Boating in the Great Lakes
The Great Lakes is one of the largest inland freshwater lake systems in the world. The southern end sits in the Midwest and stretches north into Canada. The boat on the Great Lakes is a great option if you want a different kind of boating. The area provides a combination of urban access, historical sites, water sports, fishing, diving along with breathtaking scenery and unique wildlife.
If you have never been here you are close to freshwater ocean as you will likely see, with tides, currents, wind waves that can reach over 6 feet and passages that are too wide to even see the other side. On a map of Lake Michigan, you may see long and narrow but the lake is actually close to one hundred miles wide and way too far to see across. All of these lakes are connected to one another, and the Erie Canal and the St. Lawrence Seaway are used as connection points between the lakes and the Atlantic Ocean.
The Great Lakes are excellent voting for many kinds of boats. One can see sailboats, large pleasure boats or even small ski boats at all different locations. The different conditions should be paid attention to for each of the type of boat. Small boats should always be wary of wind waves and large vessel traffic and the shipping lanes. Large boats should always be certain that they have planned their fuel stops, as large sections of shoreline are not conducive to deep drafts. You may have about that is too large to trailer so you will need a winter plan to pull your boat out of the water. Winter ice can dock your boat. Sellers need to choose their passages carefully and know how to maximize when and avoid areas with too many jet skis or ski boats. If you are new to the area, there is a ton of boating information at the Great Lakes Seaway Trail which is designed to help you maximize your enjoyment on the Great Lakes.
Here are the five lakes and what each has to offer boaters.
Boating in Lake Erie
It is the southernmost and most shallow of the five lakes but this also makes it the warmest. Some may warn you from swimming or watersports here as it used to have the reputation as one of the dirtiest water bodies on the planet. It is said to have caught fire once. However, the establishment of the Clean Water Act has a lot to protect and restore the environment and water sports are very common and safe.
Lake Erie forms in northern coast of much of the state of Ohio. It also shares boaters with Ontario, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York. It can be accessed from the west through Lake Huron and from the north and east through the Erie Canal or Lake Ontario. There is much to do here and here are some highlights:
Niagara Falls: this is the honeymoon capital of the Northeast and the reason the Erie Canal and its locks were created in the first place. The sensational and beautiful drop in elevation here has led to North America's most beautiful waterfall.
Cedar Point: this is a sandy peninsula that sits on the lake southern coast just west of Cleveland. It offers marinas, restaurants, water sports such as parasailing and now an amusement park with the world's largest collection of record-setting roller coasters.
Put-in Bay: this is a small Ohio town on Bass Island, which requires access by water or air. It was recently voted one of the nation's most charming towns.
Boating in Lake Huron
This lake gets a ton of boating, as several major cities in the Detroit Metro area and its Canadian neighbor Windsor sit at Huron's tributary, the St. Clair River. Lake Huron is great for boating, swimming and staying in coastal campgrounds from the area of Michigan and upward. At the north end, Huron meets up with Lake Michigan. This is a narrow section and divides the lower and upper peninsulas of Michigan. It is the home of the tourist haven of Mackinac Island. At the south end, the attached St. Clair River winds its way into Lake Erie. Lake Huron is relatively sheltered so it is a great place for swimming and water sports, along with fishing and boating. One can also find some wreck diving but not as much as in some of the other lakes. Lake Huron's location along this uninhabited section of the Canadian border gave it a prime role in the world 1812. It was the site of many naval battles. There are a few military forts that remain along the coastline and can be toured. The region to the north of Detroit has a large number of mansions with their own docs that sit along the shoreline between Detroit and Lake Huron. Many are owned by the captains of industry and the founders of Detroit's many Fortune 500 companies.
Boating in Lake Ontario
This lake is the North of New York State and is the easternmost of the lakes in the doorway to the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Atlantic Ocean. It serves as a major Seaway for international shipping for the Great Lakes manufacturing cities. There are only a few smaller cities along the shores, nothing large. This makes Lake Ontario a haven for boaters, as coastlines are mostly reserved for smaller boats and have a great selection of marinas. Lake Ontario has an excellent choice of 100 marinas and fuel docs along its coastlines and is a great fishing lake. The southern easterly coast of Lake Ontario has a number of great white sandy beaches and is a remnant of the inland sea that was originally in the location of the lakes.
Boating in Lake Michigan
The best-known location on Lake Michigan is of course the city of Chicago. But different regions of Lake Michigan are known for different things. The northern end is a major iron ore extraction area along the coast of Wisconsin in northern Michigan. There is a famous Coast Guard station in southern Michigan that is known because the cutters in this area are designed for the surprise steep waves of the lake and can flip and write themselves in choppy water. There are a number of racks here for great diving. The Michigan and the Indiana coastlines have beautiful sand dune parks along the shore, which is a product of the constant wind coming off of the planes. This same land makes the East Coast of Lake Michigan great for windsurfing, parasailing and even surfing. Most of this lake is bordered by the coast of Michigan and Wisconsin, with only small sections belonging to Indiana and Illinois. If you follow the Great Lakes Trail beginning from the east, Chicago will be your final destination as it is the furthest point to the southeast along the lakes this is one of the windiest lakes and can be very choppy. The ferry that crosses the stretch between Ludington, Michigan and Oshkosh, Wisconsin is the passage where even the crew can get seasick. High summer is the only time that it's usually calm enough to run a fairy on a flat lake so those who like to boat on calm waters should consider this when you are boating and choosing Lake Michigan.
Lake Superior and Boating
Lake Superior is the largest and most northern of all the lakes. It has the shortest boating season due to its latitude because it's always a cold swim. The conditions are stark and beautiful with a number of beautiful national parks and shorelines to discover. Superior is reached at the north end of Lake Huron, through the Soo Locks. Lake Superior is not a great Marina presence but its natural beauty is unparalleled. Painted Rocks National Lakeshore has a collection of steep sandstone cliffs that are layered with colored mineral deposits. Turquoise waters hang below the red orange and gold and create spectacular views for hiking and climbing. Isle Royale National Park is an isolated park in this lake and offers access only by boat for any camper hiker. The island is famous in the biological community for helping discover much about the moose and wolf population interaction without any interference by man. Wreck diving is popular as many ships dating back to the early 1800s to discover.
Tips for Boating on the Great Lakes
Finally, there are boating tips you need to consider on all of the lakes. First, freshwater lakes are seasonal. Don't plan to visit them in the spring unless you are certain that it will be a warm spell and that warm spell will continue. Both freak ice storms and major winds are common at that time a year. Second, if you are trailering a boat in the Great Lakes, do a very good job of rinsing your intake when you are done. The lakes are all fighting a zebra mussel infestation in trying hard to keep it from spreading. If you are unsure of what steps to take to prevent mussel spread, check with the public brain is on tips how to clean your boat properly.
No matter which great lake you choose, you are sure to find it unique and full of fun opportunities.