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HomeArts & CultureCultural ArtsThunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Alpena, Michigan

Did you know that the United States is home to a network of underwater parks with over 620,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters? This network spans from Washington State to the Florida Keys, and from Lake Huron to American Samoa.

Pretty incredible, isn’t it?

We here in Michigan don’t always pause to appreciate the magnificent natural wonders called the Great Lakes, three of which surround both our upper and lower peninsulas on three sides. We know they are there and indulge in them regularly, but we tend to take them for granted more often than not.

Take Lake Huron, for example. It is often referred to as the “forgotten lake.” I grew up on the shores of Lake Huron and never thought much about it. We would enjoy her shores in the summer months and play on the ice that froze over those shores in the winter months. Outside of that, I didn’t have too much knowledge of her magnificence. In fact, her magnificence is almost always overlooked by most people. Yet, she is arguably the most spectacular of all the Great Lakes.

“But what about Lake Superior?” you say.

Yes, Lake Superior is magnificent in her own right. She is the largest freshwater lake in the world by area – measuring 31,700 square miles with a maximum depth of 1,332 feet. By all accounts she’s also an inland sea. Her weather, navigation and buoyage are monitored by federal maritime agencies.

In comparison, Lake Huron’s 23,012 square miles and a maximum depth of 751 feet could fit into Lake Superior about 3.41 times over. In fact, Lake Superior could fit all the Great Lakes plus three additional lakes the size of Lake Erie.

But what Lake Huron lacks in size compared to Lake Superior, she makes up for in other ways.

Lake Huron has the largest coastline of all the Great Lakes, coming in at 3,827 miles.

She is home to 30,000 of the 35,000 islands that inhabit the Great Lakes.

A large part of her – 4,300 square miles of her waters to be exact – are designated as a national marine sanctuary and a state underwater preserve; part of the 620,000 square miles within the United States.

Within her 4,300 square foot preserve is Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. And within this space nearly 100 historic shipwrecks pepper her waters and are protected by the sanctuary. There are an estimated 1,000 shipwrecks that rest at the bottom of Lake Huron, with about 6,000 total known shipwrecks throughout the Great Lakes with some 30,000 lives lost according to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum.

Follow us as we explore these shipwrecks through stories, podcasts and videos to come. Read more about the shipwreck of the SS Ironsides off the Coast of Grand Haven Southern Pier Inner Light. Follow our Shipwrecks section under MI History for more shipwreck lore to come.

Visit Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary for more information, educational classes, tours and the annual Thunder Bay International Film Festival. Read our story about the 2024 Thunderbay International Film Festival.

Tamara Graham
Tamara Graham
With an adventurous spirit and a burning desire to make the world work for all of us, Tamara encourages others to embrace self-love, compassion, empathy, understanding, and an ever important sense of humor. With over 30 years of diverse marketing experience, including a decade in publishing, she brings a fresh and innovative perspective to the industry. Her concept revolves around experiential magazines that captivate both online and in print. Tamara's visionary project, LIVE. LOVE. LOCAL. MICHIGAN™, unveils the wonders of our breathtaking home state, igniting love and admiration among Michiganders for where they live. By fostering this deep connection, she inspires a genuine appreciation and love for where we live!
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