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Indiana's landscape is covered with over 160,000 acres of lakes and reservoirs, plus another 154,000 acres of open water on Lake Michigan. The two areas in the state with the most lakes are northeast and northwest Indiana. The major inland lakes and reservoirs in Indiana include Lake Wawasee, Monroe Lake, Morse Reservoir, Geist Reservoir, Brookville Lake, and Patoka Lake.

Lakes are "large natural bodies of standing freshwater formed when precipitation, runoff, or groundwater seepage fills depressions in the earth's surface" (Miller 163). All three types of lakes exist in Indiana: oligotrophic, which is a poorly nourished, deep, crystal blue or green lake; eutrophic, which is a well-nourished, shallow, murky brown or green body of water; and mesotrophic, which is a lake that features both oligotrophic and eutrophic characteristics.

Another body of water abundant in Indiana and closely related to lakes is ponds. However, ponds usually have vegetation cover across the entire bottom, whereas many lakes are too deep to have such extensive coverage, especially across the bottom of the middle of the lake where sunlight may reach only moderately. Another difference is that ponds do not have any strata, or layers, of variable temperatures. Lakes, to be classified as such, must have at least two strata.

Lakes support a wide range of other ecosystems, such as wetlands, like bogs and fens, and forests. An excellent example of the diverse range of ecosystems that surround a lake is Lake Michigan, which is located at the northwestern tip of the state. Sand dunes, wetlands, forests, and prairie are all a part of this environmentally rich area.

Lake Michigan is part of the largest reservoir of fresh water in the world. As a former employee of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources notes, "No one can look across its vast expanse without feeling a sense of awe for this natural wonder" (Hedge 216). However, in this particular case, as is the case for many of Indiana's bodies of water, water quality is an important issue. For example, Lake Michigan's waters have been a victim of urban sprawl, industrial runoff, and, more recently, the invasion of non-native species—most notably, the zebra mussel.

As the example of Lake Michigan demonstrates, the consequences of water pollution are vast and sometimes irreversible. Thus, it is important to keep Indiana's lakes clean as they are not only home to aquatic life, like fish and plants, but also provide surrounding habitats for animals native to the shoreline, wetlands, and forests.


Hedge, Michelle Martin. "The Southern Tip of the Big-Sea Waters: The Lake Michigan Natural Region." The Natural Heritage of Indiana. Ed. Marion T. Jackson. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1997. 214-16.

Miller, G. Tyler, Jr. Environmental Science: Working with the Earth. 8th ed. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole, 2001.

State of Indiana. Department of Environmental Management. Office of Water Quality. "Executive Summary." Indiana Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report 2002. 2002. 18 Nov. 2002