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Unusually High Waves on Lake Michigan Near Montrose Beach, Chicago on October 20, 2011.

Lake Michigan is one of the five Great Lakes of North America and the only lake among the Great Lakes that is located entirely within the United States. The other four Great Lakes are shared by the U.S. and Canada.


Lake Michigan is the second-largest of the Great Lakes by volume and the third-largest by surface area, after Lake Superior and Lake Huron. Lake Michigan surface area is slightly smaller than the U.S. state of West Virginia. To the east, its basin is conjoined with that of Lake Huron through the wide Straits of Mackinac, giving it the same surface elevation as its easterly counterpart. Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are technically a single lake. Lake Michigan is shared, from west to east, by the U.S. states of Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. Ports along its shores include Chicago; Milwaukee; Green Bay, Wisconsin; Gary, Indiana; and Muskegon, Michigan.

Surface Area and Size
Lake Michigan has a surface area of 22,404 sq.mi (58,026 km2); (13,237 square miles, 34,284 km2 lying in Michigan state, 7,358 square miles, 19,056 km2 in Wisconsin, 234 square miles, 606 km2 in Indiana, & 1,576 square miles, 4,079 km2 in Illinois.

The state boundaries for the respective states are approximately in the middle of the body of water between states.

In the world, Lake Michigan is the largest lake entirely within one country by surface area. Lake Baikal, in Russia, is larger by water volume.

Lake Michigan is the fifth-largest lake in the world, and is the larger half of Lake Michigan–Huron, which is the largest body of fresh water in the world. Green Bay in the northwest is its largest bay. Grand Traverse Bay in its northeast is another large bay.

Lake Michigan is 307 miles (494 km) long by 118 miles (190 km) wide with a shoreline that is 1,640 miles (2,640 km) long.

The lake’s average depth is 46 fathoms 3 feet (279 ft; 85 m), while its greatest depth is 153 fathoms 5 feet (923 ft; 281 m) in the north central area of the lake, which is known as Chippewa Basin, and is separated from South Chippewa Basin by a relatively shallower area called the Mid Lake Plateau. Chippewa Basin is named after prehistoric Lake Chippewa.

Lake Michigan contains a volume of 1,180 cubic miles (4,918 km³) of water, which equates to 1.2992e+15 US gallons.

The word “Michigan” originally referred to the lake itself, and is believed to come from the Ojibwe word michi-gami meaning “great water”


Illinois Cities on the Lake Michigan Shoreline
Highland Park
Lake Forest
Lake Bluff
North Chicago
Winthrop Harbor


Big Sable Point, Michigan
The Beaver Island archipelago in Charlevoix County, Michigan, includes Beaver Island, Garden Island, Grape Island, Gull Island, Hat Island, High Island, Hog Island, Horseshoe Island, Little Island, Pismire Island, Shoe Island, Squaw Island, Trout Island, and Whiskey Island.

The Fox Islands in Leelanau County, Michigan, consist of North Fox Island and South Fox Island.

The Manitou Islands, North Manitou Island and South Manitou Island, are in Leelanau County, Michigan.

Islands within Grand Traverse Bay include Bassett Island, Bellow Island, and Marion Island.

Islands south of the Garden Peninsula in Delta County, Michigan include Gravelly Island, Gull Island, Little Gull Island, Little Summer Island, Poverty Island, Rocky Island, St. Martin Island, and Summer Island.

Islands in Big Bay de Noc in Delta County, Michigan include Round Island, Saint Vital Island, and Snake Island.

Islands in Little Bay de Noc in Delta County, Michigan include Butlers Island and Sand Island.

Wilderness State Park in Emmet County, Michigan contains Temperance Island and Waugoshance Island.

Epoufette Island, Gravel Island, Little Hog Island, and Naubinway Island are located in Mackinac County, Michigan, in the area of Epoufette, Michigan and Naubinway, Michigan.

Green Island and St. Helena Island are in the vicinity of the Mackinac Bridge, in Mackinac County, Michigan.

Islands surrounding the Door Peninsula in Wisconsin include Chambers Island, Fish Island, Gravel Island, Spider Island, Horseshoe Island, the Sister Islands, Detroit Island, Green Island, Hog Island, Pilot Island, Plum Island, Rock Island, the Strawberry Islands and Washington Island. The northern half of the peninsula is technically an island itself, due to the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal.

Northerly Island is a 91-acre (37 ha) man-made island in Chicago. It is the home of the Adler Planetarium, the former site of Meigs Field, and the current site of the temporary concert venue Charter One Pavilion each summer.

Other islands included Fisherman Island in Charlevoix County, Michigan and Ile aux Galets in Emmet County, Michigan.

Plum Island (Wisconsin) is an island at the western shore of Lake Michigan in the southern part of the town of Washington in Door County, Wisconsin.

See also …











Winthrop Harbor is known for its North Point Marina, and is a warning demarcation point for the National Weather Service’s marine warnings for Lake Michigan. North Point Marina is the largest marina on the Great Lakes with moorage over 1,500 boats.


The Chicago Harbor Lighthouse is an automated active lighthouse, located at the south end of the northern breakwater protecting the Chicago Harbor, just east of Navy Pier and the mouth of the Chicago River. The City of Chicago designated the lighthouse a Chicago Landmark on April 9, 2003. United States Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar initiated transfer of the lighthouse to the City of Chicago on February 24, 2009, after the US Coast Guard declared the lighthouse an excess.

Related Glossary
Riprap – rock or other material used to armor shorelines against scour and water or ice erosion.

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