Before you make your summer plans, you should know about the deadliest lake in America.
Most people love nothing more than hitting the road for a beach vacation when things get hot. But lurking below the surface may be the remains of former beachgoers, shipwrecks, or deadly currents.
Keep your head above water if you’re headed to this lake in the upper midwest.
Want to find out more? Let’s jump in!
What is the Deadliest Lake in America?
One of the best, most beautiful places to relax in Michigan is also America’s deadliest lake. You read that right – a restful vacation next to an aquatic graveyard. A quiet lake with hundreds of miles of beaches, Lake Michigan, is the third-largest lake in Michigan. It’s also the only Great Lake entirely located in the United States.
Lake Michigan was crucial to the region’s development in the 19th and 20th centuries. That must be why people kept going out onto this killer lake. Below the 23,500 square miles of water lie the remains of shipwrecks and drownings.
Lake Michigan cradles the west coast of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The lake is known for the many dune regions along the coast. Vacationers enjoy dune buggy rentals and trips out to the islands between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas.
There are over 59 lighthouses along the coast for scenic drives. You can also visit one of the many wineries. Lake Michigan creates a unique climate that makes wine along the lake possible.
The biggest draw is Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Sleeping Bear is one of the most beautiful places in America, according to Good Morning America. It has over 450-foot dunes that tower over the lakeshore.
It also has lighthouses along the shoreline and dozens of places to stop and eat or stay. These dunes were formed by powerful winds that whipped the beach sand into peaks. The winds also contribute to what makes Lake Michigan the deadliest lake in America.
Why is Lake Michigan the Deadliest Lake in the US?
Lake Michigan is known as the deadliest lake in America largely due to one thing, rip currents. Rip Currents are strong tides formed by the unique shape of Lake Michigan. Parallel coasts create different wave patterns.
Swimmers are pulled out from the shoreline by these powerful currents. Because they’re unfamiliar with the area, swimmers do not know how to escape the currents.
Boating culture contributes to the deadly nature of Lake Michigan too. Swimmers jump off of docks into deep water right into rip currents. Location is also a factor as Michigan in winter can be very cold. Swimmers can get hypothermia from the lake. Boats can be easily swamped by the massive waves in a winter storm.
In the fall, the unique climate causes a rise in these currents. In 2020 alone, over 109 people drowned in the lake, down from 117 in 2018. Lake Michigan accounts for 50% of all drowning deaths in the Great Lakes region alone.
The lake is extremely easy to access along the 307 miles of shoreline. This increases the number of people using the lake. More users, in this case, equals higher rates of drowning.
How Many Dead Bodies are in Lake Michigan?
There is some debate about how many bodies truly are at the bottom of Lake Michigan. Some accounts claim there are 30,000, and others go as high as 300,000. There are also over 10,000 boats and ships on the lake floor.
Counting exactly how many bodies is challenging. Shipwrecks stay intact because of how cold the water is, and there’s also a lack of marine life to disturb the remains. Divers can even explore historic shipwrecks on the lake floor, such as the Material Service Barge.
The Barge sank in 1936 and is just 25 feet below the surface. Legend says the ship sank with the crew payroll on board. Scavengers be warned, Federal law prohibits the removal of artifacts from shipwrecks.
What Are the Top Deadliest Lakes?
Lake Michigan is not the only lake with a dark past. Around the U.S., lakes like Mono Lake, Lake of the Ozarks, and Jacob’s Well rank near the top.
Mono Lake in California is a saltwater lake too alkaline to support life. Over decades, humans have drained the waterways to make room for development. As the lake drained, the salt content nearly doubled. As a result, the lake is too toxic to support typical water life.
Recently, Los Angeles city officials have vowed to restore the lake. Mono Lake ranks as the #2 most dangerous lake in America.
Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri is the location of the hit Netflix series Ozark. As in the series, the lake is the site of human carnage. The lawless lake is home to water drag racers, un-regulated boaters, and high levels of E. coli bacteria.
The dangerous behavior of boaters and pollution in the water make Lake of the Ozarks the #3 most dangerous lake in America.
Jacob’s Well in Texas is the #4 most dangerous lake in America. It’s full of underwater caves well over one hundred feet below the surface. It’s so treacherous that divers must get permits to explore the caves. Dozens of people have jumped into Jacob’s Well and never returned.
What is the Deadliest Lake in the World?
More terrifying than rip currents and caves, the deadliest lake in the world is a silent killer. Lake Nyos sits on a pocket of magma in the crater of a volcano. In 1986 over 1700 villagers and 3500 livestock were killed by the carbon dioxide lurking under the surface.
An eruption disrupted the lake’s surface and released the gas. Then, the gas traveled downhill and suffocated everything in the area.
Scientists say that 30,000 tons of carbon dioxide killed the sleeping villagers. And they still aren’t safe. Eruptions still happen every 10 to 30 years. If another occurs, Lake Nyos will live up to its reputation as the deadliest lake in the world.
Would You Swim in Lake Michigan?
Some of our favorite memories are around the bodies of water where we grew up. It’s easy to forget that these places can be dangerous. Whatever ranking you use, Lake Michigan is still one of the most dangerous.
When you’re planning your trips this fall, make sure to take in the dunes and dip your toe in the water. But, the real question for all you daredevils out there remains. Would you swim in Lake Michigan?
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