Lake Huron is one of the five Great Lakes of North America. Hydrologically, it comprises the easterly portion of Lake Michigan–Huron, having the same surface elevation as its westerly counterpart, to which it is connected by the 5-mile-wide (8.0 km), 20-fathom-deep (120 ft; 37 m) Straits of Mackinac. It is shared on the north and east by the Canadian province of Ontario and on the south and west by the state of Michigan in the United States. The name of the lake is derived from early French explorers who named it for the Huron people inhabiting the region. The Huronian glaciation was named due to evidence collected from Lake Huron region. The northern parts of the lake include the North Channel and Georgian Bay. Across the lake to the southwest is Saginaw Bay. The main inlet is the St. Marys River, and the main outlet is the St. Clair River.
Lake Huron shorelines
Map of Lake Huron and the other Great Lakes
|Primary inflows||Straits of Mackinac, St. Marys River|
|Primary outflows||St. Clair River|
|Catchment area||51,700 sq mi (134,100 km2)|
|Basin countries||United States, Canada|
|Max. length||206 mi (332 km)|
|Max. width||183 mi (295 km)|
|Surface area||23,007 sq mi (59,588 km2)|
|Average depth||195 ft (59 m)|
|Max. depth||750 ft (229 m)|
|Water volume||850 cu mi (3,543 km3)|
|Residence time||22 years|
|Shore length1||1,850 mi (2,980 km) plus 1,980 mi (3,190 km) for islands|
|Surface elevation||577 ft (176 m)|
|Sections/sub-basins||Georgian Bay, North Channel|
|Settlements||Bay City, Alpena, Cheboygan, St. Ignace, Port Huron in Michigan; Goderich, Sarnia in Ontario|
|1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.|
By surface area, Lake Huron is the second-largest of the Great Lakes, with a surface area of 23,007 square miles (59,590 km2) – of which 9,103 square miles (23,580 km2) lies in Michigan; and 13,904 square miles (36,010 km2) lies in Ontario – making it the third-largest fresh water lake on Earth (or the fourth-largest lake, if the Caspian Sea is counted as a lake). By volume however, Lake Huron is only the third largest of the Great Lakes, being surpassed by Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. When measured at the low water datum, the lake contains a volume of 850 cubic miles (3,500 km3) and a shoreline length (including islands) of 3,827 mi (6,159 km).
The surface of Lake Huron is 577 feet (176 m) above sea level. The lake's average depth is 32 fathoms 3 feet (195 ft (59 m)), while the maximum depth is 125 fathoms (750 ft (230 m)). It has a length of 206 statute miles (332 km; 179 nmi) and a greatest breadth of 183 statute miles (295 km; 159 nmi).
A large bay that protrudes northeast from Lake Huron into Ontario, Canada, is called Georgian Bay. 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 lake island. Major centres on Georgian Bay include Owen Sound, Wasaga Beach, Collingwood, Midland, Penetanguishene, Port Severn and Parry Sound.
A smaller bay that protrudes southwest from Lake Huron into Michigan is called Saginaw Bay.
Historic High Water The lake fluctuates from month to month with the highest lake levels in October and November. The normal high-water mark is 2.00 feet (0.61 m) above datum (577.5 ft or 176.0 m). In the summer of 1986, Lakes Michigan and Huron reached their highest level at 5.92 feet (1.80 m) above datum. The high-water records began in February 1986 and lasted through the year, ending with January 1987. Water levels ranged from 3.67 to 5.92 feet (1.12–1.80 m) above Chart Datum.
Historic Low Water Lake levels tend to be the lowest in winter. The normal low-water mark is 1.00 foot (30 cm) below datum (577.5 ft or 176.0 m). In the winter of 1964, Lakes Michigan and Huron reached their lowest level at 1.38 feet (42 cm) below datum. As with the high-water records, monthly low-water records were set each month from February 1964 through January 1965. During this twelve-month period, water levels ranged from 1.38 to 0.71 feet (42–22 cm) below Chart Datum.
Lake Huron has the largest shore line length of any of the Great Lakes, counting its 30,000 islands.
