Often overlooked in the recording of early history is the natural resource itself. Situated at 42.2 degrees North, 81.2 degrees West it is a body of water named after an Erie tribe who lived along its southern border. For over two years we have highlighted the work accomplished by our pioneers. We have noted their building accomplishments, celebrated their business acumen, and learned of their legacies in Lake County history. While they are important, it is the one resource that has remained a constant. As time marched on, our greatest eyewitness to history- is and will always be Lake Erie. Lake Erie in its current form is less than 4000 years old. Its basin began in the Pleistocene Ice Age. Three glaciers advanced here. The sand ridges left behind became the trails for the Native Americans and pioneers who in time followed.
Lake Erie is the fourth largest Great Lake when it comes to surface area. It is the smallest when compared to water volume. Lake Erie is the tenth largest body of water globally. Lake Erie has a mean depth of 62', the shallowest of all the Great Lakes. Its maximum width is 57.1 miles but Canada is a mere 34 miles away in our part of the lake. The fish known as bass, perch, trout, walleye, steelhead and more call the lake their home. Lake retention time is only 2.6 years. Water arrives to our lake via the Detroit River. Then it gets to Buffalo and careens over Niagara Falls.
Historically Lake Erie spans centuries. The Erie Indians settled on the shores around 1250 and remained until their demise in 1654. Louis Jolliett is considered to be the first explorer to find Lake Erie around the year 1669. Etienne Brule (1615) and LaSalle (circa 1660) also lay claim as the earliest visitors to our lake. 1809 saw Colonel Talbot establish a trail alongside the lake. The War of 1812 was fought in a corner of our Lake Erie near Put-in-Bay, Ohio. Joseph Smith landed in Fairport in 1831 and established Mormon roots in nearby Kirtland. Balloonist John Steiner of Philadelphia spent a day in 1857 floating above the lake. Lake Erie commercial fishing topped 4 billion dollars in revenues in past years. Nearly 1400 shipwrecks are attributed to Erie waters and 270 wrecks are confirmed. The Griffith Disaster is clearly remembered in nearby Willowick. The nineteenth century fishing boom made Madison, Fairport, and Ashtabula key ports. As fishing declined and manufacturing grew, the lake became a 20th century haven for untreated sewage. The Diamond Alkali overlooked the bluffs of Lake Erie from 1912-1976 and made our county a major contributor to the chemical corridor that spanned 100 miles from Toledo to NY. The years 1919-1933 were remembered in history as the Prohibition Era. Alcohol crossed Lake Erie in large volumes in the day. Lake Shore Resorts that had early beginnings after the Civil War permeated the Lake County / Lake Erie bluffs landscape thru 1979.
Lake Erie folklore recalls a Monster and a Mirage Effect. The Mirage Effect reportedly allows one to see the Canadian shoreline from our county. The Monster remains known today in hockey circles.