Canada is home to no fewer than 30,000 freshwater lakes. Littering the landscape these glittering pools offer not only outstanding natural beauty, but are also a great source of food and water for the country, and offer numerous opportunities for recreational pursuits. Yet for travellers such as Gavin Manerowski, it is the five Great Lakes that hold the biggest allure. Lakes Ontario, Erie, Huron, Superior and Michigan lie landlocked along the Canadian and US border, and collectively comprise the single largest body of freshwater on the planet. Their 6 quadrillion gallons of water accounts for one fifth of all the fresh water on Earth.
The name of this lake offers a clue as to its immense proportions, as ‘Michigan’ derives from the word ‘mishigami’, the Ojibwa Indian word for large lake. In fact it is only the third largest of the Great Lakes by surface area, but nevertheless spans an impressive 22,300 sqm. It is also the only one of the five Great Lakes that is situated entirely within US borders.
Beating Lake Michigan on surface area by just 700 extra square miles, Lake Huron is the second largest of the Great Lakes. Dotted with numerous small islands, Lake Huron boasts the longest shoreline of all the lakes, at 3,827 miles. It is named after the Hurons, also known as the Wyandot Indians, who used to live along its shores.
This long narrow lake is the shallowest of the five and the one which holds the least water. It is the fourth largest of the Great Lakes by surface area. Its name means ‘Long Tail’ in Iroquoian, a term that accurately describes its shape.
The smallest of the Great Lakes, Lake Ontario has a surface area of 7,340 square miles. Its surface dimensions are comparable with those of Lake Erie, but it is exceptionally deep and consequently plays host to around four times the amount of water. Lake Ontario is situated at the base of Niagara Falls, and takes its name from the Huron word that means Lake of Shining Water.
As its name suggests, Lake Superior is the most expansive of the Great Lakes by quite a large margin, and holds the largest volume of water. In fact, the name ‘Superior’ derived from the French ‘Lac Superior’, which simply means ‘upper lake’, and reflects its location north of Lake Huron.
There is no doubt that these glacially carved lakes have a magical quality that will continue to draw travellers like Gavin Manerowski to their shores. They have an enduring appeal, and form an integral part of the lives of the people who live beside them.