A shot of a Michigan lake

In Michigan, we’re blessed to be surrounded by water. Last weekend, I went to visit my uncle, who lives off Lake Michigan. It was a great time, even though it was pretty cold outside. Still, sitting along the lake and watching the ripples and currents was such a peaceful experience. But, I got to thinking, how dangerous is Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes? As it turns out, Michigan has the deadliest lake in all of America. This isn’t a big surprise, because we have some of the biggest lakes in the U.S.

Before we get to specifics, note that according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, 15 people have already died in the Great Lakes in 2023. Think about the fact that the season hasn’t even started yet, and that’s pretty incredible. A total of 108 people drowned in the Great Lakes in 2022. Also, a whopping 1,170 people have died in the Great Lakes since 2010. It’s a reminder to stay safe out there and take precautions when the waters get rough.

My Michigan Beach has some simple tips to stay safe in the water this year. They say to, “Never swim alone; swim with lifeguards and/or water watchers present. Wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket appropriate for your weight and size and the water activity. Always wear a life jacket while boating, regardless of swimming skill.
Swim sober.”

Michigan Has the Deadliest Lake in America

My Michigan Beach also notes that the Great Lakes are freshwater seas, meaning, “the water can change quickly.” Find more tips on how to stay safe on the beach this summer here. Read on for the deadliest lakes in all of America, including No. 1, which is right here in Michigan.

  • Lake Lanier in Georgia

    According to USA By the Numbers, Lake Lanier in Georgia is one of the deadliest lakes in America and the deadliest in Georgia. They note that some believe, “Lake Lanier’s murky waters, a bottom littered with tree trunks and other debris, and an abrupt drop in the lake’s floor make it unsafe for swimmers.”

    Welcome to Lake Lanier, Georgia!

    Lake Lanier is one of America's favorite lakes. With several million visitors annually enjoying its recreational facilities, Lake Lanier is the most popular lake in the southeast. You will enjoy the time you spend at Lake Lanier. We guarantee it. Lanier is the largest lake ...

  • Mono Lake in California and on the edge of the Sierra Nevada

    According to AZ Animals, the Mono Lake is a dangerous one. They state, “Located in California, it is set towards the east and at the edge of Sierra Nevada.” They add that the fact the lake isn’t connected to any other body of water makes it so that “when chemicals get into the lake, they do not flow out but stay there and pollute the water. Sadly, the lake has built up an alarming concentration of arsenic. The water is now poisonous and toxic to humans and animals.”

    Welcome To Mono Lake

    Since 1978 the non-profit Mono Lake Committee has worked to protect Mono Lake, restore its tributary streams and surrounding lands, and educate the next generation about wise water use. We invite you to join us and our 16,000 members in protecting the Mono Basin for future generations.

  • Lake Mead in Nevada and Arizona

    Lake Mead is a reservoir formed by the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. It’s located in Nevada and Arizona, and it’s just east of Las Vegas. It’s dangerous, though. According to Wilk Jeffery’s “Wilks Journal of Travel Medicine,” the most international visitor fatalities has been recorded at Lake Mead. Many of these are drownings or car crashes.

    Lake Mead National Recreation Area (U.S. National Park Service)

    Swim, boat, hike, cycle, camp and fish at America's first and largest national recreation area. With striking landscapes and brilliant blue waters, this year-round playground spreads across 1.5 million acres of mountains, canyons, valleys and two vast lakes. See the Hoover Dam from the waters of Lake Mead or Lake Mohave, or find solitude in one of the park's nine wilderness areas.

  • Lake Erie in Michigan and Ohio

    Even though Lake Erie is the smallest of the Great Lakes, it’s very dangerous. According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, six people have already died in Lake Erie this year. That’s even more than Lake Michigan! The reason Lake Erie is dangerous is because it’s the shallowest of the Great Lakes, so it can warm and cool faster than other lakes, which can lead to volatile waters and also a major annual algae bloom in the middle of the lake.

    Lake Erie | Map, Location, Depth, & Facts

    Lake Erie, fourth largest of the five Great Lakes of North America. It forms the boundary between Canada (Ontario) to the north and the United States (Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York) to the west, south, and east. Learn more about Lake Erie in this article.

  • Lake Michigan in Michigan and Illinois - This is the No. 1 most dangerous lake in all of America

    Multiple sources list Lake Michigan as the deadliest lake in all of the U.S. AZ Animals has the lake listed at No. 1, as does Pond Informer and USA By the Numbers. According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, five people have already died in Lake Michigan this year.

    Great Lakes - Lake Michigan

    It spans the entire west coast of Michigan's Lower Peninsula, and it is the only one of the five Great Lakes that is located entirely within the United States.

  • What about shipwrecks?

    According to AZ Animals, Lake Erie has been home to the most shipwrecks in the U.S. That’s creepy! “There are famous tales of shipwrecks on other Great Lakes, such as the haunting true story and song of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior,” they state. “But, it is Lake Erie whose icy, cold waters hold the remains of the most shipwrecks – with estimates of 500 – 2,000 wrecks. It is believed to have a greater density of shipwrecks than virtually anywhere in the world – even the Bermuda Triangle.”

    A Ship Graveyard in Lake Erie

    The shallowest of the Great Lakes has one of the greatest concentrations of shipwrecks in the world.

  • Understanding Lake Michigan Rip Currents

    Donielle Flynn of WCSX has this great story about rip currents in Lake Michigan. She also notes that most Lake Michigan Beaches don’t have lifeguards. You have to be really careful when nobody is watching over these lakes, so take those extra precautions this summer!

    Understanding Lake Michigan Rip Currents

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