Lake Erie was gouged out by glacial
ice between 1 million and 12,600 years ago.
It was one of the first Great Lakes
to be uncovered during the last retreat of the
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 is the 12th-largest (area)
lake in the world, and its border includes four
states (NY, PA, OH, MI) and one Canadian Province
Lake Erie is the southernmost,
shallowest, warmest, and most biologically
productive of the five Great Lakes.
Lake Erie has three basins: the
western basin includes the islands area, the central
basin extends from the islands to Erie, PA, and Long
Point, Canada, and the eastern basin extends from
Erie, PA, to the east end of the lake.
Lake Erie is about 210 miles (338 km)
long, about 57 miles (92 km) wide, and has a
shoreline length of about 871 miles (1,400 km).
The maximum depth of Lake Erie is 210 feet (64 m).
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 Lake Erie water surface area is 9,906
square miles (25,657 sq. km) and the volume is 116
cubic miles (483 cu. km).
Lake Erie's drainage basin area is
22,720 square miles (58,800 sq. km) and 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% of the flow into Lake Erie.
The outlet for Lake Erie is the
Niagara River; consequently, it is Lake Erie that
feeds water to Niagara Falls.
Basin rainfall is about 34 inches per
year, although the historical trend is increasing
About 34 inches of water evaporates
from the Lake Erie surface per year.
Elevation of the Low Water Datum
(chart "0") is 568.6 feet above Father Point,
Quebec. Average water elevation is about 570 feet
above the same point.
Lake Erie was the last of the Great
Lakes to be discovered by Europeans, by Louis Joliet
(a French explorer) in 1669.
French claims to Lake Erie were ceded
to England as a result of the 1754-63 French and
In 1796, Connecticut gave up its
claim to the Western Reserve lands, which then
permitted settlement of what is now northeastern
The famous quotation "We have met the
enemy and they are ours," was made by Oliver Hazzard
Perry during the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of
1812, which secured the south shore of the lake for
Heat storage by the lake tempers the
fall climate and lengthens the growing season.
The only National Estuarine Sanctuary
on the Great Lakes is located at the mouth of Old
Woman Creek near Huron, Ohio, the southernmost point
on the Great Lakes.