Facts Nobody Knows About Lake Superior

By Juliet S 7 months ago
Lake Superior is one of the most famous lakes in North America - and in the world - attracting a ton of visitors each and every year. Whether it's for exploring, taking in the incredible scenery or even taking your paint brushes or camera along with you, there's no denying this is a lake that inspires adventure and creativity.

But how much do you actually know about this famous body of water? Some of these amazing facts might astound you - and be excuse for another visit...

1. Fresh Water

Lake Superior contains about 10 % of the Earth’s fresh water. This fact qualifies it as the third-largest freshwater lake in the world by volume.
Image Source: Reddit
Moreover, its water is safe to drink. The main reason Lake Superior is a freshwater lake is that it is not a closed lake. Through the St. Mary’s River and the Soo Locks, the lake empties itself into Lake Huron.

2. Surface Area

Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake worldwide. Amazing! Right? Its expanse of water is about 31,700 sq miles.
Image Source: Reddit
If we compared this to any land mass we know, it could be about the surface area of South Carolina or even Austria in Europe. Lengthwise, it is about 350 miles.

3. Depth

Lake Superior may not be the deepest lake in the world or the USA, but its depth is no mean feat. It has an average depth of 483 feet. What about the deepest point of the lake? Even deeper!

Image Source: Reddit

At 1,333 feet where only the best limnologists can discover. In 1985, the iconic limnologist J. Val Klump was recorded as the first person to reach this point.

4. Fish Species

Lake Superior has about 88 species of fish species. Being a freshwater lake, it is the perfect ecosystem for different kinds of edible and inedible fish. Open fishing is also very legal.
Image Source: Outdoor Life
These fish species include The Northern pike, which prefers the cooler regions of the lake, the Walleye, the beautiful Rainbow Trout AND the Atlantic salmon.

5. Vegetation

Lake Superior is also home to a wide variety of plants that thrive along its shores and within its bountiful surface. These plants not only improve the aesthetic quality of the lake but also serve as food for the many species of fish abundant there.
Image Source: Reddit
They include: The Poor Fens, the Carnivorous pitcher plant, the Bog rosemary, and the Bulrush found at the lake’s marshes. However, the Eurasian watermilfoil has also invaded the lake...

6. Rivers and Streams

This amazing lake receives its water from more than 300 rivers and streams. From the Nipigon to St. Louis, the Kaministiquia River, the White River, the Bois Brule River, and the bi-national Pigeon River.

Image Source: Reddit

The lake then empties its volumes into Lake Huron via the St. Mary’s River, beset by many rapids. To make this stream way navigable, the Soo Locks were built to allow ships to beat the steep height difference between the two lakes.

7. Temperature

Did you know that Lake Superior rarely freezes completely? Now you know! Its waters maintain an average temperature of 39°F for a greater part of the year.

Image Source: Reddit

During winter, the lake freezes like many other water surfaces. However, some parts remain unfrozen due to Lake Superior’s enormous surface area and depth.

8. Clarity and Visibility

Considering its immense size, you may be tempted to think that Lake Superior’s surface is opaline in appearance. But that is not the case. The lake has a surprisingly clear surface.
Image Source: Reddit
It has a visibility range of about 27 feet. For this reason, it is considered to be the cleanest of all great lakes. Researchers have attributed this spectacular fact to the lake’s isolated presence.

9. Geology

Lake Superior is located in an exciting region of geological study. The rocks found at the lake’s northern shores around Ontario have existed for almost 2.7 billion years.
Image Source: Reddit
Some scenic granite rocks on this lake’s shores are valuable sources for understanding the Precambrian age of earth formation. The area around the lake is also rich in minerals such as silver, gold, nickel, and iron.

10. Yacht Race

Do you love yacht racing? Lake Superior hosts the biggest freshwater yacht race in the world! Twice every year, the Duluth yacht club sponsors the recreational event that runs from Gros Cap Light to Duluth.

