Lake Erie is the fourth-largest, the shallowest, and the southernmost Great Lake. It also has a unique shape, which is depicted in its name. “Erie” is derived from the Iroquoian word erielhonan that means “long tail”.

However, what makes this Great Lake so remarkable are the people who call it their home. Many people from all different backgrounds and walks of life feel a strong, intrinsic connection with Lake Erie. Whether it’s economic, recreational, or spiritual, the lake is a lifeline for them. And as Lake Erie continues to be battered by annual — and sometimes toxic — algae blooms and devastating impacts of climate change, such as flooding, they know how much their communities stand to lose if the lake is not protected.

North of Long Tail is a documentary photography project that shows the human side of Lake Erie. It shares 20 stories of people living on the north side of the lake. All stories and images are by Colin Boyd Shafer.