Facts | Formation
Lake Erie derived its name from the Erie Indians who occupied
the southern shore at one time.
Early French writers called Lake Erie Lac du Chat or Lake of
the Cat, after the "cat." Some people believe this
name reflects the wildcats or panthers in the area.
Lake Erie is the eleventh largest lake in the world (by surface
area) and the fourth largest of the Great Lakes (by surface
Lake Erie is the smallest of the Great Lakes by volume.
Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes.
95% of the inflowing water comes via the Detroit River and
from the "upper lakes." The rest comes from precipitation.
Lake Erie drains into the Niagra River.
The Aragon River Valley became Lake Erie after the retreat
of the glacier.
Lake Erie is the warmest and most biologically productive
of the Great Lakes.
Lake Erie is considered the best in the world when it comes
to fishing for walleye.
Lake Erie is 241 miles long and 57 miles wide.
The average depth of Lake Erie is 62 ft. The maximum depth
is 210 feet.
There is 116 cubic miles of water in the lake.
There is 871 miles of shoreline (including islands).
- The Great Lakes hold 20% or 1/5 of the fresh water on the surface
of the Earth.
The foundation of the total area known as the Great Lakes was laid
about 3 billion years ago during the Precambrian Era. During that
era, great stresses caused volcanic activity and great mountain
formation. Sedimentary rocks and volcanic rock were heated and folded
into complex structures and then folded and eroded. In the northeastern
part of North America, gentle hills and small mountains developed
and became known as the Canadian Shield (also called the Precambrian
Shield or the Laurentian Plateau).
The Canadian Shield is a 1.9 million-square-mile, horseshoe-shaped
region that covers central and eastern Canada and a little of the
Northeast United States. The Shield, which accounts for about half
of the area of Canada, is made up of hard, crystalline rocks --
among the oldest in the world.
The most recent Ice Age began about 2.5 million years ago. During
this time, a continental ice sheet covered the region that developed
into glaciers. There were at least four glaciations during this
time: the Nebraskan (1million years ago); the Kansan (700,000 years
ago); the Illinoian (about 225,000 years ago); and the Wisconsin
(about 22,000 years ago).
A "likely scenario" for the formation of the glaciers
(called the "lake effect" theory) is that the Arctic ice
cap melted, but the Arctic remained cold. This caused a "lake
effect" snow that blanketed the area with snow for many years.
The snow became a "mile-high sheet of ice" and stayed
in place for 100,000 years. (The snow stopped only when the Arctic
Ocean froze again.)
This accumulation of snow had tremendous weight and caused the
lower layers of ice to be in a "plastic state" and to
move away from the center of the accumulation. Lobes of ice moved
forward and then retreated back from different centers and in different
directions. The lobes carried different material, depositing rock
debris in a variety of locations. Often the tip of the ice lobe
melted, but the ice was pushed ahead. This meant that in some locations
there was considerable debris deposited resulting in a range of
great hills (terminal moraines).
Because the land was greatly depressed, large glacial lakes formed
(much larger than the current Great Lakes). As the glacier retreated,
the land began to rise The major flow patterns and general configuration
of the Great Lakes were fixed about 5,000 years ago.
This theory does not give a satisfactory explanation of what caused
the end of the Ice Age. It is believed that the "ocean currents
theory" better explains the end. These theories are based upon
what "geologists call the 'Principle of Uniformitarianism,'
where the present effects of several geologic agents are used to
interpret the happenings of the past" (Door and Eschman, 1970).