Lake Michigan Series

Untitled photo

Shown above: The Michigan City, Indiana, pier and lighthouse (standing on the south shore of Lake Michigan facing north/northwest.  Photo taken October 9, 2021.

Lake Michigan is one of the five Great Lakes of North America. It is the second-largest of the Great Lakes by volume (1,180 cu mi (4,900 km3)) and the third-largest by surface area (22,404 sq mi (58,030 km2)). To the east, its basin is conjoined with that of Lake Huron through the narrow Straits of Mackinac, giving it the same surface elevation as its easterly counterpart.

Located in the United States, it is shared, from west to east, by the states of Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. Ports along its shores include Milwaukee and the City of Green Bay in Wisconsin; Chicago in Illinois; Gary in Indiana; and Muskegon in Michigan.

The word "Michigan" is believed to come from the Ojibwe word michi-gami or mishigami meaning "great water".

Beaches

Lake Michigan has many beaches. The region is often referred to as the "Third Coast" of the United States, after those of the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. The sand is often soft and off-white, known as "singing sands" because of the squeaking noise (caused by high quartz content) it emits when walked upon. Some beaches have sand dunes covered in green beach grass and sand cherries, and the water is usually clear and cool, between 55 and 80 °F (13 and 27 °C), even in the late summer months. However, because prevailing westerly winds tend to move the surface water toward the east, there is a flow of warmer water to the Michigan shore in the summer.

The sand dunes located on the east shore of Lake Michigan are the largest freshwater dune system in the world. In multiple locations along the shoreline, the dunes rise several hundred feet above the lake surface. Large dune formations can be seen in many state parks, national forests and national parks along the Indiana and Michigan shoreline. Some of the most expansive and unique dune formations can be found at Indiana Dunes National Park, Saugatuck Dunes State Park, Warren Dunes State Park, Hoffmaster State Park, Silver Lake State Park, Ludington State Park, and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Small dune formations can be found on the western shore of Lake Michigan at Illinois Beach State Park, and moderate-sized dune formations can be found in Kohler-Andrae State Park and Point Beach State Forest in Wisconsin.

The beaches of the western coast and the northernmost part of the east coast are often rocky, with some sandy beaches. The southern and eastern beaches are typically sandy and dune-covered. This is partly because of the prevailing winds from the west (which also cause thick layers of ice to build on the eastern shore in winter). The Chicago city waterfront has been developed for parks, beaches, harbors and marinas, and residential developments connected by the Chicago Lakefront Trail. Where there are no beaches or marinas, stone or concrete revetments protect the shoreline from erosion. The Chicago lakefront is accessible for about 24 miles (39 km) between the city's southern and northern limits along the lake.

Shipping

There are 59 lighthouses that stand on the beaches of Lake Michigan as reminders of the importance of the centuries-old shipping industry. Like all of the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan is used as a major mode of transport for bulk goods. In 2002, 162 million net tons of dry bulk cargo were moved via the Lakes. This was, in order of volume: iron ore, grain and potash. The iron ore and much of the stone and coal are used in the steel industry. There is also some shipping of liquid and containerized cargo, but most modern container vessels cannot pass the locks on the Saint Lawrence Seaway because the ships are too wide. The total amount of shipping on the lakes has been on a downward trend for several years. The Port of Chicago, operated by the Illinois International Port District, has grain (14 million bushels) and bulk liquid (800,000 barrels) storage facilities along Lake Calumet. The central element of the Port District, Calumet Harbor, is maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Powered by SmugMug Owner Log In