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Michigan Sea Grant College Program
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SubjectLake Michigan; Water Use; Economic Importance; Resource Issues; Rivers; Tributaries; Map; Land and Shoreline Use; Dimensions
Lake Michigan is the third largest Great Lake and the sixth largest freshwater lake in the world. Because Lake Michigan is joined to Lake Huron at the Straits of Mackinac, they are considered one lake hydrologically. Many rivers and streams flow into Lake Michigan, and the major tributaries are the Fox-Wolf, the Grand and the Kalamazoo. There is a diversion from the lake into the Mississippi River basin through the Illinois Waterway at the Chicago River. Lake Michigannulls cul-de-sac formation means that water entering the lake circulates slowly and remains for a long time (retention) before it leaves the basin through the Straits of Mackinac. Small lunar tidal effects have been documented for Lake Michigan. Internal waves (upwellings) can produce a 15 degree C. water temperature decrease along the coast in only a few hours, requiring drastic alterations in fishing strategy. The northern part of the Lake Michigan watershed is covered with forests, sparsely populated, and economically dependent on natural resources and tourism, while the southern portion is heavily populated with intensive industrial development and rich agricultural areas along the shore. The worldnulls largest freshwater dunes line the lakeshore. Millions of people annually visit the dunes/beaches at state and national parks and lakeshores. A circle tour guides highway travelers around the lakeshore.