Lake Erie is the eleventh largest lake in the world (by surface area), and the fourth largest of the Great Lakes in surface area and the smallest by volume.
Ninety-five percent of Lake Erie’s total inflow of water comes via the Detroit River water from all the “upper lakes” — Superior, Michigan and Huron — the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair and numerous tributaries. The rest comes from precipitation. Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes and is especially vulnerable to fluctuating water levels.
Wind setups (wind pushing the water from one end of the lake toward the other), usually from west to east, have produced large short- term differences in water levels at the eastern and western ends of the lake, the record being more than 16 ft (4.88 m).
The water provided by Lake Erie for waterborne commerce, navigation, manufacturing, and power production has led to intensive industrial development along its shore, but the basin’s moderate temperatures have also encouraged recreation and agriculture.
Lake Erie is the warmest and most biologically productive of the Great Lakes, and the Lake Erie walleye fishery is widely considered the best in the world.
Point Pelee National Park in Lake Erie is the southernmost point on Canada’s mainland.
LENGTH: 241 miles / 388 km
BREADTH: 57 miles / 92 km
AVERAGE DEPTH: 62 ft. / 19 m.
MAXIMUM DEPTH: 210 ft. / 64 m.
VOLUME: 116 cubic miles / 484 cubic km.
WATER SURFACE AREA: 9,910 sq. miles / 25,700 sq. km.
TOTAL DRAINAGE BASIN AREA: 30,140 sq. miles / 78,000 sq. km.
DRAINAGE BASIN AREA BY STATE/PROVINCE:
Indiana: 1300 sq mi; 3300 sq km
Michigan: 5800 sq mi; 15,100 sq km
New York: 1600 sq mi; 4200 sq km
Ohio: 11,700 sq mi; 30,400 sq km
Ontario: 8800 sq mi; 22,800 sq km
Pennsylvania: 500 sq mi; 1400 sq km
SHORELINE LENGTH (including islands): 871 miles / 1,402 km.
ELEVATION: 569 ft. / 173 m.
OUTLET: Niagara River and Welland Canal
RETENTION/REPLACEMENT TIME: 2.6 years (shortest of the Great Lakes)
NAME: The greater part of its southern shore was at one time occupied by a nation known to the Iroquois League as the “Erielhonan,” or the “long-tails,” a tribe of Indians from which the lake derived its name. This name is always mentioned by the early French writers as meaning “cat”; Lac du Chat means “Lake of the Cat.” Many attribute this reference to the wild cat or panther.
References: Great Lakes Atlas, Environment Canada and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1995