8 Interesting Facts About Lake Michigan

lake michigan shoreline photo

One of the most popular holiday destinations in the United States is Lake Michigan. It’s one of five Great Lakes in the country and is around 321 miles (517km) long and 118 miles (190 km) wide. It also has a maximum depth of 923 feet (281m). With such a large area and such a long history, many interesting things have occurred at the lake during its life. Let’s look at eight of the most fascinating facts about Lake Michigan.

1. The Earliest People To Inhabit The Lake Were Hopewell Indians

During 200 to 500 BCE, the Hopewell Indian culture was at its most successful. The culture used nature to their advantage, living along the river banks and shores of lakes. They cultivated crops of corn and beans; however, they also hunted for meat and fish as well as gathering up fruits and nuts. They created high-quality pottery and used metals like copper and gold to make ornaments. Also, they built large mounds, which they used for many purposes, such as burials. It appears that their culture drifted apart, as the quality of the goods produced started to decline and fewer mounds were being created. 

2. The First Sail Ship Was Brought To The Lake In 1679

The ship was captained by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle was a French explorer. He had created a lucrative trade route in pelts. He worked closely with King Louis of France, who gave La Salle permission to build forts in the Lake Regions, which he was claiming for France. Eventually, La Salle met his end when he made a miscalculation that saw his men arrive 500 miles away from their intended destination. Sick of waiting for their captain to find the right place, a mutiny occurred on board, which resulted in La Salle dying. The sailing ship that he bought to Lake Michigan eventually got destroyed in a storm. 

3. Jim Dreyer Swam Across Lake Michigan In 2003

Nicknamed the Human Shark, Jim Dreyer is an endurance athlete known for his demanding physical feats. He started doing these endurance feats in 1998 by swimming 65 miles (104km) across Lake Michigan. After this, he pushed himself even further, combining long swims with exhausting runs and bicycle rides. In 2003, he swam the entire length of the Lake Michigan, around 422 miles (679km) across the whole lake. He wore a wetsuit and carried the supplies he needed on his ankles. He completed the journey in 18 consecutive stages. 

4. The Lake Was First Mapped By Samuel de Champlain

Samuel de Champlain was a famous French explorer. He used both his experience and his conversations with indigenous tribes and other explorers to create his map. His most significant feat, though, was managing the French colony of Quebec, which he ran when the King forced him to retire from exploring. He manned the cannons when the city was under siege from English forces in 1628. He ran out of supplies and was forced to surrender. However, the surrender occurred after the end of the war. He returned to Quebec, where the colony continued to expand. Eventually, de Champlain died of a stroke in 1635. 

5. Jean Nicolet Was The First European Person To Arrive At Lake Michigan 

Another French explorer that had a significant impact on the Lake Michigan area was Jean Nicolet. He also helped establish the French colony of Quebec. He stayed in the colony for nine years, where he ran a local store and traded with the indigenous population. In 1634 he became the first European person to explore Wisconsin, where he met the Ho-Chuck people. He became a French Ambassador to this tribe, who would help him explore the rivers in the area. 

6. Glacial Movements Made the Lake

Over hundreds of thousands of years, the movements of glaciers created the lake as it’s seen today. The massive ice sheets would advance and retreat, which eroded the land and caused the lake to take its current shape. Today, the Great Lakes store a combined six quadrillion gallons of water. 

7. The Lake Shares Borders With 4 States

As we mentioned earlier, Lake Michigan is one of five Great Lakes. While many people know this, what’s not so well known is that it’s the only Great Lake that is wholly inside American territory. All the other lakes share a border with the United States and Canada. Also, four separate US states share the edges of the lake. Those states are; Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan.

8. There Is A “Lake Michigan Triangle” Where Mysterious Occurrences Happen

Many people are aware of the Bermuda Triangle, but they might not know about the Lake Michigan Triangle. This is an area on the lake that is linked to multiple strange occurrences. The three points of Benton Harbour, Manitowoc, and Ludington are used to create the triangle. Inside this zone, many strange events have occurred.

For example, Northwest Flight 2501 crashed into the lake. At the time, it was considered one of the worst aviation incidents in American history, with 58 people losing their lives. The wreckage of the plane was never recovered and remains unexplained to this day.

A second strange incident occurred in 1937, where Captain Donner had finished steering his ship through the ice. He went to his cabin for some sleep. When a crew member tried to wake him, they discovered the door was locked from the inside, but the captain wasn’t in the room. Despite searching the ship, the captain was never found. 

A Popular Tourist Destination

Lake Michigan is a top-rated tourist destination, with people coming from all around the world to experience its beauty. You might walk along its shoreline or take a ride on one of the iconic steamboats that have operated on the lake since the 1950s.

Hopefully, you now understand more about the unusual people and exciting events that have shaped the history of the lake. By knowing these interesting facts, you should have a greater appreciation of Lake Michigan.

Don't forget while you're walking along the stunning lakeshores to be on the lookout for unique Michigan stones. Rock hunting along Lake Michigan has been a popular outdoor activity for both locals and tourists. You can find beautiful Petoskey Stones, Leland Blue, Puddingstone, and more. All of these unique gemstones can be made into beach stone jewelry, which you will find in most local Michigan gift shops.


Handmade Lake Michigan Beach Stone Jewelry

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