Great Lakes

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Great Lakes, North America

latitude: 44.7, longitude: -83.7
Browse map of Great Lakes 44°42′00.00″ N, 83°42′00.00″ W
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Great Lakes
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Great Lakes is a lake in North America at latitude 44°42′00.00″ North, longitude 83°42′00.00″ West.


The Great Lakes are a series of five interconnected freshwater lakes represented together by Relation 1124369 – a "super-relation". The individual lakes are also single multipolygon relations, as noted below. (Caution: Each one of these relations is very large!)

The shorelines of the Great Lakes were tagged with natural=coastline. There has been some back-and-forth editing on Lake Ontario, but as of 2016 these shorelines are no longer tagged with natural=coastline.


U.S. state borders extend to the international boundary with Canada and to the center of Lake Michigan.

A common law principle holds that a town or township boundary extends to the centerline of a body of water if and only if a person can stand on one shore and discern objects on the opposite shore with the naked eye. This is not the case with the Great Lakes. [1] The following list explores facts and claims about boundaries that nonetheless extend into the Great Lakes, potentially due to statute law:


  • At least one county's boundary extends to the state line with Michigan. [2]
  • At least one municipality's boundary extends 3 miles (4.8 km) into Lake Michigan. [3]


  • County boundaries extend to the state line in Lake Michigan. [4]


  • A 1947 interstate compact extends the state line into Lake Superior. [5]
  • Statutes refer to the waters as a part of the counties. [6]
  • Some counties have definite boundaries in the Great Lakes and their bays. [7][8][9] However, others only have jurisdiction "concurrent with" other counties. [10]
  • According to the federal Boundary and Annexation Survey, townships in some counties extend to the shoreline, those in other counties extend a certain distance into the lake, and those in still others extend into the lake with straight lines and right angles, as if the township had been surveyed on land. [11] For example, Alcona and Iosco counties share a portion of Lake Huron with one another but not with Huron County, which shares a different portion with Sanilac and St. Clair counties.
  • Cities and villages automatically annex submerged islands within 300 yards (270 m) of the shoreline. [12]
  • DeTour Village extends into Lake Huron. [13]


  • A 1947 interstate compact extends the state line into Lake Superior. [14]
  • As of 1895, Cook County's boundary stops at the shore of Lake Superior. [15]
  • MnDOT and county governments publish datasets that clip county boundaries to the lakeshore for general purpose use. [16][17]

New York:

  • County boundaries have extended into Lake Ontario and Lake Erie since as early as 1801. [18]


  • Several county lines have extended to the international boundary with Canada since 1827. [19] The rest were extended to the international boundary in 1835 during the Toledo War. [20] ORC 1506.10 reserves Ohio's portion of Lake Erie for the state in terms of property rights [21], but counties are subsidiaries of the state.
  • Township boundaries generally do not extend beyond the southern shore of Lake Erie, but a board of county commissioners may take action to extend a township boundary as far as the international boundary. [22] Lake County's survey townships, and thus its civil townships, extend into the lake so that it meets the requirements for countyhood. [23]
  • Municipal boundaries may extend up to 2 miles (3.2 km) into Lake Erie, and there is a grandfather clause for boundaries prior to 1955. [24] The governments of Ottawa County and 16 municipalities have concurrent jurisdiction extending to the international border with Canada. [25]


  • All submerged lands lakeward of the ordinary low water mark are Commonwealth lands. [26]


  • A 1947 interstate compact extends the state line into Lake Superior. [27]
  • County lines extend to the center of Lake Michigan. [28]

Great Lakes Circle Tour

See Great Lakes/Circle Tour, a system of scenic road (and at least one bicycle) routes that circumnavigate around each of the five Great Lakes (in progress as of 2022).