By providing drinking water, freshwater lakes have been a major determining factor in the creation of settlements and civilization generally.
Let’s have a look at the 10 largest freshwater lakes in the world.
Biggest Freshwater Lakes
1. Lake Superior
Lake Superior is the largest of North America’s Great Lakes and the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area. Its surface area is 31,700 square miles, and its volume is 2,900 cubic miles. The lake was formed by the last glacial retreat, making it about 10,000 years old. It is positioned between Ontario (Canada), and Minnesota state to the north, and Wisconsin, and Michigan to the south. Superior is fed by 200 rivers and has about 400 islands. In the late 19th century, one island, Silver Islet, was artificially expanded and mined for 16 years. $3.25 million of silver was extracted before the shafts were flooded and never reopened.
2. Lake Victoria
Lake Victoria in eastern central Africa is the largest of the Great Lakes of Africa. Its surface area is 26,600 square miles, and its volume is 650 cubic miles. Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda border it. Although it was named after the British monarch after it was discovered in 1858, it is about 400,000 years old and appears on Arab trading maps dating to the 12th century. There are more than 3000 islands in Victoria, and fossils discovered on Maboko Island were dated 15 million years old.
3. Lake Huron
Lake Huron is another of North America’s Great Lakes and has the longest shoreline at 3,827 miles. It is bordered on the west by Michigan, and on the north and east by Ontario, Canada. Its surface area is 23,000 square miles, and its volume is 850 cubic miles. The lake can experience extreme conditions with waves reaching as high as 35 feet, and many ships have been wrecked on it. This large freshwater lake was also the scene of the first military maneuver when America declared war on Great Britain in 1812. British soldiers gathered on St. Joseph Island to capture Mackinac Island from the Americans.
4. Lake Michigan
Lake Michigan is also a North American Great Lake, the only one entirely inside the U.S. Its surface area is 22,000 square miles, and its volume is 1,180 cubic miles. Its shoreline is 1,640 miles long with many beaches, which is why the lake is sometimes referred to as the “Third Coast.” The lake was formed in the last Ice Age, and Petoskey stone, found exclusively on the northern beaches of Michigan, is made of fossilized coral. Lake Michigan flows into Lake Huron via the Straits of Mackinac, leading some people to regard them as a single lake.
5. Lake Tanganyika.
The fifth largest freshwater lake is Lake Tanganyika, which is in the Great Rift Valley of Africa has a surface area of 12,700 square miles and a volume of 4,500 cubic miles. It is one of the African Great Lakes, and with a maximum depth of 4,820 feet, it is the second deepest lake in the world. It is estimated to be between 9 and 12 million years old. The lake is shared predominantly by Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with Burundi and Zambia having smaller portions. About one million people live on its shores.
6. Lake Baikal
Lake Baikal in Siberia Russia, has a surface area of 12,248 square miles and a volume of 5,700 cubic miles, making it the largest lake in the world by volume. That means one-fifth of all the freshwater in the world lies in Lake Baikal. It is also the deepest lake in the world, with a maximum depth of 5,354 feet. And, at an estimated 20 -25 million years of age, it is also the oldest freshwater lake. It even has one of the greatest visibilities of any water body – up to 130 feet on a good day.
7. Great Bear Lake
The Great Bear Lake can be found in the Northwest Territories of Canada. Its surface area is 12,028 square miles, and its volume is 536 cubic miles. It is the largest lake situated entirely within Canada. It falls within the Arctic Circle at an altitude of 610 feet, and the lake surface is frozen for eight months of the year. Radium and silver were mined from Great Bear Lake, and the Canadian government secretly mined uranium for a period – some of which ended up in the Manhattan Project, the American nuclear weapons project of World War II.
8. Lake Malawi
Lake Malawi is another of the African Great Lakes, with a surface area of 11,400 square miles and a volume of 1,853 cubic miles. It is bordered by Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania, and is sometimes referred to as Lake Nyasa. This large freshwater lake has three layers of water that don’t mix due to different densities caused by varying temperatures. On the southern shores is the Lake Malawi National Park, which was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
9. The Great Slave Lake
The Great Slave Lake in the Northern Territories of Canada was named after the Slavey Indians. Its surface area is 10,500 square miles, and its volume is 380 cubic miles. At 2017 feet, it is the deepest lake in North America. It is a young lake, only about 10,000 years old, and was formed during the last glaciation. It is iced over from mid-November to mid-May, but climate change is shortening this period.
10. Lake Ontario
The final candidate in our list of largest freshwater lakes is Lake Ontario, which is the most populated of the North American Great Lakes. Its surface area is 7,320 square miles, and its volume is 410 cubic miles. It has an average depth of 283 feet. Lake Ontario is the most eastern of the Great Lakes and is located at the bottom of the Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, to the north and southwest, and New York to the south. Because of its location and depth, it doesn’t generally freeze over.
These freshwater lakes are very different from each other, but all play a critical role in their ecosystems.
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