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, and U.S. states Minnisota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York border between Canada and the U.S.A. runs down the middle of all the lakes except L. Michigan, which lies entirely in the U.S. Many millions of people get their drinking water from the Lakes, and cargo is shipped east from the Lakes via the St. Lawrence Seaway. Boating, fishing and tourism are of increasing importance.
The five Great Lakes are the world?s largest freshwater ecosystem, and also provide the world's largest freshwater 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, which becomes the St. Lawrence Seaway, with 7 locks (2 American, 5 Canadian) and regulated water levels, then onward to the St. Lawrence Gulf and Atlantic Ocean.
Georgian Bay, east of Lake Huron, 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.
Numerous waterways and canals connected to the Great Lakes create a paradise for small boats and leisurely cruising. The Welland Canal connects Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Sault Ste. Marie Canal, a National Historic Site, connects Lake Superior to Lake Huron (ships use the Soo Locks). The Erie Canal connects Oswego NYS south to the Finger Lakes and the Hudson RIver. The Trent Canal connects eastern Lake Ontario to Lake Huron and Georgian Bay.
Inshore Rescue Boat (IRB) stations are crewed by post-secondary students hired and trained by the Canadian Coast Guard. They provide marine search and rescue service during the summer. They are located at Britt and Brebeuf Island (Georgian Bay), Hill Island (St. Lawrence River), Port Lambton (St. Clair River), Thames River (Lake St. Clair), and Long Point (Lake Erie).
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 south-bound boats - the first time you need to go offshore is south of New York City.
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.