Recreational Boating

History of the Great Lakes / Seaway

Ten thousand years ago, as the great glaciers of the last Ice Age melted, they left behind a unique legacy in the center of North America - five inland seas that hold 20% of all the world's fresh surface water. These inland seas are the Great Lakes - Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario - connected to the Atlantic Ocean by the St. Lawrence Seaway system.

The Great Lakes with their hundreds of coves and inlets, and the many islands within them, together provide more than 10,000 miles of coastline to enjoy and explore. Their timeless beauty is endlessly varied and full of contrasts. Some of the most ancient bedrock on the planet, close to 3 billion years in age, cradles parts of the Lakes. At the north end of Lake Superior, the earth's crust is still recovering from the last glaciers, rising in some areas at a rate faster than that of any active North American mountain range. The upper lakes are home to moose, elk and wolves, while the more civilized coastlines of the lower lakes feature gently rolling farmland, sand dunes, heritage towns and the sophisticated urban delights of some of the world's great cities.

Access to the Great Lakes from the Atlantic Ocean is gained via the St. Lawrence Seaway System. Beginning in 1680 with the digging of a small canal east of Montreal, work on sections of the waterway continued until the modern Seaway, ranked as one of the 20th century's top 10 engineering feats, was completed in 1959.

Today, the Seaway serves as a busy conduit for international trade. Ocean vessels and Lakers share the waterway with smaller pleasure craft, over the span of a 9.5 month navigation season.