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Parks Canada - Lake Huron

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Canada’s National Marine Conservation Areas System Plan

Lake Huron

The Water

The lake is relatively shallow, with an average depth of 59 m and a maximum depth of over 200 m. The lake bottom is fairly regular, with several basins over 100 m in depth, depth gradually increasing from shore towards these basins. Six Fathom Scarp and Ipperwash Scarp, steep sloped banks lying less than 40 m beneath the surface, separate the main basins. Upwelling occurs along southern Manitoulin Island and western Bruce Peninsula, increasing biological productivity along these shores. Surface water temperatures range from 0°-4°C in January and 12°-16°C in July. The region is usually completely ice covered, except for the deeper waters in the centre of the lake which typically remain ice free through the winter. The lake's average retention time is 22 years.

The Coast

South of the Bruce Peninsula, Lake Huron has a straight shoreline dominated by low eroding bluffs 10-20 m in height, dunes, wave-cut terraces, and extensive sandy beaches. The Bruce Peninsula and Manitoulin Island shores are more indented, with low rocky shelves, and many offshore reefs and islands. Pocket beaches and marshes are common.

The Wildlife

Some 90 fish species are resident in Lake Huron, including more than a dozen introduced species. Common warm water species include walleye, lake sturgeon, yellow perch, smallmouth bass, northern pike, pumpkinseed and rock bass. Lake trout, lake cisco, lake whitefish, round whitefish and bloater are the most abundant cold water species. The other cisco species, abundant in Lake Huron at the turn of the century, are now either uncommon or extinct. Lake Huron has substantial populations of several introduced species, notably sea lamprey and carp, as well as several salmon species. The region is also recognized as being particularly important for several amphibian and aquatic reptile species. Lake Huron has one the largest population of colonial water birds in the Great Lakes, over 170,000 pairs, 75% of which are ring-billed gulls, 20% herring gulls, 4% Caspian and and common terns, and the remainder great blue herons, double-crested cormorants and black-crowned night herons. A few duck species nest in the marshy areas of the southeast sector. Important staging areas for fall migrating ducks, gulls and shorebirds are found along the Bruce Peninsula and southern shores.


This region is not yet represented in the national marine conservation areas system. Three representative marine areas have been identified: Main Channel/Western Bruce Peninsula, Southern Manitoulin Island and Central Lake Huron. Selection of the preferred area for consideration as a possible national marine conservation area is the next step. (For details on the establishment process, see The NMCA Program.)

Last Updated: 2013-05-10 To the top
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