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Michigan is derived from the native Algonquin term meaning "Great Water". And Lake Michigan is a great water, a sweet water sea. Third largest of the Great Lakes it has an area of 22,270 square miles (57,750 km2) and a volume of 1,180 cubic miles (4,920 km3). It has a 1,658 mile (2,670 km) long shoreline varying from beaches like this to great sand dunes and from cities of millions like Chicago to tiny lakeside communities surrounded by verdant forests. Its depth averages 279 ft (85m) but it reaches down to 925 ft (282m) at its deepest point. It has one natural outlet at the Straits of Mackinac, one artificial outlet at Chicago and a retention period of 99 years. It can be peaceful or violent and internal waves can decrease the temperature in areas by as much as 15 degrees celsius in a matter of a few hours.

And it is from this that the state of Michigan also gets its name. Michigan is the land of "Great Water". Michigan may be the largest state east of the Mississippi but nearly 2/5 of Michigan's surface area is composed of water. That is because Michigan is made up of two peninsulas surrounded by four of the five Great Lakes, Michigan, Superior, Huron and Erie. There are also thousands of inland lakes. No point in Michigan is more than 6 miles (10 km) from an inland lake or 85 miles (140 km) from a Great Lake. And Michigan has the second longest coastline of any state, after Alaska. Because of this Michigan also has more lighthouses than any state with over 130 of them dotting the shoreline.

Michigan's climate is also at the mercy of the lakes. The west facing portions of the state are both warmed and cooled by the waters. The moisture helps create some of the finest fruit producing regions in the United States. But in the winter the lakes bring "lake effect" snow. As moisture accumulates across the lake it results in exceptionally heavy snowfalls along the shore. Cities along the western shores can get 30 inches (75 cm) in one day. Sometimes lake effect snow can even cross the entire state. You can see a dramatic satellite photo of Lake Effect Snow covering the entire state of Michigan here.


Facts about Michigan

Breakdown of Area
Land Area: 56,809 square miles (91,479 km2)
Inland Lakes: 1,305 square miles (2100 km2)
Great Lakes within state boundaries: 38,575 square miles (62,118 km2)

Total state Great Lake shoreline: 3300 miles (5300 km) (Longer than Spain or France or equal to the east coast of the United States)

Number of inland lakes: 11,037

Length of Rivers: 36,350 miles (58,534 km)

Number of registered boats: Greater than 1 million (1 for every 10 people in the state)

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Additional Photos by Paul Mastrogiacomo (pamastro) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2679 W: 164 N: 2696] (7296)
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