Lake Huron

Lake Huron

[hyoor-uhn, -on or, often, yoor-]
Huron, Lake, 23,010 sq mi (59,596 sq km), 206 mi (332 km) long and 183 mi (295 km) at its greatest width, between Ont., Canada, and Mich.; second largest of the Great Lakes. It has a surface elevation of 580 ft (177 m) above sea level and a maximum depth of 750 ft (229 m). Centrally located between the upper and lower Great Lakes, Lake Huron receives the waters of Lake Superior through the St. Marys River and those of Lake Michigan through the Straits of Mackinac; it drains into Lake Erie through the St. Clair River-Lake St. Clair-Detroit River system. Large tributaries flowing into the lake include the Mississagi, Wanapitei, Spanish, and French rivers from Ontario, and the Au Sable and Saginaw rivers from Michigan. The northern shoreline is irregular, with many bays and inlets; the largest are Georgian Bay and North Channel, which indent the Ontario shore and are nearly landlocked by Manitoulin Island and the Bruce Peninsula. Saginaw Bay is the principal indentation on the southern shores. Lake Huron is part of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system and is navigated by oceangoing and lake vessels that carry cargoes of iron ore, grain, coal, and limestone. Navigation is impeded by ice in the shallower sections from mid-December to early April. The lake is subject to occasional violent storms. The principal lakeshore cities are Port Huron, Mich., and Sarnia, Ont., at the lake's outlet; Owen Sound, Midland, and Parry Sound, Ont.; and Bay City, Alpena, and Cheboygan, Mich. The waters of the lake are relatively unpolluted; commercial and sport fishing is important, and several resorts are located along the lake shore. Major salt deposits are worked at the south end of the lake. Georgian Bay, an arm of the lake, is a popular resort area, and recreational facilities are provided at Georgian Bay Islands National Park (Canada), on the islands in Mackinac Strait, and at numerous state and provincial parks along the lake's scenic shores. Samuel de Champlain visited Lake Huron in 1615.
Lake Huron, bounded on the west by the U.S. state of Michigan, and on the east by the province of Ontario, Canada, is one of the five Great Lakes of North America. The name of the lake is derived from early French explorers who named it based on the Huron people inhabiting the region.


Lake Huron is the second-largest of the Great Lakes, with a surface area of 23,010 square miles (59,596 km²)—nearly the size of West Virginia, making it the third largest fresh water lake on earth (4th largest lake if the saline Caspian Sea is included). It contains a volume of 850 cubic miles (3,540 km³), and a shoreline length of 3,827 miles (6,157 km).

The surface of Lake Huron is 577 feet (176 m) above sea level. The lake's average depth is 195 feet (59 m), while the maximum depth is 750 feet (229 m). It has a length of 206 miles (332 km) and a breadth of 183 miles (245 km) at its greatest width.

Important cities on Lake Huron include: Bay City, Alpena, Rogers City, Cheboygan, St. Ignace, and Port Huron, Michigan; and Goderich, and Sarnia, Ontario Canada.

A notable feature of the lake is Manitoulin Island, which separates the North Channel and Georgian Bay from Lake Huron's main body of water. It is the world's largest freshwater island.


Lake Huron is separated from Lake Michigan, which lies at the same level, and connects by the narrow Straits of Mackinac, making them geologically and hydrologically the same body of water (sometimes called Lake Michigan-Huron). Lake Superior is slightly higher than both. It drains into the St. Marys River at Sault Ste. Marie which then flows southward into Lake Huron. The water then flows south to the St. Clair River, at Port Huron, Michigan and Sarnia, Ontario.

The Great Lakes Waterway continues thence to Lake St. Clair; the Detroit River and Detroit, Michigan; into Lake Erie and thence--via Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River--to the Atlantic Ocean.

Like the other Great Lakes, it was formed by melting ice as the continental glaciers retreated.


Since its French discoverers knew nothing as yet of the other lakes, they called it La Mer Douce, the fresh-water sea. A Sanson map in 1656 refers to the lake as Karegnondi, which means simply 'Lake' in the Petan Indian language.

Lake Huron was generally labeled "Lac des Hurons" (Lake of the Huron Indians) on most early maps.

Storm of 1913

On November 9, 1913, a great storm rolled across Lake Huron and with it, 235 seamen died, ten ships sank and another twenty plus were driven ashore. The storm raged for sixteen hours.

