Miners Castle, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Munising, Michigan, USA

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The Great Lakes

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Swept by tumultuous storms and traversed by fleets of oceangoing tankers, the interconnected Great Lakes form the largest body of fresh water in the world; Lake Superior alone is more than three hundred miles from east to west. The shores of these inland seas can rival any coastline: Superior and the northern reaches of Lake Michigan offer stunning rocky peninsulas, craggy cliffs, tree-covered islands, mammoth dunes and deserted beaches. However, for lengthy stretches along Lake Erie, and the bottom lips of lakes Michigan and Huron, sluggish waters lap against large cities and decaying ports.

To varying degrees, the principal states that line the American side of the lakes – Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota – share this mixture of natural beauty and ageing industry. Cities such as Chicago and Detroit, for all their pros and cons, do not characterize the entire region, although the former’s magnificent architecture, museums, music and restaurants make it a worthy destination. Within the first hundred miles or so of the lakeshores, especially in Wisconsin and Minnesota, tens of thousands of smaller lakes and tumbling streams are scattered through a luxuriant rural wilderness; beyond that, you are soon in the heart of the Corn Belt, where you can drive for hours and encounter nothing more than a succession of crossroads communities, grain silos and giant barns.

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