The Great Lakes: fresh water seas

(noon. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

They say the best way to protect something is to personalize it.  So please, meet the Great Lakes…


The environment of the Great Lakes region is blessed with huge forests and wilderness areas, rich agricultural land, hundreds of tributaries and thousands of smaller lakes, and extensive mineral deposits. The region’s glacial history and the tremendous influence of the lakes themselves create unique conditions that support a wealth of biological diversity, including more than 130 rare species and ecosystems.

The environment supports a world-class fishery and a variety of wildlife, such as white-tailed deer, beaver, muskrat, weasel, fox, black bear, bobcat, moose and other furbearing animals. Bird populations thrive on the various terrains, some migrating south in the winter, others making permanent homes. An estimated 180 species of fish are native to the Great Lakes, including small- and large-mouth bass, muskellunge, northern pike, lake herring, whitefish, walleye and lake trout. Rare species making their home in the Great Lakes region include the world’s last known population of the white catspaw pearly mussel, the copper redhorse fish and the Kirtland’s warbler.

The region’s sand dunes, coastal marshes, rocky shorelines, lakeplain prairies, savannas, forests, fens, wetlands and other landscapes contain features that are either unique or best represented withink the Great Lakes basin. For example, the world’s largest freshwater dunes line the shores of Lake Michigan.

Over the course of history, many types of pollution have inflicted and been reduced in the region, yet significant challenges remain. These range from threats to divert water out of the Great Lakes basin to the introduction of nonindigenous invasive species and airborne toxics into the basin. Protection of water quality and sustainable development remain long-term goals.  Link

Unless otherwise specified, all pictures are courtesy of: SeaWiFS Project, NASA/FSFC, and GeoEye

Fast Facts on the Great Lakes


6 quadrillion gallons of fresh water; one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water (only the polar ice caps and Lake Baikal in Siberia contain more); 95 percent of the U.S. supply. Spread evenly across the continental U.S., the Great Lakes would submerge the country under about 9.5 feet of water.


More than 94,000 square miles/244,000 square kilometres of water (larger than the states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire combined, or about 23 percent of the province of Ontario). About 295,000 square miles/767,000 square kilometres in the watershed (the area where all the rivers and streams drain into the lakes).


United States and Canada — 10,900 mi/17,549 km (including connecting channels, mainland and islands). The Great Lakes shoreline is equal to almost 44 percent of the circumference of the earth, and Michigan’s Great Lakes coast totals 3,288 mi/5,294 km, more coastline than any state but Alaska.

References: Great Lakes Basin brochure, 1990, Michigan Sea Grant

This is summer


This is winter


Which is why we need this  


to do this:

Mackinaw leading freighter Edgar B. Speer down the St. Mary’s River on January 22, 2004, courtesy of USCG


The season for commercial shipping through the St Lawrence Seaway generally extends from late March to late December.

The Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System is a deep draft waterway extending 3,700 km (2,340 miles) from the Atlantic Ocean to the head of the Great Lakes, in the heart of North America. The St. Lawrence Seaway portion of the System extends from Montreal to mid-Lake Erie. Ranked as one of the outstanding engineering feats of the twentieth century, the St. Lawrence Seaway includes 13 Canadian and 2 U.S. locks.

This engineering feat has single handedly degraded the quality of the Great Lakes water system by introducing foreign species into the lakes through ballast water discharges by the ships using the seaway.  

U.S. EPA administrator Stephen Johnson and a bipartisan coalition of Midwestern lawmakers and officials approved a 15-year strategy to restore the Great Lakes on Monday. But the Bush administration says it won’t fund the plan, which may cost up to $20 billion. The strategy to pull the lakes back from imminent ecological collapse involves revamping disintegrating municipal sewer systems, clearing out invasive species, decontaminating severely polluted toxic hotspots, and more.


Skip to comment form

    • dkmich on August 30, 2008 at 23:54

    for George W. Bush to get the hell out of office.  

  1. I installed a satellite dish under a “speaker rock” (a fake rock that a speaker can fit under) on the beach in Ludington on the 12th. It was a beautiful day. Alot like this one (not mine).

    • Alma on August 31, 2008 at 03:15

    If there weren’t houses in the way, I’d see Lake Erie everytime I backed out of my drive.

  2. Winter sucks!

  3. …a genuinely engaging diary.  Glad to see it frontpaged!

  4. …because he’s already suggested raiding Colorado’s water. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to guess what he’d like to do with the Great Lakes water.

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