Image Source: Reddit

Sailboat enthusiasts flock there to participate in the race. What’s even more interesting is that there is adequate information about the event on the Internet to ensure you’re adequately prepared.

11. Water Levels

One of the amazing facts about Lake Superior is its high-water level. Although these levels vary seasonally throughout the year, the lake maintains an average of 590 feet.

Image Source: Reddit

The reason why these levels vary is because of global ice melting, precipitation, and annual temperatures. St. Mary’s River, however, controls the water levels keeping it within limits.

12. Tides

We all love the swishing waves that run toward the shore and then recede. Poetic. But lakes usually do not have tides because they contain smaller water volumes than oceans and seas.
Image Source: MPR News
However, Lake Superior does have a tidal wave. Experts have recorded that a tidal pattern exists every two times a day due to strong winds and variations in atmospheric pressure.

13. Lowest Point on the Continent

Just kidding! Perhaps not the lowest point in the Continent, but here is the thing. If we drained Lake Superior of all its waters, it would be the third lowest point in the entire Continent.
Image Source: Pinterest
It is unlikely that this would happen, but the projection of such a possibility helps experts to understand the consequences it would bring to the ecosystem.

14. Shoreline

If you want to know how long Lake Superior’s coastline is, stretch out a line from Duluth, Minnesota, to the Bahamas and observe the distance. Imagine it. 2,800 miles long!
Image Source: Reddit
Minnesota’s north shore has the longest shoreline at 150 miles. If that’s not enough, the shore is mainly a bedrock resistant to erosion. If you’re down to beach-like places, the southern shores of the lake are sandy and cool.

15. Sunsets

Whenever you’re thinking about getaways in the summer, try this amazing experience. Visit the southeastern shore of Lake Superior during the evening, and correspond to someone else on the western coast.
Image Source: Reddit
Something fascinating will happen. The sun sets 35 minutes earlier than the western shore. You can also visit the western shore yourself, and interestingly, someone on the southeastern shore will confirm that the sun had set 35 minutes earlier down there.

16. Storms

Great lakes mean great storms. And Lake Superior is indeed a surface for tremendous tempests. When the Canadian system of low-pressure clashes with the lake’s warm waters, winds of up to 69 mph rile up 200 miles of water surface.
Image Source: Lovin' Lake County
It is unsafe to navigate the lake during this time, usually November, and authorities insist you remain indoors. These storms have caused immense damage to ships for the longest time in navigation history.

17. Shipwrecks

It’s getting scary, right? Well, justifiably so. Lake Superior has had its share of navigational disasters. Over 10,000 people have been recorded as victims of its waters.

Image Source: Reddit

Some ships have wandered into obscurity, never to be found. However, some have been retrieved over the years. In 1905, an American ship called the Amboy was embroiled in a storm, Mataafa, finally sinking into the lake’s depths.

18. Churning stuff

The storms that ravage Lake Superior simmer the depths, causing a regurgitation of things long buried within. Those who live around the shores have collected ‘lake glass’ and agate rocks.
Image Source: Reddit
Watch out for old lumber, beer cans and bottles, and many other things that would shock you. You would never expect what treasures are lost in Lake Superior.

19. Young lake

Lake Superior is among the youngest water bodies formed in the planet’s history, just about the last ice age. Around 10,000 years ago, an ancient glacier retreated, leaving a basin of fresh water.

Image Source: Visit Cook County

Furthermore, the lake only assumed its current shape and size 4,000 years ago. While some freshwater lakes like Clear Lake in California are said to have existed 500,000 years ago, Lake Superior came into existence when early North American tribes were building their societies.

20. Retention time

Lake Superior holds a great capacity of water that it would take 191 years to cumulatively replace the water in the depression if it was emptied.
Image Source: Reddit
The retention time also determines the time an average drop of water takes to remain in the lake. Many lakes worldwide have a retention time of less than five years. Lake Superior takes its crown thanks to its depth and surface area.

