Great Lakes Essential Resources: Economy & Shipping
The Great Lakes have been essential trading routes for centuries, connecting the inland of the United States and Canada to the Atlantic Ocean via the St. Lawrence Seaway. Today, they remain vital to the present economy of the surrounding region and to the quality of life of its residents, providing drinking water for more than 33 million people in Canada and the United States, supplying hydroelectric power, supporting industries, providing waterborne transportation, and offering a variety of recreational opportunities.
Please note that while tourism is large part of Great Lakes economy, modern tourism resources for trip planning purposes are not within the current scope of this guide.
Present Day Economy in the Great Lakes
- Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System PublicationsThe Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway was built as a binational partnership between the U.S. and Canada, and continues to operate as such.
- Council of the Great Lakes RegionA group dedicated to economic growth, environmental protection, and individual well-being across the Great Lakes region through connecting diverse interests and sectors.
- American Great Lakes Ports Association (AGLPA)From the Mission: "Founded in 1977, the American Great Lakes Ports Association (AGLPA) is an organization representing the interests of commercial ports and port users on the United States side of the Great Lakes. AGLPA works to influence public policies with the goal of fostering maritime commerce and related employment in the Great Lakes region."
- Marine TrafficThis commercial website tracks vessel positions around the world. Information related to shipping on the Great Lakes can be found with this mapping tool.
Canals and the Great Lakes Economy
Soo Locks (Sault Sainte Marie Canals)
Sault Sainte Marie Canal and lock link Lakes Huron and Superior.
- Soo Locks WebcamsImages from the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan (USA)
Provides navigation for large vessels between Lake Erie to the south and Lake Ontario to the north and forms an important link in the St. Lawrence Seaway. The canal was necessary because the Niagara River, the natural connection between Lakes Erie and Ontario, has impassable falls and rapids.
The Erie Canal connected the Great Lakes with New York City via the Hudson River at Albany.
Illinois and Michigan Canal
The Illinois and Michigan Canal connected the waters of the Illinois River with those of Lake Michigan.
Historical Look - selected resources
Shipping History on the Great Lakes
- Lake Superior Iron Ore AnnualHistorical figures on shipments bearing ore on Lake Superior. Includes images and charts with data on shipments and value dating back to the late 19th century.
- A directory of names, pennant numbers, and addresses of all members of the Ship Masters' Association of the Great LakesShip Masters' Association of the Great Lakes. A directory of names, pennant numbers, and addresses of all members of the Ship Masters' Association of the Great Lakes. Cleveland, Ohio: The Association, Grand Financial Secretary.
- Green's marine directory of the Great Lakes (1918)"Containing complete information regarding the construction of American and Canadian vessels, names and addresses of their owners, lists of steamship corporations, also information concerning grain elevators, harbors, ore and coal docks of the Great Lakes etc."
- R.L. Polk and Co.'s marine directory of the Great Lakes (1884)"Comprising a complete list of all vessels navigating the lakes, arranged alphabetically, and showing the name, rig, tonnage, where and when built and by whom, port of hail, owner's name, insurance rating, etc."
- Ship Lists (Maritime History of the Great Lakes)A collection of registers, lists and directories of ships on the Great Lakes from the early 1800s to 1900s.
- Ships of the Great Lakes (1956)Buehr, W., Line, L. B. (1956). Ships of the Great Lakes. New York: Putnam.
A Brief Look at Historic Tourism on the Great Lakes
- Detroit and Cleveland Steam Navigation Company. Lake Erie & Lake Huron. Gulley, Bornman & Co.Travel information on Lake Erie and Lake Huron dating from 1886. Includes pricing, tour maps, details of local attractions, and more.
- Chicago Exposition: a new six-day Great Lakes cruise (1934)Detroit & Cleveland Steam Navigation Co. / Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Mackinac, Isl., St. Iganace, Chicago