Of the five Great Lakes of North America, Lake Michigan is the second largest by volume and the third largest by surface area. Covering a surface area of 58,000 km² (22,394 sq mi) the lake is shared by four US states: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin.
Lake Michigan is the only Great Lake entirely situated within the United States. Its colossal size has earned it the accolade of fifth largest lake in the world by area. The lake is 190 km (~118 mi) wide by 494 km (~307 mi) long. Twelve million people live on the lake’s 2,640 km (1,640 mi) long shoreline.
With numerous sandy and stony beaches, Lake Michigan is often affectionately referred to as the ‘Third Coast’ of the United States. From certain points on the coastline it is not possible to see the opposite shore, giving the impression of a vast ocean, rather than a lake.
Beaches on the south and east coast have beautiful soft, white sand with a rather unusual feature; it sings! Walking on the sand causes it to whistle or ‘squeak’. These ‘singing sands’ are created by a very specific set of conditions, including a high quartz content, the shape and size of grains and humidity.
The sandy coastline of Lake Michigan is quirky in more ways than one; it is also home to the largest freshwater dune system in the world. These high dunes are covered in vegetation such as beach grass and sand cherries and are fascinating to explore.
There are many state parks, national forests and national parks along the shoreline and millions of visitors flock here to enjoy the beach atmosphere and remarkable scenery. Popular activities include beach sports, hiking in the dunes, experiencing the singing sands, fishing and boating on the lake.