9,940 square miles (25,745 km²) with a length of 241 miles (388 km) and breadth of 57 miles (92 km) at its widest points. It is the shallowest of the Great Lakes with an average depth of 62 feet (19 m) and a maximum depth of 210 feet (64 m). For comparison, Lake Superior has an average depth of 483 feet (147 m), a volume of 2,900 cubic miles (12,100 km³) and shoreline of 2,726 miles (4,385 km).

  • Tourism

    Kite surfing and kayaking is increasingly popular on the lake, particularly in places such as Put-in-Bay, Ohio. South Bass Island attracts young crowds who sometimes wear "red bucket hats" prone to "break off cartwheels in the park" and general merriment. It was described in one account as the "party island" with "lovely, rocky cliffs" with a year-round population in the hundreds that "explodes during the gentle Midwestern summer." 

  • Economy

    Lake Erie is home to one of the world's largest freshwater commercial fisheries. 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 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.