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By volume, Lake Michigan is the second largest of the Great Lakes, third largest by surface area. Lying completely within the United States, this long lake extends over 300 mi / 480 km / 259 nm from Gary IN in the south all the way north to Michigan's Upper Peninsula and the Straits of Mackinac.
Here are some interesting facts about this huge lake:
From the time of the French-Canadian explorers, Lake Michigan was known by a number of different names. However, its name was likely derived from the Algonquian language of the local native peoples referring to 'big lake' And big it is!
With the second largest city on the Great Lakes (Chicago, IL) at its southern end and endless miles of northern forest hundreds of miles to the north, Michigan offers a cruising sailor an incredible variety of sailing experiences and scenic wonders.
Lake Michigan is bordered by Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. Its long coastline gives a sailor ample opportunities to explore, whether it be the fabulous waterfront of Chicago, Milwaukee with its deep German heritage, the northern summer mecca of Door County or the Michigan sand dunes (largest freshwater dunes in the world). At the northern end of Lake Michigan lie a number of large islands called the Beaver Islands. With a colorful history, these islands make a great cruising destination.
Green Bay, on the west side of the lake is a long (120 mi / 193 / 104 nm ) bay. At its northern end, lies an island group with an interesting history as well. These islands posed a significant hazard to shipping in earlier centuries leading sailors to refer to the area as "death's door" – hence the name for Door County. Door County today is a wonderful (and safe!!) area for cruising sailors to visit and explore.
The north coast of the lake is much more sparsely settled. There are much fewer harbors for a cruising sailor – really only three to be exact. There are anchorage areas but these need to be carefully assessed for bottom, wind conditions, etc. before dropping anchor.
On the east coast, a cruiser can explore deep into Grand Traverse Bay or continue north to the Straits of Mackinac which lead on into Lake Huron. Indeed, marine scientists say that Lakes Michigan and Huron are hydrologically inseparable.
At the south end of the lake, a sailor can connect to the Mississippi River system via the Illinois Waterway through the City of Chicago and head south to the Gulf of Mexico. This puts your keel on the Great Loop or circumnavigation of eastern North America. The dream of many Great Lakes sailors, this adventure covers 5,000-7,000 mi / 8,050-11,270 km / 4,347-6,086 nm.
All-in-all, Lake Michigan is not only a great cruising ground but it is also a doorway to many more adventures on other lakes or south to the Caribbean
Beaver Island, MI
Belmont Harbor (Chicago, IL)
Burnham Harbor (Chicago, IL)
Diversey Harbor (Chicago, IL)
DuSable Harbor (Chicago, IL
Egg Harbor, WI
Green Bay, WI
Menominee, MI|Marinette, WI
Michigan City, IN
Monroe Harbor (Chicago, IL)
Montrose Harbor (Chicago, IL)
New Buffalo, MI
Port Washington, WI
South Haven, MI
St. Joseph, MI|Benton Harbor, MI
Sturgeon Bay, WI
Suttons Bay, MI
Traverse City, MI
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a practical, easy-to-use yet thorough format to record all of the necessary information about your boat and any cruises you take – whether exploring home waters or voyaging to distant ports across the Great Lakes.
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