While Lake Erie is the smallest and shallowest of the Great Lakes, she is estimated to have some 1,400 shipwrecks within her waters. The average depth is only 62 feet, with a 210 foot maximum depth on the eastern end. This contributes to diver interest as Lake Erie offers shipwreck diving within recreational and technical ranges.
There are still many undiscovered vessels in Lake Erie's waters and, in researching shipwrecks, it is sometimes difficult to determine a vessel's location or whether it has been salvaged. Historic accounts in newspapers and books are not always available, resulting in piecing together the vessel's history and sometimes approximating the location.
Lake Erie actively participated in Great Lakes maritime trade, and her shipwrecks represent a cross-section of the vessel types used during the 1800's (schooners, schooner barges, tugs, sidewheel steamers etc.) Her historic vessel sinkings were often caused by poor navigation (resulting in collisions), storm damage, groundings and fires. Thus, her shipwrecks often display the resulting damage that caused their sinking.
Ohio's waters are shallow by comparison to the eastern end (off New York.) This can result in her shipwrecks being less intact due to currents, weather and seasonal damage (although several penetrable shipwrecks still exist.) In addition, portions of the lake bottom are soft and silty, while others are hard sediment or stone. This can result in the vessel sinking, separating and becoming covered. Debris fields often exist around the main area of vessel wreckage.
The following links provide various information regarding some of the shipwrecks within Ohio's waters. By gathering this type of data, we can better understand the vessels within our waters, locations with the heaviest concentration of wrecks, and the average lifespan of various vessel types.