21. Islands

‘Islands?’ Yeah. Lake Superior is large enough to accommodate several islands. The largest island, Isle Royale, is located in Michigan. The island hosts a national park teeming with iconic wildlife that attracts tourists from all over the world.

Image Source: Reddit

Other known islands in the lake include Madeline Island in Wisconsin, Michipicoten Island in Ontario, and another island in Michigan called Grand Island. Don’t forget to take an enjoyable day at the recreational area on Grand Island.

22. Cities and Settlements

Lake Superior has spurred the economic fortunes of those living along its shores, such as fishing, navigation, and mining. For this reason, the lake has a plethora of cities and towns cropping around its ports, both in Canada and the USA.
Image Source: Reddit
Cities like Thunderbay in Ontario and Duluth, Minnesota, can only be grateful that the lake exists to serve their grand purposes. Did you know the world’s largest inland lake port is here? St. Lawrence seaway.

23. Native American History

The earliest inhabitants living around Lake Superior were direct ancestors of the Ojibwe and the Cree. Archaeological evidence suggests that they were fishermen and hunters who mined copper to create weapons and tools.
Image Source: Pinterest
For 600 years, the Ojibwe and the Chippewa lived around the lake, prospering as middlemen between the other Native American tribes and the European traders who arrived on the Continent in the 17th century.

24. Naming and exploration

Lake Superior was named after the French explorers Samuel De Champlain and Étienne Brûlé. When they arrived at the lake during the 17th century, they named it Lac Supérieur, which means ‘upper lake’ in French.
Image Source: The Historical Marker Database
Perhaps you are interested to know why it would be called the Upper Lake? Well, the Frenchmen had already explored Lake Huron, which is geographically located south of Lake Superior.

25. Myth

The Ojibwe tribe has a famous mythological story of a sleeping giant north of Lake Superior. The giant is called Nanabijou, a geographical feature that is laid upon the water and can be seen from Thunderbay, Ontario.
Image Source: Ancient Origins
According to legend, Nanabijou was a god who protected the tribe. When the Europeans arrived, Nanabijou offered a gift to his people. A silver mine.

26. Music Inspiration

Musicians compose songs for lovers and country, but what about lakes? Indeed. In 1976, popular Canadian musician Gordon Lightfoot was inspired by a shipwreck at Lake Superior.
Image Source: TopAccords.com
The song ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’ was a commemoration of the November 1975 disaster. The song managed to ascend the Billboard Hot 100 in just two weeks!

27. Literature

The great lakes are avenues for the bizarre and mysterious. Lake Superior’s surface spans vast and runs deep, thus inspiring writers to imagine stories set here.
Image Source: eBay
The lake has a history of shipwrecks and vessel disappearances that have been source material for about thirty mystery novels since the 19th century. If you are down with non-fiction, books like Michael Schumacher’s ‘Mighty Fitz: The Sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald’ are valuable additions to your library.

28. Dense Basalts

Have you ever wondered why there is a driftless area in Wisconsin today? Well, geologists say it is because of Lake Superior’s dense basalts that acted as a wall for the glaciers about 18,000 years ago.
Image Source: National Park Service
Furthermore, these revelations have enabled experts to understand the Mid-continental rift that happened billions of years ago. Lake Superior is at a unique position in the American Continent that ignoring its existence would leave us with too many blank spaces in Earth’s history.

29. Waves

Lake Superior’s tallest wave ever recorded was about 29 feet north of Marquette in Michigan. This was huge! The wave height that supposedly sunk Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975 was only 23 feet high!
Image Source: Reddit
A photographer from Minnesota, Matthew Breiter, was at Duluth that day and captured amazing images of the wave. You can even find pictures of it on the Internet.

30. Underwater features

From the depths of a thousand feet, a ridge rises to the bottom of Lake Superior. The famous Superior Shoal. This incredible feature is located 50 miles north of Copper Harbor in the middle of the lake.

