Lake Erie Overview


Lake Erie is the warmest, most shallow and most biologically diverse of the North American Great Lakes, home to 107 species of fish (90 native, 17 introduced) making it one of the largest freshwater fisheries in the world.  Lake Erie has a surface area of 9,910 sq. miles (25,700 sq. km) making it the eleventh largest lake in the world, the fourth largest of the North American Great Lakes, by surface area, and the smallest by water volume with only 119 cubic miles.  The average depth of Lake Erie is 62 feet with a maximum depth of only 210 feet leading it to warm rapidly in the spring and summer and frequently freeze over in the winter. Approximately 95% of the inflow to Lake Erie comes through the Detroit River from lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, the St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair. The main outlet is through Niagara Falls.  

The drainage basin includes the surrounding areas of Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Ontario.  Lake Erie is the most densely populated of the Laurentian Great Lakes with more than 11 million people living within the basin (10,017,530 in the U.S. and 1,664,639 in Canada). The surrounding areas have been heavily farmed due to highly fertile soils and moderate temperatures.  The watershed also is home to intense industrial development, manufacturing, and commerce.  The lake also supports recreation including sport fishing through the popular walleye fishery.


Surface Area 9,910 miles2 25,700 km2
Maximum Depth 210 ft 64 m
Watershed Area 30,116 miles2 78,000 km2
# of Fish Species 107*  
Water Retention/Replacement Time 2.6 years  

*90 native, 17 introduced


Lake Erie

aCoordinating Committee on Great Lakes Basic Hydraulic and Hydrologic Data, Coordinated Great Lakes Physical Data. May, 1992


Links to other resources:

Great Lakes Atlas - U.S. EPA