How much do you know about the nation’s lakes and rivers?
Our nation’s lakes and rivers: most of us will spend entire months or even years of our lives on their banks or traversing them in boats, casting our lines into their waters and stealing fish from their depths.
However, how much do we actually know about these glorious bodies of water? Most anglers only consider the lakes and rivers of the United States based on the quality of fishing they provide. In reality, these water bodies are also fascinating subjects in and of themselves, sprawling collections of not only water molecules (and fish!), but also of fascinating facts that are worth having in your back pocket.
With that in mind, we scratched the surface and put together a list of six quick and memorable facts about American lakes and rivers. Sure, there’s still much more to be learned, but we figured we could at least get you started.
View the slideshow to learn the facts.
1. Lake Champlain was once a Great Lake
Lake Champlain, a grandiose body of water shared by New York, Vermont, and Quebec, is known by most anglers today as one of the most notable fishing destinations in the United States – both for open water fishing and ice fishing. However, what many people forget is that Champlain was once very briefly the sixth Great Lake. On March 6, 1998, President Clinton signed a piece of legislation from the Senate that declared Lake Champlain a Great Lake.
Despite Champlain’s glowing reputation in the fishing world, there was much uproar over the decision, partially because the government was trying to change something that had been widely accepted for generations (that there are five and only five Great Lakes), but also because Champlain’s size precluded it from being mentioned alongside the other Great Lakes (Lake Champlain is approximately 490 square miles in size, while Lake Ontario, the smallest of the Great Lakes in surface area, is 24,720 square miles). The government ultimately took away the “Great Lake” designation mere weeks after the original Senate bill was signed. However, Champlain is still notable for being the Pluto of our nation’s water bodies.
2. Someone actually swam the Mississippi
Whether you’ve boated down the Mississippi River or simply fished from one of its many banks, you know how long the thing is. With that said, the sheer length of the Mississippi River didn’t scare Martin Strel, a Slovenian distance swimmer who, in 2002, became the first person to ever swim the entire length of the Mississippi.
The trip took him 68 days, with the ending distance of 2,414 miles. To date, Strel is the only person to ever actually swim the Mississippi, though even that isn’t his greatest accomplishment. In 2007, Strel swam the Amazon River, covering 3,723 miles in just 66 days. Legend has it that, on that particular trip, the swimmer had escort boats carrying containers of blood meant to entice any piranhas or other dangerous aquatic animals who spotted Strel and decided he might make a good meal. How’s that for a gamble?
3. Crater Lake has the clearest waters in the world
Crater Lake, a caldera lake formed by the collapse of a volcano in Oregon, has been named as the clearest lake in the world. Its waters are unprecedentedly calm, shimmering like a gigantic mirror and reflecting everything with perfect accuracy.
No rivers or streams flow into the lake, meaning that it is essentially kept safe and cut off from any and all potential contaminants. The clarity of Crater Lake isn’t the water body’s only distinguishing factor; the lake, with a 1,950-foot depth, is the deepest lake in the United States and one of the top 10 deepest lakes on planet Earth.
4. Lake Superior has more water than the other Great Lakes combined
Lake Superior contains a volume of approximately 2,900 cubic miles of freshwater, which is more than the other four lakes combined (For reference, Lake Michigan has 1,180 cubic miles of water, Huron has 850, Ontario has 393, and Erie has 116).
That’s enough water to cover all of North America and South America in a shallow depth of water. Interestingly, despite its huge reserves of water, Superior tends to freeze over more easily than Lake Michigan. This winter, when the Great Lakes froze over almost completely for the first time in two decades, Superior reached around 95 percent of ice cover, while Michigan stayed closer to 80 percent.
5. Rivers make “brackish water” fishing a thing
Usually, when we talk about fishing, we use terms like “saltwater” or “freshwater” to describe which methods we are taking, what sort of gear we’re bringing with us, and what types of fish we are expecting to catch.
However, something you don’t often hear much about is “brackish water fishing.” The vast majority of rivers, not only in the United States, but around the world as well, are made up solely of freshwater. However, since most rivers also flow to the ocean, there is naturally a point where the river meets the sea and where the freshwater meets the saltwater. This watery cocktail is called “brackish water,” and there are unique fish species who can only survive in such environments. So next time you head out for a fishing trip, forget freshwater and saltwater: brackish water fishing is the new challenge.
6. There is only one natural lake in Texas
Texas lakes routinely land on lists of the “best fishing lakes” in the country. In 2012, Bassmaster dropped the state’s Falcon Lake in the number one slot on its annual “100 best bass lakes” list. In 2013, despite drought throughout Texas, the state still notched three lakes in the top 10. All of this is enough to make Texas seem like the ultimate place for finding great fishing lakes, but the ironic thing is that most of the state’s lakes are manmade.
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The lone natural lake in Texas is Caddo Lake, and the state has built the bulk of its fishing reputation on fishing reserves created by damming projects.