How Deep Is Lake Erie? Discover 5 Facts About This Great Lake

Written by Abdulmumin Akinde
Updated: July 21, 2023
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Infographic about Lake Erie.
Because of its depth, Lake Erie is also the most likely Great Lake to freeze over.

Lake Erie is undoubtedly one of the most popular lakes in North America. Stradling the borders of the United States and Canada, this lake is one of the famous Great Lakes of North America.

In addition to Lake Erie, other Great Lakes include Lake Superior, Lake Ontario, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron.

How Deep is Lake Erie and what other fascinating facts are there to know about it? Read on to find out the answer to this and many questions. 

Lake Erie Is the Shallowest of the 5 Great Lakes

First, how deep is Lake Erie? This lake actually has the lowest depth of all the Great 5 Lakes. It has an average depth of about 62 feet (19 meters). At the deepest point, Lake Erie has a maximum depth of 210 feet (64 meters). 

The lake’s size is not the most impressive. It is located at an elevation of 569 feet (173 meters) above sea level and has a total shoreline of 799 miles (1,286 km). That’s excluding a shoreline of about 72 miles (116 km) for its 31 islands.

The maximum length of this lake is about 241 miles (388 km). Also, it has a maximum width of 57 miles (92 km). The lake’s lengthy shoreline runs across several states in the United States and Canada. In the US, it runs along states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York. In Canada, on the other hand, it is bordered by Ontario. 

While Lake Erie is the shallowest of all the Great Lakes, it isn’t the smallest in terms of surface area. With a total surface area of 9,910 square miles (25,667 sq km), Lake Erie is the fourth smallest. It is larger than Lake Ontario by up to 2,500 square miles. However, the other three lakes are significantly bigger. Next in terms of surface area is Lake Michigan, which is up to 12,000 square miles bigger than Lake Erie. 

Lake Erie

Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes, but its surface area is larger than Lake Ontario’s.


It’s Prone to Temperature Extremes 

Lake Erie is the warmest Great Lake during the summer months. But it is also the coldest in winter. This tendency to experience temperature extremes is due to the lake’s shallow depth. The maximum temperature on record was in the Summer of 1999 when the lake reached temperatures as high as 85 F (29 C). However, in most years, the temperature remains within the low 70s (between 21 C to 24 C). The warm temperature is one of the reasons why this Lake is a popular recreational center.  

Interestingly, the lake is also the coldest during winter. The shallow depth allows the lake to freeze up faster than the other Great Lakes. The shallowest part of the lake in the western basin can freeze over completely during the winter months. It is the only one of the 5 Great Lakes that can freeze over this way. 

However, it doesn’t always freeze over completely. The last time it happened like this was in February of 2010. While this phenomenon rarely happens, if the lake were to freeze over, it would be possible to drive all the way from the United States to Canada on the Lake

There Have Been So Many Shipwrecks 

Lake Erie has seen the most shipwrecks of all the Great Lakes. Due to its favorable location, Lake Erie is one of the busiest lakes in North America. It has numerous connecting waterways and was on the border of several cities, which means it was quite significant as a trading route. The Erie Canal, which is one of the first gateways to the West, was built on this lake in 1825

The abundance of wrecks to explore and the shallow depth of this lake makes it a favorite spot for Shipwreck tourism. However, being such a busy lake also meant there were a lot of shipwrecks on it. According to estimates, between 1,400 to 8,000 ships and watercraft have sunk to this lake’s bottom. 

Divers often swim to the bottom of the lake to find old shipwrecks. Currently, there are at least 270 confirmed shipwreck locations at the bottom of Lake Erie, making it easy for divers to explore. 

B&W photo of a barge going through the Erie Canal

A barge goes through the Erie Canal in 1890

©Everett Collection/

It Only Takes 2.6 Years for Lake Erie to Be Filled With Completely New Water

If you swam in Lake Erie 3 years ago and returned this year for a swim, you would be swimming in completely new water. This is because Lake Erie has a very short water retention time —— the shortest of all the Great Lakes. It takes about 2.5 years for water in the lake to be completely replaced.

The reason for this low retention is that the lake is well-drained. Several small rivers contribute to the flow of water into Lake Erie. The main inflow is from the Detroit River in the West. Other rivers that contribute to water inflow include the Grand River, the Maumee River, the Huron River, the Buffalo River, the Cuyahoga River, and the Sandusky River. On the Eastern end, it is drained by the Niagara River and Niagara Falls, 

There Is a Sea Monster in Lake Erie

Since the 18th century, there have been several reports of sightings of a sea monster on Lake Erie. The giant serpent has been nicknamed Bessie and is quite popular in northeastern Ohio and Michigan folklore. It is similar to the famous Loch Ness monster. 

Whether there is an actual sea monster in Lake Erie remains unverified. However, we do know of an actual massive creature that swims the waters of this lake. Lake Erie is home to the sturgeon, an enormous fish that can grow to lengths of up to 10 feet (3 meters) and may weigh up to 300 pounds (140 kg). The fish lives at the bottom of the lake, and many anglers visit Lake Erie for a catch. 

Apart from anglers trying to score a big catch, many people visit the parks built around this massive lake for other activities such as bird watching, hiking, and biking. 

sturgeon in aquarium

Lake sturgeon, can reach up to 300 pounds in Lake Erie.


Where is Lake Erie Located on a Map?

Lake Erie, one of the five Great Lakes in North America, ranks as the fourth-largest lake in terms of surface area globally and the eleventh-largest overall. It holds the distinction of being the southernmost, shallowest, and smallest in volume among the Great Lakes, resulting in a relatively shorter average water residence time.

Here is Lake Erie on a map:

The photo featured at the top of this post is © johnson

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About the Author

Abdulmumin is a pharmacist and a top-rated content writer who can pretty much write on anything that can be researched on the internet. However, he particularly enjoys writing about animals, nature, and health. He loves animals, especially horses, and would love to have one someday.

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