The Lakes

The Great Lakes -- Erie, Huron, Michigan, Ontario and Superior -- are among the most important bodies of water in the world. They are the largest readily accessible source of freshwater on Earth – roughly 20 percent of the total supply -- and contain more than 80 percent of North America’s surface water supply.

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U.S Coast Guard

The Christmas spirit is popping up along the waters of the Great Lakes region.

In Port Huron, Mich., Santa Claus rode to shore on the Huron Spirit, a boat operated by the Lakes Pilots Association. In Toledo, Ohio, the tug Josephine brought him to the National Museum of the Great Lakes.

But the most poignant event of the holiday season was in Chicago, where the sinking of  "The Christmas Tree Ship" was remembered recently.

Drug Enforcement Administration

As America confronts the opioid crisis, environmental scientists are warning about a related problem. Chemicals from pain-killers and other drugs often end up in lakes and rivers, creating what some scientists say could be a deadly cocktail for fish and other wildlife.

Maid of the Mist via Twitter

The problem of sewer overflows affects the entire Great Lakes region. More than 182 municipalities have systems that can release untreated sewage during big storms, the Environmental Protection Agency says.

Amy Nichole Harris/Shutterstock

Note: Updated on Dec. 6, based on lake surface temperatures in November, which significantly lowered predictions for the ice cover. --

Over the past two winters, the Great Lakes have had a below-average ice cover. And that’s expected to continue this year.  


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