Before jump-starting this new thread I searched the archives for a definitive Great Lakes thread. There were a few that touched on specific Great Lakes issues or communities, but no actual thread that sings the praises of this wonderful and magnificent area.
Those of us who have lived or still live in the Great Lakes region are often aware of the area's beauty, riches, agricultural bounty, industrial might, powerful cities, and clean fresh water. We also know of the spoiling of some of that beauty, the stolen riches, the rust-belt problems, decaying cities, and water that we polluted.
For better or for worse, and as a treasure-trove of information on one (1) of the best dang places on the third planet from the sun, I present the first installment of "The Great Lakes". Feel free to jump in the water and join me.....
Some Sizing Is In Order.....The Great Lakes (Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, Ontario) have more than 10,000 miles of shoreline. It is the largest collection of fresh water in the world. The lakes consist of more than 94,000 square miles of surface water, with a drainage area of over 201,000 square miles.
Lake Superior, the largest and deepest and coldest of the lakes has a spot that is 1332 feet deep. These lakes hold 21% of the world's fresh surface water. These lakes hold 84% of North America's fresh surface water.
Cities & Population.....The Great Lakes area has about 10% of the US population and about 31% of the Canadian population. America's "second city", Chicago, is on Lake Michigan. Other large Lake Michigan cities include Milwaukee and Green Bay. Up on cold Lake Superior, twin cities are the norm.....with former Ontario twin cities joined to form Thunder Bay, Duluth-Superior, and Sault Ste. Marie (Ontario and Michigan).
Detroit is on the Detroit River between Lake Huron and Lake Erie. On Lake Erie, Toledo, Cleveland, and Buffalo line the shore. Lake Ontario has Canadian giant Toronto and a very-close-to-the-lake Rochester, NY.
Industrial Giant & Rustbelt Woes.....The Great Lakes region is the home of one of the world's largest concentrations of industry. Steel, automobiles, automobile parts, furniture, glass, appliances, beer.....what an incredible line-up of industry.
In manufacturing, 46% of the USA's Top 500 manufacturing company headquarters are located in Great Lakes states.
But with the giant and not-so-giant factories came unions (establishing the American middle-class but, IMHO, going way too far to protect those that are lazy) and pollution. The Great Lakes has a huge collection of coal-fired electrical power plants, many large cities that are not in compliance with EPA regulations that were enacted years ago, and a history of some scary "local" pollution horror stories. ("The Cuyahoga River.....look, it's on fire!")
Oddly enough, the large cities that are in Great Lakes states but NOT located directly on the lakes are doing very well.....Columbus, OH.....Indianapolis, IN.....Grand Rapids, MI.....Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN. Many of the cities actually on the lakes are struggling.
Education.....What an incredible list of top-notch schools, located on or near the Great Lakes.....Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Purdue, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Illinois, Minnesota, Case-Western Reserve, Ohio State, Indiana, DePaul.
Walleye, Perch, Salmon, Oh My........The Great Lakes offer some of the best fishing in the world. Michigan's salmon fishery is one (1) of the best in the world. Lake Erie is the Walleye Capitol of the World. Smallmouth bass fishing in Lake Erie (by the western basin's islands) and in the rocky coves of northern Lake Michigan is superb. Largemouth bass and muskie fishing in Lake St. Clair, part of the Great Lakes "flow", is fantastic.
In 2001, Great Lakes anglers purchased 27,913 fishing licenses. Michigan leads the nation in registered boats. Nothing fishy about this sport in this region!
History.....Years ago, surveyors drove a shiner into the ground at Defiance, OH.....on the Maumee River, the largest river feeding into the Great Lakes. That marker set the township lines that were used in all of the great Northwest Territory.
The states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota were established.
Many important battles were fought in the Great Lakes area, leading to the present-day boundaries of Canda and the US. As the young countries grew and prospered, the Great Lakes became the location for industry, invention, statesmen, mining, and creativity. ("Oh, those Rockefellers!")
Culture.....The Great Lakes gave the world some of the best in culture. Some of the world's best museums are on the shores. The zoos of the Great Lakes are the most-complete in the world. The term "rock and roll" was coined in Cleveland, OH. Turn on your radio and you will hear the Great Lakes: The Cleveland Orchestra, Eminem, Bob Seger, Buddy Guy, Bob Dylan, Boston (!), The Goo Goo Dolls, Pat Benatar, Michael Jackson, Ted Nugent, The White Stripes, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, The Dells, etc. etc. etc.
The Great Lakes also gave us the folks who said "Cheeseburger-cheesburger!". And cheese-heads. And Cheesehaven. And the Wisconsin Dells. And the largest single collection of roller coasters in the world, at Cedar Point, OH.
And a minor-league baseball team with the name Mud Hens (Toledo).
Of Frozen Tundra & Other Sporty Stuff.....The sports world did not take a back seat in the Great Lakes. In college football the list of national powers from the region is almost endless. In professional football, numerous Super Bowls and NFL Championships were won by teams from Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit. Green Bay's Packers gave us the term "frozen tundra".
NFL pros are honored just south of Cleveland, at the Hall Of Fame (Canton, OH).
Three (3) of the original NHL hockey teams are from the Great Lakes: The Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Black Hawks, and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Jump In.....the water is fine! When you swim in the Great Lakes you are joining millions of others who use these incredible bodies of water for boating, fishing, ice skating, ice boating, water skiing, etc. Cottages line the shores of the four (4) southern lakes. Much of Lake Superior remains shoreline wilderness.
Up north, when you jump in, you are jumping in water that was also jumped in to by bears, moose, wolves, fox, bobcats, coyotes, badgers, wolverines, etc.
6000 Trillion Gallons.....yeap, the Great Lakes holds a lot of water. But it also holds incredible memories and moments for all of us who grew up and choose to live in this wonderful region.