Image Source: Reddit

Geologists confirm that the shoal is part of the Keweenawan basaltic lava, which is suspected to be responsible for losing two French ships during the first world war.

31. Lake Superior is so big it's technically not a lake

We know that the biggest recognizable difference between bodies of water like ponds, rivers, lakes and the ocean are, you know... the sheer size of them!
image source: reddit.com
With Lake Superior, it's a bit misleading because this body of water is SO big that technically it shouldn't be classed as a lake, but rather an inland sea. Although it's called 'lake', the 'Superior' part might give it away, though.

32. The water of the other Great Lakes still wouldn't fill it

Just to get an idea of how big the Lake Superior actually is in terms of water amount, if you take into account the amount of water in all the other lakes that make up the Great Lake, Lake Superior itself still wouldn't be full to the brim!
image source: reddit.com
The water of all the other lakes combined still doesn't hope to compete with the amount of water in Lake Superior itself.

33. The agates found at Lake Superior are some of the oldest in the world

While Lake Superior is considered to be quite young for a lake, the agates which are found at the lake aren't young at all. In fact, they're some of the oldest agates in the world.
image source: reddit.com
These agates can be found on the beaches at the lake, and they formed around a billion years ago. They formed when lava emerged in the location of Lake Superior when the North American continent split.

34. It takes about two centuries for the water to replace itself

Despite Lake Superior's massive size in terms of water content, there are actually only really small water outlets on this lake, which is uses to get rid of its water.
image source: reddit.com
The outlets are so tiny that it actually takes a cycle of around two centuries for every single drop of water from this lake to replace itself - that's a slow process! Only a casual 200 years to do it.

35. Fascinating facts about the Great Lakes: combined, they're 6 quadrillion gallons of water

It's sometimes hard to wrap your head around the amount of water that's in a lake - and especially the Great Lakes - and this statistic probably won't help!
image source: reddit.com
There is a whopping 6 quadrillion gallons of water in every one of the Great Lakes combined (with the majority of that being Lake Superior). That's a whole lot of zeros: 6,000,000,000,000,000 gallons of water!

36. Their shorelines would equal half of the world

When talking about the gargantuan size of these Great Lakes that we can't wrap out head around, it isn't just about the water content either. The massive stretches of shorelines on these lakes are pretty big, too.
image source: Cottage Life
If you were able to stick them all together and wrap them around the Earth itself, then it would reach halfway around it. That's pretty impressive!

37. 125 million tons of cargo pass through every year

It's no surprise that the Great Lakes are a go-to shipping hub for cargo transportation, due to the amount of water, shoreline and their location. In fact, there's a huge amount of cargo passing through every single year: 125 million tons of it.
image source: reddit.com
This includes materials like stone, coal and iron, as well as agricultural supplies like oats, soybeans and wheat. That's a lot of cargo!

38. The lakes have produced around 17 indigenous tribes

The Great Lakes Region has actually been the origin story of an indigenous tribe or two: 17 different tribes, in fact. Thinking about the rarity and mystery of indigenous tribes, 17 is actually a huge number for one region and location.
image source: reddit.com
Some of these tribes go back as far as 10,000 BC. The names of the lakes also give a nod to the indigenous history, such as Lake Superior coming from the French word, translating as "upper lake".

39. The mystery of Bessie

In another of the Great Lakes, Lake Erie, there was once a fabled monster named Bessie. The water of Lake Erie is actually really shallow, so it would be surprising to have a monster wanting to roam around in it!
image source: reddit.com
Or maybe it just makes it more likely to see its head popping up? Bessie is supposed to be a 40-foot-long snake-like monster.

