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Lake Erie is the fourth largest lake (by surface area) of the five Great Lakes in North America, and the thirteenth largest globally.[1]It is the southernmost, shallowest, and smallest by volume of the Great Lakes and therefore also has the shortest average water residence time. It is bounded by Ontario to the north, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York to the south, and Michigan to the west. The lake is named after the Erie tribe of Native Americans who lived along its southern shore. The outflow from the lake provides hydroelectric power to Canada and the U.S. as it spins huge turbines at Niagara Falls.
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Contents

Lake Erie History

Pre-Native American

Lake Erie was carved out by the receding glaciers of the Great Ice Age. Evidence of this may be seen in the Glacial Grooves on Kelleys Island, the largest accessible glacial grooves in the world.

Native Americans

At the time of European contact, there were several groups of Iroquoian cultures living around the shores of the eastern end of the lake. The Erie tribe (from whom the lake takes its name) lived along the southern edge, while the Neutrals (also known as Attawandaron) lived along the northern shore. Near Port Stanley, there is an Indian village dating from the 16th century known as the Southwold Earthworks where as many as 800 Neutral Indians once lived; the archaeological remains include double earth walls winding around the grass–covered perimeter. Europeans named the tribe the Neutral Indians since these people refused to fight with other tribes. Both tribes were conquered and assimilated by their hostile eastern neighbors, the Iroquois[7] Confederacy between A.D. 1651 and 1657, in what is referred to as part of the Beaver Wars.[8] For decades after those wars, the land around eastern Lake Erie was claimed and utilized by the Iroquois as a hunting ground. As the power of the Iroquois waned during the last quarter of the 17th century, several other, mainly Anishinaabe Native American tribes, displaced them from the territories they claimed on the north shore of the lake. [2]

European exploration and settlement

In 1669, the Frenchman Louis Jolliet was the first documented European to sight Lake Erie, although there is speculation that Étienne Brûlé may have come across it in 1615. Lake Erie was the last of the Great Lakes to be explored by Europeans, since the Iroquois who occupied the Niagara River area were in conflict with the French, and they did not allow explorers or traders to pass through. Explorers followed rivers out of Lake Ontario and portaged directly into Lake Huron. British authorities in Canada were nervous about possible expansion by American settlers across Lake Erie, so Colonel Talbot developed the Talbot Trail in 1809 as a way to stimulate settlement to the area; Talbot recruited settlers from Ireland and Scotland and there are numerous places named after him, such as Port Talbot and the Talbot River and Talbotville in southern Ontario

During the 1700s and 1800s, Lake Erie provided a quick means of transportation for men engaged in the fur trade as well as settlers hoping to improve their fortunes in the Ohio Country. Its importance grew during the 1810s and the 1820s as Americans began to build canals. The completion of the Erie Canal, connecting the Hudson River in New York with Lake Erie, provided the first navigable water route from the Atlantic Ocean to the upper Midwest. This allowed farmers in Ohio a relatively quick and inexpensive route to transport their products to market. Cleveland quickly grew and became one of the leading industrial centers of Ohio thanks to its location on Lake Erie. [3]

During the War of 1812, both the English and the American armies and navies hoped to gain exclusive control over the lake. The side that controlled Lake Erie would have an easier time sending troops and supplies in an invasion of the other's territory. On September 10, 1813, at the Battle of Lake Erie an American fleet under the command of Oliver Hazard Perry defeated a British fleet, securing control of the lake for the United States. England's threat to the American Northwest was removed, due to Great Britain's inability to send men and supplies across the lake. Lake Erie also served as parts of boundaries in treaties between the United States and the Indians during the late 1700s and the early 1800s. Among the most important of these agreements was the Treaty of Greeneville in 1795.

The northeastern corner of Pennsylvania was a vital route of the Underground Railroad, where escaped slaves found hope and neared the end of their journeys as they reached the shores of Lake Erie and crossed into Canada and New York. In Pre-Civil War Crawford County, Pennsylvania, the farm of the great abolitionist John Brown played a strategic role in the Underground Railroad. Disbursing "depots" in the area, John Brown aided in the passing of an estimated 2,500 slaves. In the town of New Richmond, his farm and tannery was a major stop on the Railroad, marking its place in history from 1825 to 1835.[4]

During the Prohibition years from 1919 to 1933, a "great deal of alcohol crossed Erie" along with "mobster corpses" dumped into the Detroit River which sometimes washed up on the beaches of Pelee Island.

