As the canal has no locks, sea water flows freely into the lake from the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, replacing water lost to evaporation. The lake acts as a buffer for the canal, reducing the effect of tidal currents.
On February 14, 1945, on the Great Bitter Lake, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, having flown directly from the Yalta Conference with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin, met on board the naval cruiser USS Quincy with Saudi Arabia's King Abdul Aziz. President Roosevelt's interpreter was U.S. Marine Corps Colonel Bill Eddy who recorded the mens' conversation in his book FDR Meets Ibn Saud.
During the Six-Day War in 1967, the canal was closed, leaving 14 ships trapped in the lake until 1975. These ships became known as the "Yellow Fleet", because of the desert sands which soon covered their decks. A number of local postage stamps (or rather, decorative labels, since they had no postal validity) were created by the crews, which are sought after by collectors.