Journeys through the Great Lakes

Here are four of my favorite books on Great Lakes tours. (Click on the book images for details or to purchase at Amazon. We do not earn commission on book sales.)  ¶

The Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas
By Jerry Dennis
St. Martin’s Griffin, 2004, 320 pages, paperback & Kindle

This one is my favorite. It’s thoroughly entertaining, educational, and awe-inspiring. In 2000 Jerry Dennis crewed on a tall-masted schooner from Grande Traverse Bay (Michigan) to Maine, via Lakes Michigan, Huron, and Erie; then through the Erie Canal and the Hudson River, and finally the Atlantic Ocean. He weaves fascinating history, ecology, and folklore into the adventurous (sometimes exciting) travelogue–plus the author’s previous voyages through Lake Superior.LivingGreatLakes

Jerry Dennis is an outdoor adventure and nature writer. His more recent book is The Windward Shore: A Winter on the Great Lakes (2012), published by the University of Michigan. Slowed down by a knee injury, Dennis travels by land and stays in houses ranging from a log cabin on Lake Superior’s Keweenaw Peninsula to a $20 million mansion on the northern shore of Lake Michigan. He walks on beaches and explores nearby woods and villages, musing on the nature of time, weather, waves, agates, books, words for snow and ice, our complex relationship with nature, and more.

The Great Lakes: The Natural History of a Changing Region
By Wayne Grady
Greystone, 2007, 320 pages, hardcover and paperback

The Great Lakes Basin is home to 40 million residents, a hub of industry, a resting spot for billions of migrating birds, an increasingly valuable resource (with 20 TheGreatLakes-Gradypercent of the world’s fresh surface water as well as vast forests)…and a dumping ground for toxic wastes. Wayne Grady, a science and nature writer, explores this complex, changing ecosystem, including the area’s geological formation; its role in human history; its diverse plant, bird, and animal species; and its significant climatic features. Grady also wrote The Bone Museum: Travels in the Lost Worlds of Dinosaurs and Birds (2003).

America’s Inland Coast: Journey Along the Great Lakes
Director: Richard Olsenius
Bluestem Productions, 2008, DVD

This is a scenic and memorable video portrait of life on Lakes Michigan and Superior. First released on PBS Americas-Inland-Coasttelevision in 1989, this remastered video explores the unique coastal regions through four people whose lives have been shaped by these inland seas. It features the work of National Geographic contract photographer Richard Olsenius.


Great Lakes Journey: A New Look at America’s Freshwater Coast
By William Ashworth
Wayne State University Press, 2003 (288 pages, paperback & Kindle)

William Ashworth toured the Great Lakes first in 1983 and wrote a book, The Late, Great Lakes: An Environmental History (Wayne State U. Press, 1987). It is a “passionate plea for an awakening to the [ecological] crises faced by the lakes and surrounding land,” says Library Journal, which highly recommends it, as does Publishers Weekly. Ashworth recounts lots of conversations with locals, and is “puzzled by the apparent apathy of the people living around the water, as if it will always be there.”GLJourney

He toured the lakes again in 1998 and wrote Great Lakes Journey: A New Look at America’s Freshwater Coast. It is a record of the changes that have taken place along much the same route as 15 year earlier, with a discussion of the region’s geology, geography, hydrology, history, and culture. Among the most prominent changes he finds are the arrival of the zebra mussel and other invasive species, a substantial loss of habitat and biodiversity, and an explosion of urban sprawl along the shores of the Lakes. The book is illustrated with black-and-white photographs.

Ashworth is also the author of The Encyclopedia of Environmental Studies (1991) and several other books about nature and ecology.

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