The name of Lake Erie was taken from the Native Americans that lived along the south shore when Europeans arrived in the early 1600s. Erie is a short form of the Iroquoian word “Erielhonan” meaning "long tail" and refers to the Eastern Cougar. Lake Erie is the smallest of the Great Lakes by volume, the shallowest and second-smallest in surface area (9,776 square miles). Globally, Lake Erie is the 15th largest lake in the world by volume and can be divided into the western, central and eastern basins. Lake Erie also includes three major connecting channels: the St. Clair River, the Detroit River and the Niagara River. Known as the “Heart of the Great Lakes,” Lake St. Clair is part of the Lake Erie basin and is nestled between the St. Clair River and the Detroit River systems.
The shallowness of the lake promotes submergent vegetation in the nearshore zone, which provides excellent nursery and forage habitat for many fish, reptiles and amphibians. Coastal wetland complexes provide important habitat for many species. Lake Erie has one of the largest freshwater fisheries in the world. Due to these factors, Lake Erie has the highest primary production, biological diversity and fish production of all the Great Lakes. It is, however, also the Great Lake most impacted by human activity.