The Great Lakes are socially, economically, and environmentally significant to the region, the nation and the planet. Its important we work to take care of the Great Lakes because we are interconnected to the lakes and depend on them as a resource.

Humans and the Great Lakes
Grocery cart pollution
The Great Lakes AOCs are environmentally degraded areas around the Great Lakes basin. The following are areas of concern in the Great Lake watersheds.
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stairs to lake michigan
The Great Lakes basin extends into both the United States and Canada, with all of the lakes except one (Lake Michigan) bordered by both countries. Therefore, state-by-state or province-by-province policy does not work as effectively as a regional approach.
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Mackinac Bridge
Rising 552 feet (that's 55 stories!) above the Straits of Mackinac, where lakes Michigan and Huron meet, is the world-famous Mackinac Bridge. Also known as the "Mighty Mac," this engineering marvel is 5 miles long and, anchor block to anchor block, holds the record as the longest suspension bridge in the world!
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Canadian flag waving with Parliament Buildings hill and Library in the background
In 1867 the British Parliament passed the British North American Act (now called the Constitution Act), which created the Dominion of Canada, consisting of four provinces: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Québec and Ontario.
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Coal Ship Unloading
You'll be surprised to learn how much of the stuff you use every day was actually transported on the Great Lakes before it made its way to you!
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Fisherman with Pike
Various forms of pollution, including toxins in the water, directly impact fish or are ingested with their food. In 1971, the first sport fish advisory was issued in the Great Lakes for people consuming fish caught from the lakes.
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Beach Pollution
The Great Lakes AOCs are environmentally degraded areas around the Great Lakes basin. Find out about the causes of pollution and what is being done to restore and clean up these areas.
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Aldo Leopold Shack
Many writers over the years have used the Great Lakes as a source of inspiration for their work. Their landscape and natural features attracted some writers to live close to the lakes as a quiet place to work on their pieces. 
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great lakes basin
Legislation within the Great Lakes basin involves the federal governments of the United States and Canada. The differences between these governments creates difficulties when enacting binational and regional law; however, regional cooperation and legislation is important in the Great Lakes basin.
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Michigan Topographic Map
The greater part of its southern shore was at one time occupied by the Eries, a tribe of Indians from which the lake derived its name. This name is always mentioned by the early French writers as meaning "cat"; Lac du Chat means "Lake of the Cat."
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Leland Historic District (aka Fishtown) in Leland, Michigan
The Great Lakes, often referred to as the "fourth seacoast," are home to the U.S.-Flag fleetand the Canadian-Flag fleet. In addition, dozens of international vessels regularly travel through the Great Lakes, visiting port communities along the way.
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Duluth Lift Bridge and ship
The largest ships that visit Great Lakes ports are designed to carry such bulk cargoes as iron ore, coal, stone and grain. Other ships are designed for general cargoes such as machinery, steel and bagged food products.
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Zebra Mussels on Lake Michigan Beach
Once a non-native species is established in the Great Lakes, it is nearly impossible to get rid of it. Therefore, it is extremely important to prevent introductions of new species.
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Ballast water pouring from ship
Ballast water is fresh or saltwater (sometimes containing sediments) held in tanks and cargo holds of ships. Ballast water is pumped onto ships at different ports of call to add weight to ships that may be carrying little or no cargo.
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Indigenous art moccasin bead work
Handsewn moccasins and other leatherwork, and ornate quillwork designs (made from porcupine quills) are common among the Great Lakes tribes.
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Aerial view of rice waters in northern Minnesota, Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission
Tribal fishermen harvested fish using large birch bark canoes and seine nets (later gill nets) constructed from twisted and knotted strands of willow bark, among others. They also speared through the ice and fished with hand carved decoys.
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Native Campsite
Indigenous Peoples, or Native Peoples, were the original inhabitants of North America and the Great Lakes region. In fact, Native Peoples inhabited the continent tens of thousands of years before the arrival of settlers from Europe and the Far East.
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Dream catcher at sunset
The Great Lakes were bountiful sources of food for the Native Peoples and, therefore, well respected and often the subject of spiritual practices.
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Sewage
Unfortunately, the Great Lakes suffer from pollution, like many other water bodies around the world. The pollution of our waterways became a national issue in June of 1969, the day that the Cuyahoga River, flowing through Cleveland, Ohio, on its way to Lake Erie, caught on fire because it was so polluted.
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Great Lakes map with names
Several tribes formed around the Great Lakes throughout the years to use this great natural resource. Learn more about the tribes that inhabited the Great Lakes and their culture. 
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Native man
Seventeen tribes were well-established on the lands surrounding lakes Superior and Huron. Among these were the Chippewa, Cree, Monsoni, Ottawa, Huron, Assiniboin, Menominee, Winnebago, Potawatomi and Nipissing.
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Detroit River Shipping
Ships typically travel in upbound or downbound shipping lanes between ports on the lakes to avoid collisions. If a vessel is downbound, it means that it's headed out of the Great Lakes toward the Atlantic Ocean.
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The Fountian of the Great Lakes
The Fountain of the Great Lakes depicts five female figures grouped together so that water flows from their shells in the same way it passes through the Great Lake system.
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Ojibway woman dancer
The lasting influence of Native American tribes and First Nations is evident by looking at any present-day map of North America. You'll see thousands of cities, rivers and lakes that bear the names of the continent's original settlers.
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U.S. court building
One of the first precursors to the American Revolutionary War against British rule was the Declaration of Independence, 1776, written by Thomas Jefferson and signed by representatives of the 13 British North American colonies.
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Water pollution in Lake Erie
Eutrophication had claimed Lake Erie and excessive algae became the dominant plant species, covering beaches in slimy moss and killing off native aquatic species by soaking up all of the oxygen.
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Water Quality Test
The International Joint Commission (IJC), created as a result of the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909, conducted studies on the water quality of the Great Lakes in the 1960s, determining that excessive phosphorus was causing eutrophication in the Great Lakes, particularly in lakes Ontario and Erie.
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Great Lakes at a Glance

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