If you were in a space ship flying above North America, you’d notice five very big bodies of water located on the boarder between the United Sates and Canada. They’re called the Great Lakes, and their names are: Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario.

Here’s an actual satellite photo that gives you a bird’s-eye view of what they look like from space:

The Great Lakes Have Fresh Water (Lots of It!)

The Great Lakes are freshwater lakes, which means they aren’t salty like oceans or seas. But the Great Lakes are so big that they do have ocean-like features: they have rolling waves, they have strong currents, they’re very deep, and they effect the weather. That’s why the Great Lakes are sometimes called “inland seas.”

The Great Lakes Are Connected to Each Other and to the Atlantic Ocean

The five Great Lakes are interconnected, which means that water flows (and ships can move) from one lake to another.

The water flows from Lake Superior, to Lake Huron, to Lake Michigan, and then to Lake Erie. Water from Lake Erie flows over Niagara Falls and then flows into Lake Ontario. From there, the water travels to the St. Lawrence River, which empties into the Atlantic Ocean.

Originally, the St. Lawrence River wasn’t deep enough in some places for ocean-going ships to pass through it. So Canada and the United States built a series of locks, channels, and canals called The St. Lawrence Seaway. The Seaway allows big ocean-going ships to go from the Atlantic Ocean to Lake Ontario without getting stuck in the St. Lawrence River.

More Fun Facts About the Great Lakes

Fun Fact: The Great Lakes contain over 20% of the world’s surface fresh water. They contain about 84% of North America’s surface freshwater supply.

Fun Fact: The total surface area of the Great Lakes is about 94,250 square miles (244,000 square kilometers). That makes it the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth (as measured by surface area).

Fun Fact: Many cities are located along the Great Lakes. Some of the major cities include: Chicago, Toronto, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Buffalo.

Fun Fact: Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world as measured by surface area. There is however, a huge freshwater lake in Russia (it’s called Lake Baikal) that is much deeper, and holds much more water than Lake Superior. Lake Baikal is so big, in fact, that it holds more water than all five Great Lakes combined.

Fun Fact: There are about 35,000 islands scattered throughout the Great Lakes.

Fun Fact: The largest island in the Great Lakes is Manitoulin Island, which is located on the Canadian side of Lake Huron.  Manitoulin Island, which has an area of over 1,000 square miles, is the largest freshwater island in the world. It’s so big that it has 108 lakes of its own, some of which have their own islands (which makes them “islands within islands”).