Lake Huron is separated from Lake Michigan, which lies at the same level, by the 5-mile-wide (8.0 km), 20-fathom-deep (120 ft; 37 m) Straits of Mackinac, making them hydrologically the same body of water (sometimes called Lake Michigan-Huron and sometimes described as two 'lobes of the same lake'). Aggregated, Lake Huron-Michigan, at 45,300 square miles (117,000 km2), "is technically the world's largest freshwater lake." When counted separately, Lake Superior is 8,700 square miles (23,000 km2) larger than Huron and higher. Lake Superior drains into the St. Marys River which then flows southward into Lake Huron. The water then flows south to the St. Clair River, at Port Huron, Michigan and Sarnia, Ontario.
Like the other Great Lakes, it was formed by melting ice as the continental glaciers retreated toward the end of the last ice age. Before this, Lake Huron was a low-lying depression through which flowed the now-buried Laurentian and Huronian Rivers; the lake bed was criss-crossed by a large network of tributaries to these ancient waterways, with many of the old channels still evident on bathymetric maps.
The Alpena-Amberley Ridge is an ancient ridge beneath the surface of Lake Huron, running roughly between Alpena, Michigan and Point Clark, Ontario. About 9,000 years ago, when water levels in Lake Huron were about 100 m (330 ft) below today's levels, the ridge was exposed and the land bridge was used as a migration route for large herds of caribou. Since 2008, archaeologists have discovered at least 60 stone constructions along the submerged ridge that are thought to have been used as hunting blinds by Paleo-Indians.
The extent of development among Eastern Woodlands Native American societies on the eve of European contact is indicated by the archaeological evidence of a town on or near Lake Huron that contained more than one hundred large structures housing a total population of between 4,000 and 6,000. The French, the first European visitors to the region, often referred to Lake Huron as La Mer Douce, "the fresh-water sea". In 1656, a map by French cartographer Nicolas Sanson refers to the lake by the name Karegnondi, a Wyandot word which has been variously translated as "Freshwater Sea", "Lake of the Hurons", or simply "lake". The lake was generally labeled "Lac des Hurons" (Lake of the Huron) on most early European maps.
Matoa had passed between Port Huron, Michigan, and Sarnia, Ontario, just after midnight. On November 9, just after six in the morning, Senator pushed upstream. Less than an hour later, Manola passed through. Captain Frederick W. Light of Manola reported that both the Canadian and the American weather stations had storm flag signals flying from their weather towers. Following behind at 7:00 a.m. that Sunday, Regina steamed out of Sarnia into the northwest gale. The warnings now had been up for four hours. Manola passed Regina off Port Sanilac, 22 statute miles (19 nmi; 35 km) up the lake. Captain Light determined that if it continued to deteriorate, he would seek shelter at Harbor Beach, Michigan, another 30 statute miles (26 nmi; 48 km) up the lake. There, he could seek shelter behind the breakwater. Before he reached Harbor Beach, the winds turned to the northeast and the lake began to rise. It would be noon before he reached Harbor Beach and ran for shelter. The waves were so violent that Manola touched bottom entering the harbor. With help from a tugboat, Manola tied up to the break wall with eight lines. It was about 3:00 p.m. when Manola was secured and the crew prepared to drop anchor. As they worked, the cables began to snap from wind 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 (240 m) before its movement was arrested. Waves breaking over the ship damaged several windows and the crew reported seeing portions of the concrete break wall peeling off as the waves struck it.
Meanwhile, fifty miles farther up the lake, Matoa and Captain Hugh McLeod had to ride out the storm without a safe harbor. Matoa would be found stranded on the Port Austin reef when the winds subsided. It was noon on Monday before the winds let up and not until 11:00 p.m. that night before Captain Light determined it to be safe to continue his journey.
More than a thousand wrecks have been recorded in Lake Huron. These purportedly include the first European vessel to sail the Great Lakes, Le Griffon, built in 1679 on the eastern shore of Lake Erie, near Buffalo, New York. Robert Cavalier, 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 Le Griffon made landfall on Washington Island, off the tip of the Door Peninsula on the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan. Here, La Salle filled Le Griffon with pelts and in late November 1679 sent Le Griffon back to the site of modern-day Buffalo, never to be seen again.
