Why Is Lake Erie So Dangerous? (8 Reasons Why)

Photo of author
Jean Richardson

Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

Lake Erie is talked about a lot for how many drownings have happened there. It’s a beautiful lake, but sometimes it can be dangerous or even deadly.

If you’re curious as to why so many people have warnings to stay away from the lake, keep reading and we’ll show you 9 reasons why Lake Erie has a reputation for being dangerous.

Why Is Lake Erie So Dangerous?

1. Alga

There is a blue-green algae bloom called cyanobacteria. This particular brand of algae is incredibly toxic to animals and people alike.

It produces a liver toxin that can be deadly. They have advisories for the lake quality and if the bloom is bad, do not go nor take your pets to the lake.

The effects of this bloom also harm marine life and the worse it gets, the more damage is done to the entire local ecosystem.

This has not been a forever problem either. It started in the 1990s from severe pollution. Runoff from pesticides has been the leading factor in this toxic algae.

There will be periods of time where the bloom is less prevalent, but it’s still good to look up the water conditions before you decide you want to swim in Lake Erie.

2. Shallow Water

On average, it is roughly 62’ deep. It only measures 210’ at its deepest point. These shallow waters have been the downfall of many boats.

There is a canal that connects Lake Erie to Lake Ontario in order to bypass Niagra falls. It’s a pretty large shipping route for cargo ships to pass through.

Ships have to be careful and stay on track, or they will run into the bottom of the lake. This is less of an issue nowadays with the advancements in technology that we have.

Read More:  Why Is The Hudson River So Dirty? (9 Reasons Why)

3. Storms

Storms seem to suddenly appear in the great lakes in general and these storms can become nasty. You have risks to swimmers and boaters alike.

These storms can produce massive riptides that can tumble boats about and cause damage or capsize boats completely.

Another issue is if you are out there swimming, a massive wave can disorient or drown you. You also have to worry about being dragged against the bottom that is full of rocks.

You run the risk of being shredded and unable to swim out. That is why they advise you to always check weather and water conditions before you decide to have a fun day on the lake.

In the winter the lake will freeze up and sometimes the wind will push ice sheets up, so avoid standing on the lake in wintertime.

4. Rocky Reefs

Rocky Reefs 

The reefs in Lake Erie are not made of coral, but rocks. These rocks can be dangerous and sharp if you manage to hit one.

Boats are already risking a lot with the shallow waters, but reefs can shred through the bottom of a boat if it is unfortunate enough to hit one.

There are maps that show reef locations, so make sure the water is high enough that you don’t risk hitting one.

5. Water Quality

Aside from the algae bloom, there are still pollutants in the water. You have to worry about pesticides and other types of runoff. They’ve done their best to clean it up.

However, it’s still a good idea to not ingest the water at all because of this. Toxicity is normally not a problem but with how much has been dumped in there over the years, it’s best to be safe.

Read More:  Why Can't I See The Moon? (5 Reasons Why)

The EPA has been good about watching the pollution levels in lakes across the country. They are doing their best to prevent any illegal dumping of pollutants into the water.

6. Debris

This isn’t specific to just Lake Erie, but lakes all over, especially shallower ones. The last thing you want to do is end up with a nasty cut because of something in the water.

Caution should be exercised when it comes to swimming in lakes that have had a lot of boat crashes because metal pieces can break off and end up in the sand or dirt below.

There are shoes you can purchase that are designed specifically for swimming. That alone should be enough to keep your feet from being scratched up or cut too much.

7. Currents

Lake Erie has killed several people. The waves on top don’t always indicate the currents beneath the surface and these currents can be deadly.

If you are not a strong swimmer and get caught in one of these underwater currents you are at risk of drowning.

Lake Erie seems to be especially nasty with the currents it produces. So, if you plan to swim in it, be mindful of this and take precautions to reduce the risk of drowning as much as possible.

Water can appear calm and easy, but there may be rip currents that are just beneath the surface.

These ripe currents will tire you out if you try to swim against them and they’ll pull you further out. In order to avoid this, swim parallel to the shore until you are free from the current.

Read More:  Why Do Roses Die So Fast? (9 Reasons Why)

It’s also a good idea to do more research on how to identify these areas because they will show signs.

8. E-Coli

The Ohio Department of Health does monitor the beaches for the presence of E-Coli. It’s usually at safe levels and you don’t have to worry.

It is still just a good idea to make sure you aren’t putting yourself or your family at risk by staying up to date with the latest information.

This can apply to a lot of lakes as well. Poor water quality can cause severe illnesses, especially with E-Coli in particular.

It’s best to monitor these levels before you decide to go out for a trip to the beaches. E-Coli can make you severely ill and even cause death.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on why Mount Everest is so dangerous, why the Hudson River is so dirty, and why you can’t see the moon.


As you can see, Lake Erie has a lot of things that can make it dangerous. However, with the right planning and water quality monitoring, it’s the same as any other Lake.

It’s a beautiful lake when the algae bloom is down and it’s great for fishing and other recreational activities. Just be mindful of when you plan to visit.


  • Jean Richardson

    Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

Leave a Comment