Lake St. Clair is a freshwater lake in North America.
The lake lies at elevation of 175 meters (574 feet) above sea level.
Almost circular in shape, it has a length of 42 km (26 miles) and a maximum width of 39 km (24 miles).
Lake St. Clair has a total surface area of about 1,100 square kilometers (430 square miles).
This is a rather shallow lake for its size, with an average depth of about 3.4 m (11 feet), and a maximum natural depth of 6.5 m (21.3 feet).
However, it is 8.2 m (27 feet) deep in the navigation channel which is dredged for lake freighter passage by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The lake is fed by the St. Clair River, which flows to the south from Lake Huron and has an extensive river delta where it enters Lake St. Clair. This is the largest delta of the Great Lakes System.
The outflow from Lake St. Clair travels from its southwestern end into the Detroit River, and then into Lake Erie.
It is rarely included in the list of “Great Lakes” but is sometimes referred to as “the sixth Great Lake.”
The lake is situated about 10 km (6 miles) northeast of the downtown areas of Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario.
Lake St. Clair is widely accepted as a glacial lake formed in congruence with five Great Lakes. Etched from the landscape by advancing and retreating ice over the last 1.5 million years, Lake St. Clair took on its current characteristics about 14,800 years ago.
First Nations/Native Americans used the lake as part of their extensive navigation of the Great Lakes.
The Mississauga called it Waawiyaataan(ong), meaning “(at) the whirlpool.” The Wea derived their name from a Miami cognate: Waayaahtanonki.
The French explorer Louis Jolliet was believed to be the first European to visit the lake area in 1669.
On August 12, 1679, the French explorer René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle arrived with an expedition. He named the body of water Lac Sainte-Claire, as the expedition sighted it on the feast day of Saint Clare of Assisi. The historian on the voyage, Louis Hennepin, recorded that the Iroquoian tribes referred to the lake as Otseketa.
As early as 1710, the English adopted the French name, identifying the lake on their maps as Saint Clare. By the Mitchell Map in 1755, the spelling appeared as the shorter “St. Clair,” the form that became most widely used.
Some scholars credit the name as honoring the American Revolutionary War General Arthur St. Clair, later Governor of the Northwest Territory, but the name Lake St. Clair was in use with this current spelling long before St. Clair became a notable figure. Together the place name and general’s name likely influenced settlers’ naming a proliferation of nearby political jurisdictions: the Michigan county and township of St. Clair, as well as the cities of St. Clair and St. Clair Shores.
Lake St. Clair served as a strategic location during skirmishes throughout the 1700s and 1800s, including the War of 1812 between the Americans and British.
More than 110 species of fish inhabit Lake St. Clair, many of which use the region for feeding and spawning. Popular angling fish include yellow perch, walleye, smallmouth bass and muskellunge.
Wetland areas support abundant aquatic vegetation and both resident and migrating waterfowl. Species of dabbling ducks, swans and plovers are common in the delta region and shoreline marshes.
Many yacht clubs (boating and sailing clubs) are located along the shores.
Some of the wealthiest suburbs of Detroit lie on the western shore, but there are no important ports on the lake.