Lake Erie

East Harbor State Park

Lake Erie is the foundation of health, economic vitality, and recreation for millions of Ohioans. Lake Erie is the shallowest, warmest, and most biologically productive of all the Great Lakes.

Ohio's Great Lake supports one of the largest freshwater commercial fisheries in the world and the largest sport fishery in the Great Lakes, producing more fish for human consumption than the other four Great Lakes combined. 

Lake Erie Basin

The Lake Erie basin - all lands that drain to the Lake - is nearly 11,700 square miles and sustains more than 1,500 species of plants and animals. The land includes: 

  • beech-maple, oak, hemlock, and hardwood forests
  • button bush swamps
  • glacial kettle lakes
  • wet woods and prairies, small ponds and marshes, fens, vernal pools, and bogs
  • rare oak savannas
  • lakeshore grasslands
  • sand dunes

Threatened, endangered and rare species located within these extraordinary and unparalleled ecosystems include:

  • Kirtland’s warbler
  • bald eagle
  • lark sparrow
  • four-toed salamander
  • Lake Erie water snake
  • the Karner blue butterfly
  • Skinner’s foxglove
  • beach pea
  • sea rocket
  • purple sand grass
  • wild lupine
  • Showy Lady’s Slipper orchid

Lake Erie, along with the many tributaries that feed into it, supplies drinking water to 13 million people in the greater region and roughly three million Ohioans. Each year more than seven million people flock to Ohio’s portion of the Lake Erie basin, including Kelleys, South Bass (better known as Put-in-Bay) and Middle Bass Islands, to recreate and reconnect with nature and family. 

As a result, more than 117,000 jobs are sustained, netting $3.1 billion in wages annually. Tourism, travel, and sport fishing contribute more than $11.5 billion a year in revenue to Ohio’s economy and $1.5 billion in federal, state, and local taxes.

It is clear that Lake Erie’s natural wonders are essential to humans and wildlife alike; providing homes, food, drinking water, recreation and economic stability.

While it does so much for us, it needs our help. 

Threats to Our Great Lake

Invasive species like the zebra mussel are crowding out fish and wildlife. Antiquated sewer systems and failing septic tanks dump raw, untreated sewage that can make the waters of our beaches unsafe to swim. 

Agricultural runoff is a key culprit in fueling harmful algal blooms and the development and expansion of Lake Erie dead zones (areas of depleted oxygen that prevent fish from thriving there). 

Years of industrial pollution have lead to fish consumption advisories and toxic hotspots. Sprawling development has degraded water quality and wildlife habitat in streams and on the lakeshore. Unfettered water use can shrink critical wildlife habitat and concentrate pollutants.

These problems are manageable and effective solutions exist. It is time to use them. Every day we wait the problems grow worse and the solutions more costly.