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What Are the Largest Lakes in the US?

Michigan is known as the Great Lakes State for its five major lakes and more than 11,000 inland lakes.
Lake Superior is the largest lake in the United States.
With a surface area of nearly 2,000 km, Lake Pontchartrain is one of the largest lakes in the U.S.
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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Images By: Floki Fotos, Rudi1976, Kari Csaba
  • Last Modified Date: 15 August 2014
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The largest lakes in the US are often known as the Great Lakes, and they are, in descending order, Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario. These bodies of water are clustered fairly close together in the midwestern United States, though some of these largest lakes in the US are actually partly in the country of Canada. After the Great Lakes, the Great Salt Lake near Salt Lake City, Utah is the next largest lake. As a clarification, a lake is described as a large body of fresh water that is surrounded by land on all sides; the body of water is usually still or close to still.

By surface area, Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world, though it is the third largest by volume. At its deepest point, this lake is 733 feet (223 meters) below sea level, making it the deepest point in the continental United States. Islands do exist within Lake Superior, and those islands often feature lakes of their own, with islands inside those lakes. Superior host many important shipping routes, and lake freighters can frequently be seen on this waterway.

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Strangely, a dispute has arisen as to the order of the largest lakes in the US, since Lakes Michigan and Huron are technically one lake. The two bodies of water are connected by the Straits of Mackinac, which technically makes the pair larger in surface area than Lake Superior. Superior is considered the larger lake only if Michigan and Huron are considered independent lakes rather than one large body of water. By volume, the two lakes combined are still the fourth largest in the world; Superior is larger by volume.

Of the largest lakes in the US, the Great Salt Lake is perhaps one of the most interesting. This terminal lake — a lake that does not train into any tributaries or other bodies of water — has an exceptionally high salinity, or content of salt. It is saltier than ocean waters, in fact, and it is sometimes called America's Dead Sea. The surface area of the Great Salt Lake can fluctuate, and the depth remains generally quite shallow consistently. The water tends to remain warm as well, which can cause lake effect snowfall. Large snowstorms are known to dump high amounts of snow all at once due to the air circulation above the lake.

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