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Lake St. Clair

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Title: Lake St. Clair  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Detroit River, St. Clair River, Metro Detroit, List of lighthouses in Michigan, Edsel and Eleanor Ford House
Collection: Canada–united States Border, Geography of Chatham-Kent, Geography of Detroit, Michigan, Geography of Essex County, Ontario, Geography of Lambton County, Geography of Windsor, Ontario, Great Lakes, Great Lakes Waterway, International Lakes of North America, Lakes of Michigan, Lakes of Ontario, Landforms of Chatham-Kent, Landforms of Essex County, Ontario, Landforms of Lambton County, Landforms of Macomb County, Michigan, Landforms of St. Clair County, Michigan, Landforms of Wayne County, Michigan, Landforms of Windsor, Ontario, Tributaries of Lake Erie
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Lake St. Clair

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, Harsens 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 government agencies on both sides of the lake have maintained a deep shipping channel through the shallow lake for well over a century.


  • Geography 1
  • Naming 2
  • Water Quality 3
  • Boat Clubs 4
  • Public Beaches 5
  • Fish Species 6
  • See also 7
  • Footnotes 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


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]


Lac Sainte Claire historical marker, Saint Clair Shores, Michigan

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.

Water Quality

Lake St Clair's location, downstream from the largest freshwater delta in the Great Lakes, has a large effect on its turbidity (clarity). Current water quality is quite good despite past incidents and a history of chemical bio-accumulation. A number of cities source drinking water from or just downstream of the lake and quality is closely monitored. [9] [10]

In the early 1970s, the Canadian and American governments closed the commercial fishery over concerns of bio-accumulation of mercury. The industry responsible for this contamination was the Dow Chemical Chlor-Alkali Plant in Sarnia, Ontario. Since 1949, Dow Chemical had been operating mercury cell plants for the production of chlorine and other chemicals. From their production process, mercury was being discharged into the river and contaminating the fishery. The fishery has since not been re-opened, although studies have now confined mercury levels are well within safe range.[11]

Sport fishing remains very popular in the lake having some of the best fishing anywhere in the world. The governments on both sides of the lakes continue to monitor and publish guides for sport fish consumption.[12] [13]

Boat Clubs

Sunset sailing on Lake St. Clair

Many Yacht clubs (Boating and Sailing clubs)are located along the shores. Some of which include:

Public Beaches

Beach on Lake St. Clair near St. Clair Shores.
Welcoming boaters along Black Creek
  • Mitchell's Bay Beach- Mitchell's Bay, Ontario is a small community located on the east shore of beautiful Lake St. Clair. The shallow warm water is great for windsurfing, kite surfing and swimming with kids.
  • New Baltimore -Beach at Walter and Mary Burke Park in Downtown New Baltimore, Michigan
  • Belle Isle Beach - a half-mile long swimming beach located on the west side of Belle Isle, Michigan
  • Sandpoint Beach - located in Windsor, Ontario near Riverside Dr. East and Florence Ave
  • Marine City Beach - North end of Water Street in Marine City, Michigan
  • Lake St Clair Metropark - Harrison Township, MI
  • Belle Isle Beach - Belle Isle, Michigan. Located on the west side of the island this beach provides a safe swimming area away from the currents of the Detroit River. The beach is well manicured with clear water and sandy bottom. Nice shade trees and grass border the beach
  • Most of the small islands on the lake (Seaway, Gull, Peche, Grassy Bends (known as "Grassy" locally)) have a sandy beach or a sand bar to enjoy. Be aware that some are not family friendly areas (Gull Island is one example especially during Jobbie Nooner weekend.

Fish Species

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
  9. ^ "water quality in Windsor". Retrieved 2015-02-15. 
  10. ^ "Thames - Sydenham & Region Drinking Water Source Protection". Retrieved 2015-02-15. 
  11. ^ "Mercury in Lake St. Clair Walleye". Retrieved 2015-02-15. 
  12. ^ "Eating Ontario Fish". Retrieved 2015-02-15. 
  13. ^ "Eating Fish from Michigan's Lakes & Rivers". Retrieved 2015-02-15. 
  14. ^ "Crescent Sail Yacht Club,". Retrieved 2015-02-15. 
  15. ^ "Clinton River Boat Club,". Retrieved 2015-08-12. 
  16. ^ "Albatross Yacht Club,". Retrieved 2015-02-15. 
  17. ^ "North Star Sail Club". Retrieved 2015-02-04. 
  18. ^ "Lakeshore Sail Club,". Retrieved 2015-02-15. 
  19. ^ "South Port Sailing Club". Retrieved 2015-02-04. 
  20. ^ "St. Clair Sail Club,". Retrieved 2015-02-15. 
  21. ^ "Thames River Yacht Club". Retrieved 2015-02-04. 


  • Fuller, George Newman (2005) [1926?]. "Indians and Explorations". Local history and personal sketches of St. Clair and Shiawassee counties. Ann Arbor, Mich.:  
  • 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
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