The five Great Lakes are Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Ontario, Lake Superior and Lake Erie. These interconnected bodies of water are located on U.S. and Canadian territory. They account for roughly 84 percent of the surface freshwater in North America, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Lake Michigan is the second-largest Great Lake by volume and the only one located completely within U.S. territory. Its surface stretches 22,300 square miles, and it links to Lake Huron via a waterway known as the Straits of Mackinac. Lake Huron is the third-largest lake and often considered the first to be "discovered" by European explorers. At 23,000 square miles, Huron is larger than Michigan based on surface area.
Lake Ontario is the fourth-largest by volume but the smallest by surface area, measuring only 7,340 square miles. Lake Ontario is located south of Lake Erie and feeds into its neighboring body of water by way of the Niagara River. Lake Erie's shallow waters have the smallest volume, measuring about 116 cubic miles.
Lake Superior has the greatest volume, surface area and depth. It extends about 31,699 square miles on the surface. While much of the Great Lakes territory has been urbanized, Superior lacks a suitable climate and soil quality to support agriculture, so the area remains heavily populated by forests.