The area around the Great Lakes was at one time the industrial heartland of the United States. As an economic entity, the area runs in an arc from Buffalo, New York, to Erie, Pennsylvania, to Cleveland and Toledo, Ohio, to Detroit, Michigan, to Chicago, Illinois, to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Duluth, Minnesota.
Because many of the Great Lakes cities have seen industrial decline to varying degrees, they are often, perhaps inaccurately, referred to as “the Rust Belt.”
The five lakes themselves are in fact large inland seas, holding more than one-fifth of the world’s fresh water. They are interconnected, water flowing eastward from Lake Superior into Lake Michigan, then into Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario until they empty into the Atlantic Ocean via the St. Lawrence River. The lakes form important shipping routes, connecting the center of the continent with the Atlantic. Lake Michigan alone is entirely within the United States; the other four lakes form the border between the United States and Canada.
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