Lake Michigan is the 3rd largest of the great Lakes (when measured by water surface) and also the only an excellent Lake located entirely in the united States. Its name is acquired from the Ojibwa Indian indigenous mishigami, an interpretation large lake.

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Lake Michigan"s water surface is 22,300 square mile (57,800 square kilometers). That is the 2nd largest the the good Lakes by volume (1,180 cubic mile / 4,920 cubic km). Only Lake exceptional is bigger.

Lake Michigan touches Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. About 12 million world live follow me the shores of Lake Michigan, according to the brand-new World Encyclopedia. Major port cities include Chicago, Illinois (population: 2.7 million); Milwaukee, Wisconsin (600,000); environment-friendly Bay, Wisconsin (104,000); and Gary, Indiana (80,000).

There space a number of beaches along the coast, and the good Lakes are occasionally referred to as the “Third Coast” behind the Pacific and Atlantic (the Gulf coastline notwithstanding). Some of the most well-known “beach” towns on the Michigan next of the lake encompass St. Joseph, south Haven, cool Haven and also Holland.


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The Mackinac leg connects Michigan"s Upper and also Lower Peninsulas in ~ the straits between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. (Image credit: lphoto Shutterstock)

On the north end, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are associated by the Straits of Mackinac, a 4- to 5-mile-wide (4.6 to 8 kilometers) channel, and technically, these two bodies that water room one lake.


Water temperature

Water temperature on Lake Michigan make it to the 60s in July and August and also can periodically make it right into the 70s once air temperature have been in the 90s for a number of constant days.

The water the Lake Michigan has an unusual circulatory sample — it each other the traffic flow in a suburban cul-de-sac — and moves very slowly. Winds and also resulting waves save Lake Michigan from freeze over, however it has actually been 90 percent frozen top top a variety of occasions. Ocean-like swells, especially throughout the winter, can an outcome in a drastic temperature changes along the coast, shoreline erosion and challenging navigation.

The lake’s mean water depth is 279 feet (85 meters) and also its preferably depth is 925 feet (282 meters).


Life ~ above Lake Michigan

Marshes, tallgrass prairies, savannas, forests and also sand dunes that have the right to reach number of hundred feet, all administer excellent habitats for all types of wildlife top top Lake Michigan.

Trout, salmon, walleye, and smallmouth bass fisheries are prevalent on the lake. The lake is likewise home to crawfish, freshwater sponges and also sea lamprey, a metallic violet varieties of eel.

The lake is additionally home to a wide variety of bird populations, consisting of water birds such together ducks, geese and swans, and also crows, robins and also bald eagles. Predatory birds such as hawks and also vultures are also prevalent ~ above the lake, due to the wide range of wildlife come feast upon.

The pebble-shaped Petoskey stone, i beg your pardon is a fossilized coral, is distinct to the north Michigan shores of Lake Michigan and is the state stone.

Formation, discovery and history

The development that is known as Lake Michigan today began about 1.2 exchange rate years ago when two tectonic plates to be ripped apart, creating the Mid-Continent Rift.

French explorer Samuel de Champlain sent out his underling Jean Nicolett to find the “Northwest Passage” yet he ended up learning Lake Michigan around 1634. In 1679, Nicolette explored the southernmost component of the lake where modern Chicago is.

Shipping and also shipwrecks

Like every one of the an excellent Lakes, Lake Michigan has had its re-superstructure of shipwrecks. One of the most well known maritime tragedies was the sinking of the Westmoreland, a steamer that sank on Dec. 7, 1854. The wreck was discovered by a diver ~ above July 7, 2010, 155 year after the accident, in excellent condition.

Before the development of radar in the 1940s, the Straits that Mackinac could be very dangerous area to navigate. Ships were at the mercy of unpredictable storms, dangerous currents, fog, ice, shallow areas and also rocky shoals. A variety of ships met their death trying come pass with this thin channel — so many, in fact, that an underwater maintain was eventually produced where divers can explore these sunken ships.

This preserve, well-known as the Straits that Mackinac Underwater Preserve, includes 12 significant shipwrecks. Several of the wrecks on the Lake Michigan side incorporate the Sandusky, the Maitland and the Eber Ward.

The Sandusky, the oldest known ship in the preserve, was heading native Chicago to Buffalo with a cargo of grain in September 1856 when it to be struck by a violent gale, according to the preserve’s website. There were no survivors. In June 1871, the Maitland was transporting a fill of corn indigenous Chicago to Buffalo as soon as she collided v two ships. The crew was able to jump into their yawl boat, and also no resides were lost. In 1909, the Eber Ward, a 213-foot-long (65 meters) wood freighter, left Chicago, choose up a cargo of corn in Milwaukee and also was on its method to port Huron once it to be gashed by ice, sinking in ~ 10 minutes and killing 5 crewmen.

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Today, passing v the Straits that Mackinac is lot safer thanks to the usage of advanced radar and also icebreakers — ships designed come break v ice so that other watercrafts can for sure pass. Nearly four dozen lighthouses still stand along the beaches that Lake Michigan, a reminder of the area’s good shipping history.