Two wrecks have been identified as Le Griffon, although neither has gained final verification as the actual wreck. Blown by a fierce storm after leaving, Le Griffon ran aground before the storm. The people of Manitoulin Island say that the wreck in Mississagi Straits at the western tip of the island is that of Le Griffon. Meanwhile, others near Tobermory, say that the wreck on Russell Island, 150 miles (240 km) farther east in Georgian Bay is that of Le Griffon. A classic car was discovered inside the submerged shipwreck in November 2018.
The 448-square-mile (1,160 km2) Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve is home to 116 historically significant shipwrecks. It is the 13th National Marine Sanctuary designated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, established in 2000. Glass-bottom boat tours depart from Alpena, Michigan, providing tourists with views of some of the famous shipwrecks in Thunder Bay.
Georgian Bay, the largest bay on Lake Huron, contains 212 of the 1,000 sunken vessels in the lake.
Manola, a propeller freighter of 2,325 gross tons, was built in 1890 by the Globe Shipping Company of Cleveland, Ohio. It was operated by the Minnesota Steamship Company (Cleveland) from 1890 to 1901, and by the Pittsburgh Steamship Company from 1901 to 1918. On January 25, 1918, Manola was sold to the U.S. Shipping Board. It was sold again in 1920 to the Canada Steamship Lines, Ltd., and renamed Mapledawn. The vessel became stranded on November 20, 1924, on Christian Island in Georgian Bay. Headed for Port McNichol, Ontario, it was declared a total loss after two weeks. Salvagers were able to recover approximately 75,000 bushels of barley for delivery to Midland, Ontario.
Lake Huron has a lake retention time of 22 years.
Like all of the Great Lakes, the ecology of Lake Huron has undergone drastic changes in the last century. The lake originally supported a native deepwater fish community dominated by lake trout, which fed on a number of deepwater ciscos as well as sculpins and other native fishes. Several invasive species, including sea lamprey, alewife and rainbow smelt, became abundant in the lake by the 1930s. The major native top predator, lake trout, were virtually extirpated from the lake by 1950 due to a combination of overfishing and the effects of sea lamprey. Several species of deepwater ciscos were also extirpated from the lake by the 1960s; the only remaining native deepwater cisco is the bloater. Nonnative Pacific salmon have been stocked in the lake since the 1960s, and lake trout have also been stocked in an attempt to rehabilitate the species, although little natural reproduction of stocked trout has been observed.
Lake Huron has suffered recently due the introduction of a variety of new invasive species, including zebra and quagga mussels, the spiny water flea, and round gobies. The deepwater demersal fish community of the lake was in a state of collapse by 2006, and a number of drastic changes have been observed in the zooplankton community of the lake. Chinook salmon catches have also been greatly reduced in recent years, and lake whitefish have become less abundant and are in poor condition. These recent changes may be attributable to the new exotic species.
The 1996 Lake Huron cyclone (commonly known as Hurricane Huron, or the Huroncane) was a strong cyclonic storm system that developed over Lake Huron in September 1996. The system resembled a subtropical cyclone at its peak, having some characteristics of a tropical cyclone.Au Sable River (Michigan)
The Au Sable River in Michigan, United States runs approximately 138 miles (222 km) through the northern Lower Peninsula, through the towns of Grayling and Mio, and enters Lake Huron at Au Sable. It is considered one of the best brown trout fisheries east of the Rockies and has been designated a blue ribbon trout stream by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. In French, au sable literally means "at the sand." A 1795 map calls it the Beauais River.Bruce Peninsula
The Bruce Peninsula is a peninsula in Ontario, Canada, that lies between Georgian Bay and the main basin of Lake Huron. The peninsula extends roughly northwestwards from the rest of Southwestern Ontario, pointing towards Manitoulin Island, with which it forms the widest strait joining Georgian Bay to the rest of Lake Huron. The Bruce Peninsula contains part of the geological formation known as the Niagara Escarpment.