The Matoa had passed between Port Huron, Michigan and Sarnia, Ontario just after midnight. On the 9th, just after six in the morning, the Senator pushed upstream. Less than an hour later, the Manola passed through. Captain Frederick W. Light of the Manola reported that both the Canadian and the American weather stations had storm signals flying from their weather towers. Following behind at 7:00 a.m. that Sunday, the Regina steamed out of Sarnia into the northwest gale. The warnings now had been up for four hours The Manola passed the Regina off Port Sanilac, 22 miles up the lake. Captain Light determined that if it continued to deteriorate, he would seek shelter at Harbor Beach, Michigan, another 30 miles up lake. There, he could seek shelter behind the breakwater. Before reaching Harbor Beach, the winds turned to the northeast and the sea began to rise. It would be noon before he reached Harbor Beach and ran for shelter. The seas were so violent that the Manola touched bottom entering the harbor. With help from a tug the Manola tied up to the break wall with eight lines. It was about 3:00 p.m. that Sunday that the Manola was tied down and the crew prepared to drop anchor. As they worked, the cables began to snap from winds pressure against the hull. To keep from being pushed aground, they kept their bow into the wind with the engines running half to full in turns. Yet the ship still drifted 800 feet before they arrested the drift. The waves broke over the ship and the windows were broken out. The seas were so rough; that the crew reported seeing the cement break wall was move and chunks of cement peeled off.

Meanwhile, fifty miles further up the lake, the Matoa, and Captain Hugh McLeod had to ride out the storm without a safe harbor. The Matoa would be found stranded on the Port Austin reef when the winds subsided. It was Monday noon before the winds let up and not until 11:00 p.m. Monday night before Capt. Light determined it to be safe to continue his journey.

Shipwrecks of Lake Huron

Over 1000 wrecks lie under the waters of Lake Huron, including the first vessel to travel the great lakes. The Griffon built in 1679 on the eastern shore of Lake Erie, near Buffalo, New York, Sieur de la Salle navigated across Lake Erie, up the Detroit River, Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River out into Lake Huron. Passing the Straits of Mackinac, La Salle and the Griffon made land fall on Washington Island, the off the tip of the Door Peninsula on Wisconsin’s side of Lake Michigan. Here, the La Salle filled the Griffon with pelts and in late November 1679 sent the Griffon back to Buffalo, never to be seen again. Two wrecks have been identified as the Griffon, although neither has gained credit as the actual wreck. Blown by a fierce storm after leaving, the Griffin ran before the storm. The people of Manitoulin Island say that the wreck in Mississagi Straits at the western tip of the island is the Griffon. Meanwhile, others near Tobermory say that the wreck on Russell Island, 150 miles further east in Georgian Bay is the Griffin.

Saginaw Bay

185 of 1000+ wrecks are within the waters of Saginaw Bay.

Matoa, A propeller freighter, 2,311gross tons, built 1890, Cleveland, wrecked, 1913, Port Austin Reef

Georgian Bay, North Channel

212 of 1000+ wrecks of Lake Hurons wrecks are within the Georgian Bay. The Bay is the largest bay on Lake Huron. With its 30,000 islands, it offers recreational interest and dangers for all ships passing through.

Manola, a propeller freighter of 2,325 gross tons. Built in 1890, by the Globe Shipping Company of Cleveland, Ohio. Operated by the Minnesota Steamship Company (Cleveland) from 1890-1901, by the Pittsburgh Steamship Company from 1901-1918. On January 25, 1918, the Manola was sold to the U.S. Shipping Board. It was sold again in 1920 to the Canada Steamship Lines, Ltd and renamed the Mapledawn. It became stranded on November 20, 1924 on Christian Island in Georgian Bay. It was headed for Port McNichol, Ontario. It was declared a total loss after two weeks. Salvagers were able to recovered c.75,000 bushels of barley for delivery to Midland, Ontario.


Lake Huron has a lake retention time of 22 years.

Lake Huron is home to a variety of fish and plant life, such as the now extinct Deepwater cisco, many of them being home to the other Great Lakes such as carp, chinook salmon, a variety of panfish, bass, pike, and catfish. Lake Huron along with the other great lakes have suffered recently due the introduction of various invasive species.

See also

Great Lakes in General


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

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