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Great Lakes Essential Resources: Military

Last Updated: Jun 3, 2024 12:23 PM

The Great Lakes have played a vital role in several major North American conflicts, especially during the War of 1812. Even in the 20th century, the Great Lakes region was used during the World Wars for training, manufacturing, and transporting valuable materials.

Many historical fortifications remain standing in some form or another and are open to visitors as museum or parks.

Battle of Erie

Battle of Erie. Printed by Sam l. Maverick, NY. Engraved by P. Maverick.

SS Sable (IX-81) fitting out at Buffalo, New York, 15 January 1943

USS Sable (IX-81) fitting out at Buffalo, New York, 15 January 1943, during conversion from SS Greater Buffalo. Courtesy of C.C. Wright. Source: Naval History and Heritage Command.

Fort Niagara Ariel View

Ariel View of Fort Niagara, Lewiston, NY. Photo by Robert Russell of Youngstown, NY.

General Resources

World War II

Great Lakes Fortifications

Numerous military installations such as forts, bases, missile parks, and shipbuilders lay along and around the Great Lakes. Besides military use, forts also served as centers of commerce and trade. Many of the forts are listed below but patrons can view a full list of these military installations here. The list covers past and present fortifications. Present day country location or site are indicated next to each fort.

Lake Ontario

Fort Niagara (U.S.) |  Fort Ontario (U.S.) |  Fort York (Canada)

Lake Erie

Fort Erie (Canada)  |  Fort Meigsº (U.S.)  |  Fort Miamiº (U.S.)  |  Fort Malden¹ (Canada)  |  Fort Wayne² (U.S.)

Lake Huron

Fort Gratiot & Lighthouse (U.S.)  |  Fort Drummond (also known as Fort Collier) (U.S.)  |  Fort St. Joseph (Canada)  |  Fort Mackinac (U.S.)

Lake Michigan

Fort Howard (U.S.)

Lake Superior

Fort Wilkins (U.S.)  |  Fort Brady³ (U.S.)

Other Nearby Forts

Fort Shelby/Fort Detroit


ºFort Meigs and Fort Miami are/were located on the Maumee River, which connects to Lake Erie.

¹The site of Fort Malden is located at the mouth of the Detroit River, connecting to Lake Erie.

²Fort Wayne sits on the Detroit River, linking Lake Erie to Lake St. Clair.

³Fort Brady sits on Saint Mary’s River, which connects Lakes Superior and Huron.

Additional Reading

For additional books on wars and the Great Lakes, see the full book list.