From an administrative standpoint, the Bruce Peninsula is part of Bruce County, named after James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin (Lord Elgin), Governor General of Canada. A popular tourist destination for camping, hiking and fishing, the area has two national parks (Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park), more than half a dozen nature reserves, and the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory. The Bruce Trail runs through the region to its northern terminus in the town of Tobermory.
The Bruce Peninsula is a key area for both plant and animal wildlife. Part of the Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve, the peninsula has the largest remaining area of forest and natural habitat in Southern Ontario and is home to some of the oldest trees in eastern North America. An important flyway for migrating birds, the peninsula is habitat to a variety of animals, including black bear, massasauga rattlesnake, and barred owl.De Tour Passage Underwater Preserve
The DeTour Passage Underwater Preserve is a preservation area in the U.S. state of Michigan. Located in Lake Huron, it completely surrounds Drummond Island and includes all of DeTour Passage and adjacent sections of Lake Huron and the St. Mary's River.Engagements on Lake Huron
The series of Engagements on Lake Huron left the British in control of the lake and their Native American allies in control of the Old Northwest for the latter stages of the War of 1812.
An American force which had failed to recapture the vital outpost at Fort Mackinac in August 1814 attempted to starve its garrison into surrender by destroying the schooner Nancy which carried supplies to Mackinac from the Nottawasaga River and then blockading the island with two gunboats. A party of sailors of the Royal Navy and soldiers from the garrison of Mackinac captured both gunboats by surprise in the first week of September, leaving the British in control of the lake until the end of the war.Georgian Bay
Georgian Bay (French: Baie Georgienne) is a large bay of Lake Huron, located entirely within Ontario, Canada. The main body of the bay lies east of the Bruce Peninsula and Manitoulin Island. To its northwest is the North Channel.
Georgian Bay is surrounded by (listed clockwise) the districts of Manitoulin, Sudbury, Parry Sound and Muskoka, as well as the more populous counties of Simcoe, Grey and Bruce. The Main Channel separates the Bruce Peninsula from Manitoulin Island and connects Georgian Bay to the rest of Lake Huron. The North Channel, located between Manitoulin Island and the Sudbury District, west of Killarney, was once a popular route for steamships and is now used by a variety of pleasure craft to travel to and from Georgian Bay.
The shores and waterways of the Georgian Bay are the traditional domain of the Anishinaabeg First Nations peoples to the north and Huron-Petun (Wyandot) to the south. The bay was thus a major Algonquian-Iroqouian trade route. Samuel de Champlain, the first European to explore and map the area in 1615–1616, called it "La Mer douce" (the calm sea), which was a reference to the bay's freshwater. In 1822, after Great Britain had taken over the territory, Lieutenant Henry Wolsey Bayfield of a Royal Navy expedition named it as "Georgian Bay" (after King George IV).Great Lakes Circle Tour
The Great Lakes Circle Tour is a designated scenic road system connecting all of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. It consists of routes for circumnavigating the lakes, either individually or collectively.Kincardine, Ontario
Kincardine is a municipality located on the shores of Lake Huron in Bruce County in the province of Ontario, Canada. The current municipality was created in 1999 by the amalgamation of the Town of Kincardine, the Township of Kincardine, and the Township of Bruce.
The municipality had a population of 11,389 in the Canada 2016 Census.Lake Algonquin
Lake Algonquin was a proglacial lake that existed in east-central North America at the time of the last ice age. Parts of the former lake are now Lake Huron, Georgian Bay, Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and inland portions of northern Michigan.
