The French, the first European visitors to the region, often referred to Lake Huron as La Mer Douce, “the fresh-water sea”. In 1656, a map by French cartographer Nicolas Sanson refers to the lake as Karegnondi, a Wendat word which has been variously translated as “Freshwater Sea”, “Lake of the Hurons”, or simply “lake” The Lake was generally labeled “Lac des Hurons” (Lake of the Huron) on most early European maps. First paddled by Native Americans, and then voyageurs, traders and missionaries in the late 1600s with the start of the fur trade, Lake Huron became a vital shipping route. Lake Huron was the first of the Great Lakes to be discovered by European explorers. Shipwrecks are scattered throughout the lake, with five bottomland preserves in Michigan and a national park in Ontario designated to protect the most historically significant ones.
Lake Huron is the second largest Great Lake by surface area and the fifth largest freshwater lake in the world. It has the longest shoreline of the Great Lakes, counting the shorelines of its 30,000 islands. Lake Huron receives the flow from both Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, but water flows through Lake Huron (retention time) much more quickly than through either of them. The Lake Huron basin is heavily forested, sparsely populated, scenically beautiful, and economically dependent on its rich natural resources.