The History of the Great Lakes
The modern history of the Great Lakes begins when Christopher Columbus arrived in America with his fellow explorers. Prior to the arrival of these European immigrants, the Great Lakes and the connecting streams and rivers were a functiong, self-contained eco-system. The animals that lived in and around the water had an established food chain and life-cycle that kept the animal and plant populations in check. The Native Americans that had lived in the area prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus did not disturb that balance with their hunting and farming.
When the first set of European immigrants first came, the ecosystem was disturbed only by their avid hunting. These new settelers had a tendency to over hunt some of the furry mamals that lived in the area. The reason that they did this was so that they would be able to use the furs to trade with the other settlers. While this hunting did not have a big effect on the environment, it set the scene for what was to come.
As the number of immigrants increased the Great Lakes region saw massive changes. In order to surrvive, the new immigrants began to cut down the thick forrests, they caught the fish that lived in the lakes, streams and rivers of the region, and they plowed the land in order to create flat land for farming. These changes had a big impact on the environment. When the settelers began to cut down the trees, areas that were once protected by the shade provided by the trees were now exposed to the sun. The unused portions of the cut trees began to block many of the streams and rivers that once flowed freely. The sawmills that processed the cut trees were getting rid of their extra sawdust by dumping it back into the surrounding lakes and streams. The nondiscriminate fishing that occurred led to the loss of entire fish populations. This in turn led to a breakdown in the food chain. And, the farming created exposed soil that began to slowly wash away with each rain storm or gust of wind.
As time passed, the human population in the area grew. The farming community was slowly being replaced by a very industrial society. The onslaught of industry forever changed the environment around the Great Lakes for many reasons. As industry grew, so did the population. The thounsands of new people that migrated towards the Great Lakes bringing with them many new pollutants and waterborne diseases.