According to the U.S. Coast Guard, there are 4.2 million U.S. recreational boats and 1.2 million Canadian boats that potentially use the Great Lakes. This ecosystem is vital to the future of Ontario Minnisota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York State. Many millions of people get their drinking water from the Lakes, cargo is shipped via the St. Lawrence Seaway, and recreation and tourist are of increasing importance.
Sailing, power boating, fishing or touring around on land - the five Great Lakes also provide the world's largest fresh-water boating area. Water flows from west to east starting at Lake Superior, the largest. Lake Superior and Lake Michigan (entirely in the USA) flow into Lake Huron, then Lake Erie, then via the Niagara River to Lake Ontario, the smallest of the Great Lakes. Lake Ontario drains into the St. Lawrence River at the Northeast end, then onward to the St. Lawrence Gulf and Atlantic Ocean. Numerous waterways and canals connected to the lakes create a paradise for small boats and leisurely cruising.
Georgian Bay is often referred to as Canada’s sixth Great Lake. It has two Biosphere Reserves, several national parks, numerous provincial parks, municipal parks and protected wetland areas.
The St. Lawrence River is one of the great rivers of the world, stretching for more than 1200 kilometres (775 miles). It carries the fresh water of the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean and provides access to the heart of North America. Between Lake Ontario and the Gulf, lies the Thousand Islands, a cruising paradise for all types of craft. [More about the 1000 Islands]
Are you interested in a voyage through one of the most picturesque waterways in Ontario? If the answer is yes, you've found it in the Rideau Waterway. This World Heritage Site offers a beautiful cruise for 202 kilometres (125 miles) through a chain of lakes, rivers and canals, linking Canada's capital, Ottawa, to the historic city of Kingston on Lake Ontario. [More about the Rideau Waterway]
Extending for over 1200 km, the river starts far to the northwest at Lake Timiskaming and flows towards Ottawa. Although rapids prevent boats from continuing past Ottawa (without land transport), the river continues south-east to the St. Lawrence River at Montreal. Boats east of the rapids may also enter the Rideau Waterway starting with an impressive flight of locks in the shadow of Canada's parliament buildings. [More about the Ottawa boating]
Located in the westerly portion of eastern Ontario, the Trent-Severn Waterway is a delight for power boaters and land travellers alike. This 386 kilometre (240 mile) "highway" of lakes, rivers, canals and 45 locks connects Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay. The region attracts thousands of visitors annually from all over the world. [More about the Trent-Severn]
Starting and ending at Lock Six on the Erie Canal, Oswego Canal, Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence River, Thousand Islands, Rideau Canal, Ottawa River, Lachine Canal and back onto the St. Lawrence to the Richeleau, Lake Champlain and NY canals back to Lock Six. (More than 2,000 boats enter U.S. waters from Canada through the Richelieu River into Lake Champlain each summer. Ref.)
New York’s canal system includes four historic canals: the Erie, Champlain, Oswego and Cayuga-Seneca Canals. Spanning 524 miles, the waterway links the Hudson River with the Great Lakes, the Finger Lakes and Lake Champlain. This connects the Great Lakes to the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) for the south-bound boats.
Trivia: During the Second World War, a spy-training facility called Camp X was built on the shores of Lake Ontario between Oshawa and Whitby. It was run by William Stephenson, the man called "Intrepid". Ian Fleming, with British naval intelligence at that time, visited there, and used his experiences to create the superspy James Bond (double-o-seven) in a series of novels.