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Great Lakes Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Casey Krone
The largest supply of freshwater on Earth lies in the United States, and they are called the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes are all connected by lakes and rivers, and you could travel on the Great Lakes all the way from Minnesota to the Atlantic Ocean. It would be a long trip, but it's possible!

How Were the Great Lakes Formed?

Over 20,000 years ago, the temperatures were very cold. This caused a great mass of ice, called a glacier, covering Canada and the United States. That glacier moved slowly south, scraping the land. When the temperatures warmed, the glacier began to melt and formed the Great Lakes, and its many connecting rivers and lakes.

Names of the Great Lakes

There are five Great Lakes! They are called Lake Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. One easy way to remember the five Great Lakes, is to use the word HOMES. You can use each letter to remember the first letter of the name of each of the lakes.

Lake Huron

Lake Huron is the second largest of the five Great Lakes. It lies just east of Lake Superior. Large ships still pass from Lake Superior to Lake Huron through the Sault St. Marie locks. A lock is a device used for raising and lowering boats, ships, and other watercraft between stretches of water at different levels on rivers and canals.

Lake Ontario

This lake is located the farthest east. Ships pass through Lake Ontario, to the St. Lawrence River, and then to the Atlantic Ocean. Lake Ontario is located below the height of Lake Erie, and this is where the Niagara Falls flow. Toronto, Canada lies on Lake Ontario as well.

Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan is the third largest of the Great Lakes. It touches many states including Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, and Indiana. Lake Michigan is home to the world's largest freshwater dunes. A sand dune is a ridge of sand created by wind. The city of Chicago sits on the southernmost tip of Lake Michigan. Because water circulates so slowly in Lake Michigan, it could take up to 99 years to replace water in this lake.

Sleeping Bear Dunes on Lake Michigan
Sleeping Bear

Lake Erie

The fourth largest lake, Lake Erie is the shallowest and warmest of all of the Great Lakes. It receives water from Lake Superior, Huron, and Michigan and touches four states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New York. It provides hydroelectric power through turbines at the Niagara Falls, and it only takes about 2.6 years to replace water in Lake Erie.

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