Lake Huron

Remote and beautiful, Lake Huron was the first to be discovered by Europeans.

While Lake Huron was the first of the Great Lakes to be discovered by Europeans, it has not experienced heavy industrial development. The pristine nature of Lake Huron and its environs can still be seen in the rustic landscape of the Georgian Bay north shore and the mountains of Manitoulin Island. Although small fishing villages and ports dot the map of Lake Huron, much of it is exactly like it was 10,000 years ago when the retreat of the last glacial ice age gave birth to the Great Lakes.

Lake Huron’s discovery by European explorers fueled the interest in further exploration throughout the Great Lakes region. Like the Glacial Ice Age centuries before, Lake Huron’s discovery began a course of events that dramatically influenced the development of the North American continent.

Today, Lake Huron is a refuge for many seeking the natural experience that the Great Lakes can provide.

Lake Huron coastline with lighthouse in the distance

Lake Huron, the second largest of the Great Lakes, is rich in history and natural beauty. Here are some cool facts about it:

  1. Greatest Shoreline Length: Lake Huron has the longest shoreline of all the Great Lakes, including its 30,000 islands. The total shoreline length is about 3,827 miles (6,157 km).
  2. Manitoulin Island: It is home to the world’s largest freshwater island, Manitoulin Island, which itself contains over 100 inland lakes.
  3. Shipwreck Alley: The lake is known for having over 1,000 shipwrecks, particularly in the area known as “Shipwreck Alley” near the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. This makes it a popular spot for diving enthusiasts.
  4. Deepest Point: Lake Huron’s deepest point is 750 feet (229 meters), making it the second-deepest of the Great Lakes.
  5. Georgian Bay: A large bay of Lake Huron, Georgian Bay, is sometimes called the “sixth Great Lake” due to its size and distinctiveness. It covers an area of approximately 5,792 square miles (15,000 square kilometers).
  6. Cultural History: The lake is named after the Huron people, an Iroquoian-speaking tribe who lived in the region before European colonization.
  7. Hydrological Connection: Lake Huron is hydrologically connected to Lake Michigan through the Straits of Mackinac, effectively functioning as a single lake hydrologically.
  8. Water Volume: It holds about 850 cubic miles (3,540 cubic kilometers) of water, making it the third-largest Great Lake by volume.
  9. Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River: Water flows from Lake Huron into Lake Erie through the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River.
  10. Bruce Peninsula: The Bruce Peninsula, which separates Georgian Bay from the main body of Lake Huron, is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve known for its unique flora and fauna, as well as spectacular cliffs and hiking trails.
  11. Flora and Fauna: The lake’s ecosystem supports a variety of wildlife, including fish species such as lake trout, walleye, and smallmouth bass, as well as bird species like the endangered piping plover.
  12. Alvar Habitats: The northern shores of Lake Huron are known for their unique alvar habitats, which are limestone plains with sparse vegetation found in very few places around the world.
  13. Early Exploration: French explorers, including Samuel de Champlain, were among the first Europeans to explore the lake in the early 17th century.
  14. Hydroelectric Power: The lake is a source of hydroelectric power, with several dams and power stations utilizing its water for energy production.

These facts highlight Lake Huron’s unique geographical, ecological, and cultural significance within the Great Lakes system.

Additional Information

Native Fish: Whitefish, lake herring, lake trout, yellow perch, and rainbow smelt
Mammals: Red wolf, coyote, and white-tailed deer
Birds: Pileated woodpeckers, mourning doves, and cardinals
Forests: Spruce fir and aspen begin to mix with sugar maple and yellow birch. White pine and beech grow on the warmer, south-facing slopes.
Dimensions: 206 miles long x 183 miles wide
Depth: Average 195 feet; max 750 feet
Volume: 850 cubic miles
Elevation: 577 feet above sea level
Shoreline Length: 3,827 miles including over 30,000 islands. Huron has the longest shoreline of lakes in the world
Outlet: St. Clair River to Lake Erie
Retention/Replacement Time: 22 years
Population: 1.5 million US/ 1.5 million Canada

Several museums in the United States are located on or near Lake Huron, each offering unique insights into the region’s history, culture, and maritime heritage. Here are some notable ones:

  1. Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center (Alpena, Michigan):
    • This museum features exhibits on the shipwrecks and maritime history of Lake Huron. It includes artifacts recovered from shipwrecks and interactive displays about underwater archaeology.
  2. Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum (Whitefish Point, Michigan):
    • Located at Whitefish Point, this museum is dedicated to the history of shipwrecks on the Great Lakes, with a particular focus on the SS Edmund Fitzgerald. It includes exhibits on maritime navigation and the lives of mariners.
  3. Icebreaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum  (Mackinaw City, Michigan):
    • This museum explores the maritime history of the Mackinac Straits area, which connects Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. Exhibits include historic ships, maritime artifacts, and displays about the region’s nautical past.
  4. St. Ignace Heritage Museum (St. Ignace, Michigan):
    • The museum highlights the cultural and historical heritage of St. Ignace and the surrounding area, including exhibits on Native American history and the maritime history of the Great Lakes.
  5. Bay County Historical Society and Historical Museum (Bay City, Michigan):
    • Located near Saginaw Bay, which is part of Lake Huron, this museum offers exhibits on the history of Bay County, including its maritime and industrial heritage.
  6. Tawas Point Lighthouse and Museum (East Tawas, Michigan):
    • This historic lighthouse includes a museum that provides information about the history of the lighthouse, shipwrecks, and maritime navigation on Lake Huron.
  7. Old Presque Isle Lighthouse and Museum (Presque Isle, Michigan):
    • This museum, located at the historic lighthouse, offers exhibits on the lighthouse’s history, shipwrecks, and the maritime heritage of the Lake Huron coast.
  8. Huron City Museums (Huron City, Michigan):
    • This collection of historic buildings and museums offers a glimpse into 19th-century life in Huron City, with exhibits on the local maritime history, shipwrecks, and the lumber industry.

These museums provide diverse perspectives on the rich maritime history, cultural heritage, and natural environment of the Lake Huron region in the United States.