by Janet Spencer

Come along with Tidbits as we swim in some remarkable lakes!


There are around 117 million lakes on planet Earth, covering about 3.7% of the surface. About 75% of them are smaller than the size of two football fields.

• A majority of the world’s lakes are located in just four countries: Canada, Finland, Russia, and Sweden—plus Alaska.

• More than 60% of the lakes of the world are in Canada, more than any other country. Canada is the largest source of fresh water in the world.

• 85% of the world’s lakes are located at elevations less than 1,600 feet (500 m) above sea level. There are two reasons: First, mountainous terrain restricts lake size. Second, the countries with the most lakes were scraped flat by glaciers during the last ice age, leaving many dips and depressions where water collects.

• Water will remain an average of 9 days in the atmosphere; 2 weeks in rivers; 10 years in the largest lakes; 3,000 years in the ocean; up to 10,000 years in deep groundwater; and 10,000 years in the polar icecap.


The five Great Lakes that border the U.S. and Canada contain around 21% of the world’s fresh water.

• Lake Superior is the largest of the five Great Lakes, and the 2nd largest freshwater lake in the world.    Lake Huron is the world’s 5th largest lake, and Lake Michigan is the 6th largest lake. Lake Erie ranks 13th, and Lake Ontario is not far behind at 15th.

• Lake Superior is generally considered the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area. It contains roughly 10% of all the earth’s fresh surface water.

• 36% of the Great Lakes lie in Canadian territory. Lake Michigan is the only one of the five lakes that lies entirely within the U.S. boundary.

• The area covered by the Great Lakes is more than the entire states of Pennsylvania and New York combined.

• About 13% of the U.S. population lives around the Great Lakes.

• The word Michigan comes from the Algonquian word “machihiganing” meaning “big lake.” “Ontario” meant “fine lake.” Lake Huron, named after the Huron Indians, came from the French word “hure” meaning “messy hair” because this particular tribe wore their hair in a bristly mohawk-type cut. Lake Erie has a tail-like shape, and the Iriquois word “erielhonan” meant “long tail.”

• Lake Erie is the warmest of all of the Great Lakes because it’s the farthest south, but it also freezes over more than the other lakes because it is so shallow.

• The Niagara Falls, between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, have eaten their way 7 miles (11 km) upstream since their formation 10,000 years ago. At this rate, they will disappear into Lake Erie in about 22,000 years.


Lake Baikal, located in southern Siberia, is the largest freshwater lake by volume in the world, containing 22–23% of the world’s fresh surface water. It contains more water than all of the North American Great Lakes combined. It supports some 1,200 different animals and 600 types of plants, 75% of which are found only in that lake.

• Lake Baikal is also the deepest lake in the world. It is 5,387 feet (1,642 m) at its deepest point. It is considered among the world’s clearest lakes and is considered the world’s oldest lake at 25 million years.


The Great Salt Lake in Utah, a land-locked body of water, is an average of 6 times saltier than the sea, though the salinity varies from place to place. It is so salty, it never freezes over completely.

• No fish live there because it’s too salty. The only things that live there are a species of brine shrimp and the larvae of a type of fly. The lake is famous for its outbreaks of flies, sometimes numbering 370 million per mile of shoreline, providing food for the many birds that flock to the lake.

• It’s only 14 feet (4 m) deep on average.

• It is the world’s 34th largest lake. It’s the largest lake west of the Mississippi River and the largest salt lake in the Western Hemisphere.

• As with other salt lakes, the salt accumulates because the lake has no outlet. The water that enters the lake, carrying small amounts of dissolved salt, can only evaporate, leaving the salt behind. Over time, the lake becomes more and more salty.

• One of Morton Salt’s biggest plants harvests salt from this region.


The Dead Sea bordering Jordan and Israel is actually a lake, being a landlocked body of water. It is the world’s lowest lake at 1,371 ft (418 m) below sea level. Just like the Great Salt Lake, there is no outlet, and it grows steadily more saline as time passes, to the point where it is too salty to sustain life aside from microorganisms and algae.

• Lake Titicaca, located on the border of Bolivia and Peru at an altitude of 12,507 feet (3,812 m), is the highest commercially navigable body of water in the world. By volume of water and by surface area, it is the largest lake in South America. Its name comes from an indigenous phrase meaning “rock of the puma” because the lake is shaped somewhat like a puma.

• Located in the northern reaches of New Zealand’s Southern Alps, Blue Lake, also known as Rotomairewhenua in the local native language, is known as the world’s clearest lake. Visibility in the lake is up to 262 ft (80 m), meaning the water is considered almost as clear as distilled water.

• At an average depth of nearly 2,000 feet, (610 m) Oregon’s Crater Lake is the deepest lake totally within the borders of the continental United States.

• The Caspian Sea is actually considered to be not only the world’s largest lake, but also the world’s largest salt lake. It stretches nearly 750 miles (1,200 km) from north to south, with an average width of 200 miles (320 km).

• The highest lake in the world is the volcanic crater lake of Ojos del Salado, on the border of Chile and Argentina in South America. It sits nearly 21,000 feet (6,390 m) above sea level.

• The largest freshwater lake in the world by length is Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania, Africa, which is 410 miles (660 km) long.