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Why Is Michigan Called the Great Lakes State?

Michigan is affectionately known as the Great Lakes State due to its unique geography, being nestled among four of the five majestic Great Lakes. This proximity blesses Michigan with the longest freshwater coastline in the U.S., shaping its culture, economy, and very identity. How does this connection influence life in Michigan? Join us as we explore the ripple effects on the state.
Jackie Myers
Jackie Myers

Michigan is called the Great Lakes State due to the fact that its shores touch four of the Great Lakes. These lakes include Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Superior, and Lake Michigan. Almost half of this state is comprised of water. In addition to the four Great Lakes, Michigan has more than 11,000 inland lakes. People in Michigan are always within 85 miles of one of the Great Lakes and never less than 6 miles away from an inland lake. Experts state the Great Lakes were created by glaciers more than 12,000 years ago.

This state's name is also rooted in the Chippewa Indian word for "large lake." The upper and lower peninsula of Michigan is shaped by the four Great Lakes it is surrounded by, and the bodies of freshwater in the Great Lakes State can be viewed from the moon.

Lake Superior is one of four of the Great Lakes touched by Michigan.
Lake Superior is one of four of the Great Lakes touched by Michigan.

Lake Erie is the smallest of the four Great Lakes in Michigan. It accounts for a short stretch of coastline from the Detroit River to the Ohio border. The area of Lake Erie is 9,940 square miles (25,744 sq km). It is also the shallowest of all the Great Lakes and averages only 62 feet (19.8 meters) deep. Coastal marshes and wetlands can be found where Lake Erie meets the shore of the Great Lakes State.

Michigan is known as the Great Lakes State for its five major lakes and more than 11,000 inland lakes.
Michigan is known as the Great Lakes State for its five major lakes and more than 11,000 inland lakes.

The fifth largest fresh water lake on the planet, Lake Huron, is the second largest of the Great Lakes. Its surface area is 23,010 square miles (59,596 sq km). Michigan's eastern border is shaped by this lake, which was originally known as La Mer Douce by French explorers. Later, this Great Lake claimed its name from the Huron Indians.

The northern coast of the Great Lakes State comes into contact with Lake Superior, which is the largest freshwater lake found on Earth. Lake Superior covers 31,820 square miles (82,400 sq km) in the US and 11,081 square miles (28,700 sq km) in Canada. This lake has a history of shipwrecks and violent storms. Isle Royale is the largest island on Lake Superior in Michigan.

Detroit is probably the most famous city in Michigan.
Detroit is probably the most famous city in Michigan.

Lake Michigan is the second largest Great Lake. Of all the Great Lakes, it is the only one that is completely surrounded by the United States. Rivers and streams from the Great Lakes State drain into Lake Michigan, and a complete change of water occurs every 100 years as it flows into Lake Huron through the Straits of Mackinac.

Although the official state flower of Michigan is the apple blossom, the official state wildflower is the dwarf lake iris. It is a threatened species but can be spotted along the shorelines of the Great Lakes in Michigan. An image of a lake is also displayed on Michigan's state flag.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Michigan known as the Great Lakes State?

Michigan is known as the Great Lakes State because it is surrounded by four of the five Great Lakes: Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, and Lake Erie. This unique geographical positioning gives Michigan the longest freshwater coastline of any political subdivision in the world, totaling nearly 3,288 miles, according to Michigan's official website. The state's deep connection with these lakes has shaped its history, economy, and culture, making the moniker "Great Lakes State" a point of pride.

How many miles of Great Lakes shoreline does Michigan have?

Michigan boasts nearly 3,288 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, as reported by Michigan's official website. This extensive coastline includes the shores of four of the five Great Lakes, which are Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, and Lake Erie. This makes Michigan the state with the longest freshwater coastline in the United States and a significant portion of the world's freshwater shoreline.

What economic benefits do the Great Lakes provide to Michigan?

The Great Lakes are a cornerstone of Michigan's economy, providing numerous benefits. They support a thriving maritime industry, including shipping and transportation, which is vital for trade. The lakes also bolster tourism, with attractions like beaches, fishing, and boating drawing millions of visitors annually. Additionally, the Great Lakes are a critical water source for agriculture and industry. According to the Michigan Sea Grant, the Great Lakes region contributes over $62 billion annually to the state's economy through these various sectors.

How do the Great Lakes influence Michigan's climate?

The Great Lakes significantly influence Michigan's climate by moderating temperatures, leading to milder winters and cooler summers near the coastlines. The lakes act as a heat sink, absorbing heat in the summer and releasing it during colder months. This effect, known as "lake-effect," also contributes to increased precipitation, particularly snowfall, in areas downwind of the lakes. This phenomenon is especially notable in western Michigan, where lake-effect snow is common.

What recreational activities can be enjoyed in Michigan's Great Lakes?

Michigan's Great Lakes offer a plethora of recreational activities that attract both residents and tourists. These include boating, sailing, kayaking, and fishing, with the lakes being home to a diverse range of fish species. The beaches along the lakes are popular for swimming, sunbathing, and beach sports. In the winter, activities shift to ice fishing, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. The Great Lakes also provide scenic backdrops for hiking and camping in the surrounding state parks and natural areas.

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    • Lake Superior is one of four of the Great Lakes touched by Michigan.
      By: rudi1976
      Lake Superior is one of four of the Great Lakes touched by Michigan.
    • Michigan is known as the Great Lakes State for its five major lakes and more than 11,000 inland lakes.
      By: Floki Fotos
      Michigan is known as the Great Lakes State for its five major lakes and more than 11,000 inland lakes.
    • Detroit is probably the most famous city in Michigan.
      By: helgidinson
      Detroit is probably the most famous city in Michigan.