Cruising the Seaway
Why Cruise the Great Lakes / St. Lawrence Seaway System?
There is something for everyone on the Seaway and Great Lakes. Beginning with historic Montreal, Kingston, and the beautiful Thousand Islands on the St. Lawrence Seaway, to the wilderness expanses surrounding Lake Superior, cruises pass through great scenery that ranges from heritage waterfront settlements to the pastoral.
Over the course of several days, you can enjoy the view of:
- historic waterfront buildings in the old port section of Montreal, dating back to the 1600’s;
- the pristine beauty of the Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence Seaway;
- elegant homes and mansions bordering the lake coast;
- century old lighthouses that remain in use today;
- the fruit orchards and vineyards of the Niagara Peninsula;
- stunning rock outcrops, including Lake Huron’s “flowerpots”;
- breathtaking sunsets;
- wide open expanses teeming with birds; and
- cosmopolitan 21st century skylines shining brightly in the night.
Side trips can include:
- a theatre or casino visit in one of the vibrant port cities;
- the magnificence of Niagara Falls;
- a morning of fishing or sailing in clear blue waters;
- a train ride transcending the Canadian wilderness;
- excursions to the island playgrounds of the rich and famous, where time stopped a century ago; and
- visits to provincial, national and state parks, to many communities of artisans, and to Native communities and cultural sites.
- Links to Cruise Travel Sites and Resources
- History of the Great Lakes / St. Lawrence Seaway System
- Facts and Figures on the Great Lakes
Links to Cruise Travel Sites and Resources
Information in this link has been provided by external sources. The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation and the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation are not responsible for the accuracy, reliability or currency of the information supplied by external sources. Users wishing to rely upon this information should consult directly with the source of the information.
Travel Agencies and Sites
Great Lakes Cruising Coalition
420 Regent Street
Canada K7K 5R3
Other Resources Concerning the Great Lakes / Seaway
For tourist information about the Thousand Islands and St. Lawrence River areas:
History of the Great Lakes / Seaway
Ten thousand years ago, as the great glaciers of the last Ice Age melted, they left behind a unique legacy in the center of North America – five inland seas that hold 20% of all the world’s fresh surface water. These inland seas are the Great Lakes – Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario – connected to the Atlantic Ocean by the St. Lawrence Seaway system.
The Great Lakes with their hundreds of coves and inlets, and the many islands within them, together provide more than 10,000 miles of coastline to enjoy and explore. Their timeless beauty is endlessly varied and full of contrasts. Some of the most ancient bedrock on the planet, close to 3 billion years in age, cradles parts of the Lakes. At the north end of Lake Superior, the earth’s crust is still recovering from the last glaciers, rising in some areas at a rate faster than that of any active North American mountain range. The upper lakes are home to moose, elk and wolves, while the more civilized coastlines of the lower lakes feature gently rolling farmland, sand dunes, heritage towns and the sophisticated urban delights of some of the world’s great cities.
Access to the Great Lakes from the Atlantic Ocean is gained via the St. Lawrence Seaway System. Beginning in 1680 with the digging of a small canal east of Montreal, work on sections of the waterway continued until the modern Seaway, ranked as one of the 20th century’s top 10 engineering feats, was completed in 1959.
Today, the Seaway serves as a busy conduit for international trade. Ocean vessels and Lakers share the waterway with smaller pleasure craft, over the span of a 9.5 month navigation season.
Facts and Figures on the Great Lakes
The familiar shape of the Great Lakes is plainly visible from the moon. Covering more than 94,000 square miles and draining more than twice as much land, these freshwater wonders of the world hold about 6 quadrillion gallons of water.
- Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world.
- Lake Michigan has the world’s longest freshwater beach.
- All five of the Great Lakes rank among the world’s 18 largest.
- Spread evenly across the mainland U.S.A, the lakes would cover it in about 9.5 feet of water.
From the east, access to the Great Lakes is through the St. Lawrence Seaway from Montreal, on the St. Lawrence River. By the time a ship reaches Duluth, at the head of Lake Superior, it has risen 600 feet, the height of a 60-storey skyscraper, through a series of 15 locks, and traveled 2,342 miles from the Atlantic Ocean – more than the distance across the Atlantic itself.
The Great Lakes basin includes eight U.S. states (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York) and the Canadian province of Ontario.
- The Great Lakes states are home to 4.2 million recreational boats, with another 1.2 million registered in Ontario.
- Each Lake harbors between 45 and 100 species of fish, pursued with zeal by commercial and recreational fishers.
There are 110 U.S. state parks located directly on the water, and 38 Canadian provincial parks, as well as the American Isle Royale National Park, four U.S. National Lakeshores, and five Canadian national parks.
- largest of the Great Lakes in surface area and volume, also coldest and deepest
- largest surface area of any freshwater lake in the world
- 350 miles from west to east, 160 miles north to south
- shoreline 2,980 miles long
- average depth – 483 feet
- contains almost 3,000 cubic miles of water, an amount that could fill all the other Great Lakes plus three additional Lake Eries
- fish species – 45
- second largest of the Great Lakes in volume, with 1,180 cubic miles of water
- the only Great Lake entirely within the United States
- 307 miles long north to south, 118 miles wide west to east
- miles of shoreline – 1,659, including many sandy beaches and the world’s largest freshwater sand dunes
- average depth – 279 feet
- fish species – 78
- third largest of the Great Lakes in volume, with 850 cubic miles of water
- miles of shoreline – 3,827, with shallow, sandy beaches in the south and the rocky, islanded shores of Georgian Bay in the north; has the longest shoreline of the Great Lakes, counting its 30,000 islands
- 206 miles long west to east, and 183 miles wide from north to south
- average depth – 195 feet
- fish species – 87
- Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron is the largest freshwater island in the world
- shallowest of the Great Lakes (averaging only 62 feet) and overall the smallest by volume (116 cubic miles)
- 241 miles long east to west, 57 miles wide, north to south
- 871 miles of fertile shoreline, intensively farmed and the most densely populated of the five lake basins
- not as deep as the other lakes, Erie warms rapidly in the spring and summer and is often the only Great Lake to freeze in winter
- warmest and most biologically productive of the Great Lakes – 100 fish species; the walleye fishery is considered the best in the world
- Marblehead Lighthouse, built in 1822, is the oldest active light tower on the Great Lakes
- holds almost four times more water than Lake Erie, 393 cubic miles
- average depth 283 feet
- 193 miles long, west to east, and 53 miles wide, north to south
- 726 miles of shoreline
- Canadian shoreline is heavily urbanized
- 90 fish species
- lies 325 ft (99 m) below Lake Erie, at the base of Niagara Falls