40. Lake Erie is one of the most populated lakes

Apparently the legend of Bessie hasn't been enough to scare people away, because of all the Great Lakes, Erie is actually the most populated.
image source: reddit.com
There is a great deal of activity and industry surrounding the waters of this lake, including a huge amount of American cities and metropolitan areas. This includes popular locations like Cleveland, Ohio and Buffalo, New York.

41. Household waste was once dumped into the lakes

Of course, a lot of industry, population and activity also means a whole load of waste. And once upon a time - spanning centuries - this household waste was actually dumped into the water of the lake, unfortunately.
image source: reddit.com
The waste from the cities had to go somewhere, and these lakes were prime location! Even now, you can still find remains of waste on the beaches of Lake Erie.

42. The Straits of Mackinac mean one lake is two

It would actually be possible for two of the Great Lakes to be one huge lake if it wasn't for the Straits of Mackinac running through the middle.
image source: reddit.com
The lakes of Michigan - one of the most popular lakes of the Great ones - and Lake Huron could actually be combined as one huge lake if it wasn't for this shallow waterway passing through the middle. These lakes also have the same water level as each other.

43. The curse of the Lake Michigan Triangle

Another mystery from the Great Lakes region is that one Lake Michigan and its apparently cursed 'triangle'. It's said that within this triangle there are many unexplained mysteries and disappearances that have happened in history.
image source: Kate Berg
These including alleged UFO sightings and the disappearance of a schooner that went missing in these waters in 1891. Spooky!

44. Petoskey stones on Lake Michigan

Also to be found at Lake Michigan are the Petoskey stones, which is a treasure that any beachcombers will want to look out for and collect.
image source: reddit.com
The stone is considered to be both a rock and a fossil, and it can be found on the beaches of Lake Michigan's shore. The stone hails from the prehistoric era and show fossils of a Devonian period coral reef.

45. Lake Michigan was once visited by pirates

Back in the 1800s, pirates set their sights on making shore at Lake Michigan, and when they did so, they caused a huge amount of deforestation in the area to get access to the timber.
image source: OnlyInYourState
As well as their actions even playing a part in the fall of the famous ghost town Singapore in Michigan, known for being sunken and abandoned in the year 1871.

46. The discovery of USS Keystone State

The USS Keystone State was another ship embroiled in mystery when it comes to the legend of the Great Lakes. This huge wooden steamship actually disappeared during its operation in Civil War times.
image source: reddit.com
This is when it was sailing from the shores of Lake Michigan. Considered lost, it made the discovery all the more shocking when it was when found in recent years in Lake Huron, underwater!

47. The hunting site found beneath Lake Huron

There have been many strange things found under the waters of any of the Great Lakes, including shipwrecks, but one of the most surprising of all has to be the discovery of a hunting site under Lake Huron.
image source: ctvnews.com
The side is a complicated caribou hunting site, located around 40 meters under the lake's surface, and considered to be 9,000 years old.

48. The sinkholes under Huron

The water on the surface of Lake Huron may look calm and inviting most of the time, but deep, deep below its surface, at the very bottom, there are actually sinkholes to be found.
image source: great lakes echo
These sinkholes are filled with high amounts of sulfur and have a very low oxygen level. They also contain rare ecosystems that would be similar to those of the oceans as they were 3 million years ago!

49. Lake Ontario is deceptively deep

Lake Ontario is considered the smallest in terms of surface area of all the lakes, but what's actually scary is how deceptively deep it is. It may look small on the surface but there is so much water under there...
image source: reddit.com
So much so that Ontario actually has FOUR TIMES more water than Lake Erie does, even though Erie looks a lot bigger when you're looking at it on the surface.

50. Another Lake Ontario?

Okay, so technically it's not on earth, but still. The Lake Ontario we see in the US is actually one of two lakes of the same name, and the second Lake Ontario can be found in a galaxy far, far away...
image source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory - NASA
Well, no, actually in our galaxy, but it's found on Saturn's moon, Titan! The strange thing is that the two lakes are remarkably similar in surface shape and area.