Lake saint clair (north america)

Lake St. Clair
Landsat satellite photo, showing Lake Saint Clair (center), as well as St. Clair River connecting it with Lake Huron and the Detroit River connecting it to Lake Erie
Location (Great Lakes)
Type Freshwater Lake
Primary inflows St. Clair River, Thames River, Sydenham River, Clinton River
Primary outflows Detroit River
Basin countries Canada, United States
Max. length 26 mi (42 km)[1]
Max. width 24 mi (39 km)[1]
Surface area 430 sq mi (1,114 km2)[1][2]
Average depth 11 ft (3.4 m)[1]
Max. depth 27 ft (8.2 m)
Water volume 0.82 cu mi (3.4 km3)[1]
Residence time 7 days (2-30 days)
Shore length1 130 mi (210 km) plus 127 mi (204 km) for islands[3]
Surface elevation 574 ft (175 m)
Islands Gull Island
Settlements Detroit
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

Lake St. Clair (French: Lac Sainte-Claire) is a freshwater lake that lies between the Canadian province of Ontario and the U.S. state of Michigan. It was named after Clare of Assisi, on whose feast day it was discovered by European explorers. It is part of the Great Lakes system, and along with the St. Clair River and Detroit River, Lake St. Clair connects Lake Huron (to its north) with Lake Erie (to its south). It has a total surface area of about 430 square miles (1,100 km2) and average depth of just 11 ft (3.4 m); to ensure an uninterrupted waterway, a shipping channel is dug across the lake.


This lake is situated about 6.0 miles (9.7 km) northeast of the downtown areas of Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario. Along with the St. Clair River and Detroit River, Lake St. Clair connects Lake Huron (to its north) with Lake Erie (to its south); the area is notable for the fact that the Canadian territory around the lake (Windsor metropolitan area) lies south of the adjacent United States territory.

Lake Saint Clair measures about 22.5 nautical miles (42 km; 26 mi) from north to south and about 21 nautical miles (39 km; 24 mi) from east to west. Its total surface area is about 430 square miles (1,100 km2). This is a rather shallow lake for its size, with an average depth of about 11 feet (3.4 m), and a maximum natural depth of 21.3 feet (6.5 m). However, it is 27 feet (8.2 m) deep in the navigation channel which has been dredged for lake freighter passage.[1] The lake is fed by the St. Clair River, which flows southwards from Lake Huron and has an extensive river delta where it enters Lake Saint Clair. This is the largest delta of the Great Lakes System.[1] Also, the Thames River and Sydenham River flow into Lake Saint Clair from Southwestern Ontario, and the Clinton River flows into it from Michigan. The outflow from Lake Saint Clair flows from its southwestern end into the Detroit River, and thence into Lake Erie.

The tarry time (i.e. the time between entering and leaving) of the water in Lake St. Clair averages about seven days, but this can vary from as little as two to as many as thirty days, depending on the direction of the winds, the water circulation patterns, and the seasonal amount of water that is flowing out of Lake Huron. If the water flows through the navigation channel, which is maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the time the water remains in the lake is about two days.[1]

This lake is part of the Great Lakes System. Because it is 17 times smaller in area than Lake Ontario, it is rarely included in the listings of the Great Lakes.[1][2] There are isolated proposals for its official recognition as a Great Lake, which would affect its inclusion in scientific research projects, etc., designated as being for "The Great Lakes".[4]


The beach on Lake St. Clair in the Metro Detroit suburb of St. Clair Shores.
Sign along Black Creek welcoming boaters

