This essay will focus on Ontario lake tourism as the topic relates to the Great Lakes. There are five Great Lakes. Only one of them, Lake Michigan, lies entirely within the borders of the United States. The other four Great Lakes, Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, form the largest part of the southern border of the Canadian province of Ontario. They also form portions of the northern borders of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin and the eastern border of Minnesota.
These inland seas were formed during the earths most recent Ice Age. Officially called the Pleistocene Epoch, the Ice Age started 1.6 million years ago and did not end until 10,000 years ago. The Lakes are connected to the Atlantic by the deep draft, 3,700 kilometer, 2,340 mile, St. Lawrence Seaway. This engineering marvel allows ocean-going vessels to travel from the Atlantic to the middle of the continent.
The Seaway enters the Lakes at the eastern end of Lake Ontario, which as a surface area of 19,500 km, or 7,540 sq mi. The largest city on the shore of Lake Ontario is Toronto, Ontario. Other large cities on the Ontario side are Kingston, Mississauga, Oshawa and Pickering. On the US shore the only major city is Rochester, New York. The 18th and 19th Century fortifications in Kingston are popular Ontario lake tourism attractions.
Southeast from the Seaway at the opposite end of Lake Ontario a series of deep water locks allow ships to cross into the 25,700 square km, 9,940 sq mi, of Lake Erie. On Eries shores are Buffalo, New York, Cleveland and Toledo, Ohio, and Erie, Pennsylvania. The lock system that bisects the land bridge between Lakes Ontario and Erie is known as the Welland Canal, a favorite stop for Ontario lake tourism.
To travel further west on the Great Lakes of Canada, one exits Lake Erie heading due north into the Detroit River. The St. Lawrence Seaway was built by dredging out and building locks along the St. Lawrence River. The passage for ocean-going ships between Lake Erie and Lake Huron involved dredging out and building locks along two rivers, the Detroit and the St. Clair.
The Detroit runs south from Lake St. Clair into Lake Erie. The St. Clair River runs south from Lake Huron into Lake St. Clair. Lake St. Clair, which lies on the Canada-USA border, was also dredged to deep draft depths.
Once in Lake Huron, one can travel for northwest to Michigan and Superior or one can head due north to Georgian Bay. This body of water is 320 km or 200 mi, long and 80 km or 50 mi wide and covers approximately 15,000 sq km. It is sometimes referred to as the sixth Great Lake.
Georgian Bay is separated from Lake Huron by the Niagara Escarpment, one of the most stunning features of Ontario lake tourism. The Escarpment is a ridge of bedrock that was forced to the surface by the glaciers that formed the Great Lakes. It runs from eastern New York State, is bisected by Niagara Falls and curves up north along the eastern shore of Lake Huron. At the tip of the Bruce Peninsula, a part of the Escarpment, are some of the most spectacular landscapes to be found in Ontario lakes tourism.