Facts & Stats – Lake Erie

Lake Erie Facts

Lake Erie is one of the five Great Lakes. The Great Lakes contain about 20% of the freshwater in the world.

Lake Erie is the 11th largest lake in the world (by surface area), and the fourth largest of the Great Lakes in surface area and the smallest by volume.

Ninety-five percent of Lake Erie’s total inflow of water comes via the Detroit River water from all the “upper lakes” — Superior, Michigan and Huron — the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair and numerous tributaries. The rest comes from precipitation. Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes and is especially vulnerable to fluctuating water levels.


Wind setups (wind pushing the water from one end of the lake toward the other), usually from west to east, have produced large short- term differences in water levels at the eastern and western ends of the lake, the record being more than 16 feet (4.88 meters).


About one-third of the total population of the Great Lakes basin resides within the Lake Erie watershed. Approximately 12 million people live in the watershed, with 17 metropolitan areas having more than 50,000 residents. The lake provides drinking water for about 11 million of these inhabitants

The water provided by Lake Erie for waterborne commerce, navigation, manufacturing, and power production has led to intensive industrial development along its shore, but the basin’s moderate temperatures have also encouraged recreation and agriculture.

Lake Erie is the warmest and most biologically productive of the Great Lakes, and the Lake Erie walleye fishery is widely considered the best in the world.

Point Pelee National Park in Lake Erie is the southernmost point on Canada’s mainland.


  • Length: 241 miles / 388 km
  • Breadth: 57 miles / 92 km
  • Average Depth: 62 ft. / 19 m.
  • Maximum Depth: 210 ft. / 64 m.
  • Volume: 116 cubic miles / 484 cubic km.
  • Water Surface Area: 9,910 sq. miles / 25,700 sq. km.
  • Total Drainage Basin Area: 30,140 sq. miles / 78,000 sq. km.
  • Shoreline Length (including islands): 871 miles / 1,402 km.
  • Elevation: 569 ft. / 173 m.
  • Outlet: Niagara River and Welland Canal
  • Retention/Replacement Time: 2.6 years (shortest of the Great Lakes)

Drainage Basin Area by State/Province:

  • Indiana: 1,300 sq. miles; 3,300 sq. km.
  • Michigan: 5,800 sq. miles; 15,10 sq. km.
  • New York: 1,600 sq. miles; 4,200 sq. km.
  • Ohio: 11,700 sq. miles; 30,400 sq. km.
  • Ontario: 8,800 sq. miles; 22,800 sq. km.
  • Pennsylvania: 500 sq. miles; 1,400 sq. km.

NAME: The greater part of Lake Erie’s southern shore was at one time occupied by a nation known to the Iroquois League as the “Erielhonan,” or the “long-tails,” a tribe of Indians from which the lake derived its name. This name is always mentioned by the early French writers as meaning “cat;” Lac du Chat means “Lake of the Cat.” Many attribute this reference to the wild cat or panther.

References: Great Lakes Atlas, Environment Canada and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1995

Nutrient/Harmful Algae/Manure: Lake Erie Algae Policies/Studies (links to 3 bullets below coming soon)

  • Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement Annex 4 Domestic Action
  • Ohio Nutrient Mass Balance Study
  • Manure Policies/Studies

Great Lakes Commission Lake Erie, Water Quality

Ohio Lake Erie Commission

U.S. EPA Lake Erie

Great Lakes Fishery Commission