The lake varied in size, but it was at its biggest during the post-glacial period and gradually shrunk to the current Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. About 7,000 years ago, the lake was replaced by Lake Chippewa and Lake Stanley as the glaciers retreated and 3,000 years later by the current Lakes Michigan, Huron, and Superior.Lake Michigan–Huron
Lake Michigan–Huron (also Huron–Michigan) is the combined waters of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, which are joined through the 5-mile (8.0 km) wide, 20-fathom (120 ft; 37 m) deep, open-water Straits of Mackinac. Huron and Michigan are hydrologically a single lake because the flow of water through the straits keeps their water levels in near-equilibrium. (Although the flow is generally eastward, the water moves in either direction depending on local conditions.) Combined, Lake Michigan–Huron is the largest fresh water lake by area in the world. However, if Lake Huron and Lake Michigan are considered two separate lakes Lake Superior is larger than either.Lake Simcoe–Lake Huron Purchase
The Lake Simcoe–Lake Huron Purchase, registered as Crown Treaty Number Sixteen, was signed November 18, 1815 between the Ojibwa and the government of Upper Canada. It purchased a large portion of the lands between Lake Simcoe and Lake Huron, including all of the territory upon which the Penetanguishene Road had recently been cut.
The Penetanguishene Road was cut from Kempenfelt Bay on Lake Simcoe to Penetanguishene Bay on Lake Huron at the end of the War of 1812 for purposes of providing a military communication route. The land that it occupied was purchased in this treaty for the sum of four thousand pounds. The territory included a quantity of land that later became parts of the townships of Oro, Vespra, Medonte, Flos, Tay and Tiny in Simcoe County. The total area purchased was approximately 250,000 acres (1,000 km2).
The signees of the treaty on the side of the British included Provincial Commissioners Elisha Beman and Henry Proctor, Captain W. M. Cochrane (commander of light infantry), Lieutenant Alexander Ferguson of the Indian Department, interpreter William Gruet and James Givins on behalf of the Crown.
The signees of the treaty on the side of the Chippeway Chiefs included Kinaybicoinini, Aisance and Misquuckkey. (Chief Misquuckkey in the treaty may be the same chief whom Muskoka was named after.)North Channel (Ontario)
The North Channel is the body of water along the north shore of Lake Huron, in the Canadian province of Ontario. It stretches approximately 160 nautical miles and is bordered on the east by Georgian Bay, on the west by the St. Marys River, to the north by the eastern Algoma District and part of the Sudbury District, and to the south by the islands of Manitoulin, Cockburn, Drummond and St. Joseph. At its widest point it is over 30 km (20 miles) wide.In addition to Georgian Bay, the North Channel is connected to the main body of Lake Huron by the False Detour Channel and the Mississagi Strait, which separate the above-noted islands.
The channel is recognized as one of the best freshwater cruising grounds in the world. There are full-service marinas in various small communities along the shore providing sufficient provisions. A large section of the north shore is bordered by La Cloche Provincial Park providing for a scenic environment.
The only road crossings of the North Channel are at the Little Current Swing Bridge, which carries Highway 6 between Manitoulin Island and the mainland of Northern Ontario, and the Bernt Gilbertson Bridge, which carries Highway 548 from the mainland onto St. Joseph Island. The bridges are located at two of the narrowest points along the entire channel.
The North Channel lies under the jurisdiction of the Georgian Bay Land Trust. The Georgian Bay Land Trust is an organization which seeks to preserve land of ecological, geological, and historical importance.