First Nations/Native Americans used the lake as part of their extensive navigation of the Great Lakes. The Mississaugas called present-day Lake St. Clair Waawiyaataan(ong), "(At) the whirlpool", and the Wea tribe's name derived from the lake's Miami cognate Waayaahtanonki. The Mississaugas established a village near the lake in the latter part of the 17th century. Early French mapmakers had identified the lake by a variety of French and Iroquois names, including Lac des Eaux de Mer [Seawater Lake]; Lac Ganatchio ("kettle," for its shape), in French Lac de la Chaudière. A variety of Native names were associated with sweetness, as the lake was freshwater as opposed to saltwater. These included Otsiketa (sugar or candy), Kandequio or Kandekio (possibly candy), Oiatinatchiketo (probably a form of Otsiketa), and Oiatinonchikebo. Similarly, the Iroquois called present-day Lake Huron, "The Grand Lake of the Sweet Sea" (fresh water as opposed to salt water.) This association was conveyed on French maps as Mer Douce (sweet sea) and Dutch maps as the Latin Mare Dulce.[5]

On August 12, 1679, the French explorer René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle arrived with an expedition. He named the body of water Lac Sainte-Claire as the expedition discovered it on the feast day of Saint Clare of Assisi. The historian on the voyage, Louis Hennepin, recorded that the Iroquois called the lake Otseketa.[6]

As early as 1710, the English identified the lake on their maps as Saint Clare. By the Mitchell Map in 1755, the spelling appeared as St. Clair, the form that became most widely used.[7] Some scholars credit the name as honoring the American Revolutionary War General Arthur St. Clair, later Governor of the Northwest Territory, but the name Lake St. Clair was in use with the current spelling long before St. Clair became a notable figure. Together the place name and general's name likely influenced settlers' naming a proliferation of nearby political jurisdictions: the Michigan county and township of St. Clair, as well as the cities of St. Clair and St. Clair Shores.

The origin of the name has also been confused with one Patrick Sinclair, a British officer who purchased land on the St. Clair River at the outlet of the Pine River. There, in 1764, he built Fort Sinclair, which was in use for nearly twenty years before being abandoned.[8]

Unlike most smaller lakes in the region – but like the Great Lakes – Lake comes at the front of its proper name, rather than the end; this is reflective of its French origins.


New Baltimore's water tower over Anchor Bay of Lake St. Clair
Northern Lake St. Clair frozen near Chesterfield Twp., Michigan
Lac Sainte Claire historical marker, Saint Clair Shores, Michigan

The western portion of the lake shore is lined by wealthy suburbs such as the Grosse Pointe communities of Michigan and the southeastern shore of the lake by Tecumseh and Lakeshore, Ontario. In this area, public access to the lake is restricted to private marinas and residents-only parks. Further north, in Harrison Township, lies Metro Beach Metropark, a popular public beach.

Yacht clubs located along the shore include:

Fishermen on Lake Saint Clair as the sun sets.

Many of North America's fresh water fish species can be found in the lake throughout the seasons. Species popular with anglers include bass, bluegill, bullhead, catfish, muskellunge, Northern Pike, perch, salmon, smelt, steelhead, sturgeon, trout, and walleye. Several invasive species also inhabit the lake, including zebra mussels, sea lampreys, alewives and round gobies.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Lake St. Clair summary report.Great Retrieved on December 2, 2007.
  2. ^ a b "Chapter 1:Introduction to Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River". U.S. government U.S. Army. June 2004. Retrieved 2008-06-08. 
  3. ^ Shorelines of the Great Lakes
  4. ^ "Movement Would Thrust Greatness on Lake St. Clair", The Los Angeles Times, October 20, 2002.
  5. ^ Jenks, p. 24
  6. ^ Jenks, p. 22
  7. ^ Jenks, pp. 23-24
  8. ^ Fuller, pp. 21-22


  • Fuller, George Newman (2005) [1926?]. "Indians and Explorations". Local history and personal sketches of St. Clair and Shiawassee counties. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Library. pp. 17–27. Retrieved 2007-11-23. 
  • Jenks, William Lee (2005) [1912]. "Origin of Name". St. Clair County, Michigan, its history and its people. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Library. pp. 20–24. Retrieved 2007-11-23. 

External links

  • Bathymetry of Lake Erie & Lake St. Clair - NGDC
  • National Data Buoy Center page for Lake St. Clair station LSCM4 Current weather conditions from NOAA
  • Lake St. Clair Guide - Guides and Resources
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