Lake Erie Islands

The Lake Erie Islands are a chain of archipelagic islands in Lake Erie. They include Kelleys Island[9], Pelee Island[10], the Bass Islands[11], and several others. The majority of these islands are under the sovereignty of Ohio[12] in the United States[13]. Pelee Island is the only major island administered by Ontario[14], while the smaller Middle Island[15] is the southernmost point in Canada[16]. Most islands that are large enough are popular tourist attractions with car ferries running from the mainland and between some islands and some small airports and numerous private marinas offering other ways to reach the islands.[5]

Trails

  • Lake Erie Seaway Trail[17]
  • Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail[18]

Facts

Geological

  • The Great Lakes were gouged out by glacial ice between 1 million and 12,600 years ago. *Lake Erie was one of the first Great Lakes to be uncovered during the last retreat of the glacial ice.
  • Several precursors to the modern Lake Erie have been identified, some of which lasted long enough to leave behind well-developed beaches many miles from the lake’s current position. *The oldest rocks from which the Lake Erie basin was carved are about 400 million years old and formed in a tropical ocean reef environment.
  • Lake Erie and its shoreline are a major source of many minerals. The largest sandstone quarry in the world is located in Amherst, Lorain County, Ohio. Salt mines in Cuyahoga and Lake *Counties extend out under Lake Erie and are an important source of revenue to the State. Sand, gypsum, and limestone used for construction purposes are found in abundance. Large reserves of natural gas—over 3 trillion cubic feet—are located under Lake Erie.

Physical

  • Lake Erie is the twelfth largest lake in the world (in area), and its border includes four states (New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan) and one Canadian Province (Ontario).
  • Lake Erie is the southernmost, shallowest, warmest, and most biologically productive of the five Great Lakes. These are part of the reason it is the largest Great Lakes sport fishery.
  • Lake Erie has three basins: the western basin includes the islands area; the central basin extends from the islands to about Erie, Pennsylvania, and Long Point, Canada; and the eastern basin extends from Erie, Pennsylvania to the east end of the lake.
  • Lake Erie is about 241 miles (388 km) long, about 57 miles (92 km) wide at its widest, and has about 871 miles (1,402 km) of shoreline. The length of Ohio’s shoreline is about 312 miles (502 km).
  • The maximum depth is 210 feet (64 m) and occurs in the eastern basin. Average depths in the basins are: western, 24 feet (7.3 m); central, 60 feet (18.3 m); and eastern, 80 feet (24.4 m). *The water surface area is 9,910 square miles (25,667 sq. km) and the volume is 116 cubic miles (483 cu. km).
  • 22,720 square miles (58,845 sq. km) of land drain directly into Lake Erie; however, if the drainage areas of the upper Great Lakes (Superior, Michigan, and Huron) are included, the total drainage area of Lake Erie is 263,650 square miles (682,850 sq. km).
  • Lake Erie has a retention/replacement time of 2.6 years, which is the shortest of the Great Lakes.
  • Water flow from the Detroit River makes up 80 to 90 percent of the flow into the lake.
  • The outlet for Lake Erie is the Niagara River; consequently, it is Lake Erie that feeds water to Niagara Falls.
  • Basin rainfall is about 35 inches per year.
  • About 34 to 36 inches of water evaporate from the lake surface per year.
  • Elevation of the Low Water Datum (chart “0″) is 569.2 feet (173.5 m) above Father Point, Quebec. Average water elevation is about 571 feet (174 m) above the same point. Because it is so shallow, Erie is the only Great Lake that is entirely above sea level (the bottom of the other Great Lakes extend below sea level).[6]

Internet Links

  • Lake Erie Timeline[19]
  • Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail[20]
  • Lake Erie Shipwrecks[21]
  • Lake Erie Islands by Size[22]
  • Lake Erie Battle War of 1812[23]

References

  1. Fact Monster[1]
  2. The Ojibwa[2]
  3. Ohio History[3]
  4. PA History[4]
  5. Lake Erie Islands[5]
  6. Lake Erie Waterkeeper[6]

 

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  • This page was last modified on 12 April 2014, at 19:02.
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