The communities on the mainland side of the North Channel, between the townships of Tarbutt and Nairn and Hyman, are commonly grouped as the North Shore region. This designation does not generally include the communities on St. Joseph or Manitoulin islands.Port Crescent State Park
Port Crescent State Park is a public recreation area on Lake Huron five miles (8.0 km) southwest of Port Austin in Huron County at the tip of The Thumb of Michigan. The state park covers 640 acres (260 ha) along state route M-25 in Hume Township. The park occupies the site of Port Crescent, a ghost town which once stood at the mouth of the Pinnebog River. The park was designated a Michigan "dark sky preserve" in 2012.Saginaw Bay
Saginaw Bay is a bay within Lake Huron located on the eastern side of the U.S. state of Michigan. It forms the space between Michigan's Thumb region and the rest of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Saginaw Bay is 1,143 square miles (2,960 km2) in area. It is located in parts of five Michigan counties: Arenac, Bay, Huron, Iosco, and Tuscola.St. Clair River
The St. Clair River (French: Rivière Sainte-Claire) is a 40.5-mile-long (65.2 km) river in central North America which drains Lake Huron into Lake St. Clair, forming part of the international boundary between the Canadian province of Ontario and the U.S. state of Michigan. The river is a significant component in the Great Lakes Waterway, with shipping channels permitting cargo vessels to travel between the upper and lower Great Lakes.Straits of Mackinac
The Straits of Mackinac ( MAK-in-aw) are narrow waterways in the U.S. state of Michigan between Michigan's Lower and Upper Peninsulas. The main strait flows under the Mackinac Bridge and connects two of the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The main strait is 3.5 miles (5.6 km) wide and has a maximum depth of 295 feet (90 m). Hydrologically, the two connected lakes can be considered one lake, which is called Lake Michigan–Huron. Historically, the native Odawa people called the region around the Straits Michilimackinac. The Straits of Mackinac is "whipsawed by currents unlike anywhere else in the Great Lakes".Islands forming the edge of Straits of Mackinac include the two populated islands, Bois Blanc and Mackinac, and one that is uninhabited: Round island. The Straits of Mackinac is a major shipping lane, providing passage for raw materials and finished goods and connecting, for instance, the iron mines of Minnesota to the steel mills of Gary, Indiana. Before the railroads reached Chicago from the east, most immigrants arrived in the Midwest and Great Plains by ships on the Great Lakes. The straits is five miles (8 km) wide at its narrowest point, where it is spanned by the Mackinac Bridge. Before the bridge was built, car ferries transported vehicles across the straits. Today passenger-only ferries carry people to Mackinac Island, which does not permit cars. Visitors can take their vehicles on a car ferry to Bois Blanc Island.
The straits are shallow and narrow enough to freeze over in the winter. Navigation is ensured for year-round shipping to the Lower Great Lakes by the use of icebreakers.
The straits were an important Native American and fur trade route. The Straits of Mackinac are named after Mackinac Island. The local Ojibwe Native Americans in the Straits of Mackinac region likened the shape of the island to that of a turtle, so they named the island Mitchimakinak, meaning "Big Turtle". When the British explored the area, they shortened the name to its present form: Mackinac.Located on the southern side of the straits is the town of Mackinaw City, the site of Fort Michilimackinac, a reconstructed French fort founded in 1715, and on the northern side is St. Ignace, site of a French Catholic mission to the Indians, founded in 1671. The eastern end of the straits was controlled by Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island, a British colonial and early American military base and fur trade center, founded in 1781.The Thumb
The Thumb is a region and a peninsula of the U.S. state of Michigan, so named because the Lower Peninsula is shaped like a mitten. The Thumb area is generally considered to be in the Central Michigan region, located east of the Tri-Cities, and north of Metro Detroit. The region is also branded as the Blue Water Area of Michigan.
The counties which constitute the Thumb are those forming the extended peninsula that stretches northward into Lake Huron and Saginaw Bay. There is no formal declaration for which of these counties are part of the Thumb. Virtually all definitions of The Thumb include Huron, Tuscola, and Sanilac counties, and most common definitions are extended to include Lapeer and St. Clair counties as well.Thunder Bay Island
Thunder Bay Island is a 215-acre (87 ha) island in Lake Huron. The island is one of eight constituent islands of the Michigan Islands National Wildlife Refuge. The island is part of Alpena Township in Alpena County. It marks the entrance to Thunder Bay, the harbor of Alpena, Michigan and the location of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
The island is the home of a historic Thunder Bay Island Light, which in its current form dates to 1857, and adjacent quarters for the lightkeeper. The island also contains the sites of quarters for lifesaving service personnel and private-sector fishermen.Water and Woods Field Service Council
Water and Woods Field Service Council is a field service council of the Michigan Crossroads Council that serves youth in the central and northeastern Lower Peninsula of Michigan. The Council is headquartered in Flint, Michigan with service centers located in Auburn, Lansing, and Port Huron. The Water and Woods Field Service Council is the result of a merger in 2012 of Lake Huron Area Council, Blue Water Council, Tall Pine Council and Chief Okemos Council.
Places adjacent to Lake Huron
Great Lakes of North America
Central/Mid-Michigan including the Tri-Cities and Thumb