Geography

Facts about Lake Superior

22 facts about Lake Superior

Its name originated from the French language, where "Lac Supérieur" means "Upper Lake." It belongs to the five freshwater Great Lakes of North America and it's the largest and deepest one.
1
Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake on Earth by surface area.
It is also the second-largest lake on Earth after the Caspian Sea. Lake Superior's surface area is 82,000 km2 (31,700 sq mi). Its maximum length is 560 km (350 mi), and maximum width 260 km (160 mi).
2
There is more water in Lake Superior than in the other Great Lakes combined.
The lake has 12,100 km³ (2,900 cu mi) of water, which is about 10% of all the fresh water on Earth.
3
It is also a deep one.
The lake's average depth is 147 m (483 ft), with the lake's deepest point at 406m (1,333 ft).
4
Waters in Lake Superior used to be the cleanest among all Great Lakes.
Today, the waters of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan are filtered because of the invasive quagga mussels that live there. Thus, both lakes surpass Lake Superior in clarity.
5
It has over 200 tributaries.
Most large tributary rivers are located in the northern part of the lake. The only large in the south is St. Louis. Largest ones are Nipigon, St. Louis, Pigeon, Kaministikwia, Pic, White and Michipicoten.
6
The most picturesque shore of Lake Superior is the northern one.
It is made of ancient, Precambrian granites that emerged pushed up by magma between 4,5 billion and 540 million years ago.
7
During storms, waves may exceed 6 m (20 ft) in height.
Even 9m (30 ft) high waves have been recorded in history, but such large ones rarely form.
8
It was formed by the retreat of the glaciers about 10 thousand years ago.
This was when the first people appeared on the shores of the lake. They belonged to the Plano culture, a hunter-gatherer people known for caribou hunting and the manufacture of Plano Point projectiles.
9
The water level changes according to the season.
The lowest level occurs in March and April, the highest in October and November.
10
The largest island on Lake Superior is Isle Royale.
Its surface area is 535,4 km2 (206,7 sq mi). It is located in the northwestern part of the lake. Surrounded by over 400 smaller islands, it hosts an Isle Royale National Park. Park was established on April 3, 1940 and declared a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve in 1980. It is visited by about 25 thousand tourists annually, making it the least-visited national park in the contiguous United States.
11
The fauna on Isle Royale is very diverse.
Isle Royale National Park most popular animals are 
  • moose, 
  • deer mice,
  • river otter,
  • snowshoe hare,
  • red squirrel. 

The island's conditions favor some of the animals, so the bat population there is really impressive. Seven species of bats live on the Isle Royale.

The woodland caribou population used to be very numerous but was extirpated with the last specimen seen in 1925.

The Canadian Lynx suffered the same fate and disappeared from the island in the 1930s. They can occasionally be seen on the island if they can cross the ice bridge from Canadian territory.

12
The Lake Superior Basin area is home to 58 native orchid species.
Most orchids grow in the wetlands, marshes and swamps, a habitat where we would not expect to find them, but native orchids have adapted to this harsh weather and acidic and sandy soils.
13
Lake Superior is very cold.
The lake's average temperature is only 2 °C (36 °F).
14
In the winter of 2019, 95% of the lake was covered by ice.
The previous record was 92,5% coverage recorded on March 6, 2014, but if Global Warming isn't stopped soon, by 2040 Lake Superior may become an ice-free body of water.
15
Despite its cold waters, over 80 fish species live in the lake.

The most popular native fish of the lake are

  • bloater,
  • burbot,
  • cisco,
  • lake sturgeon,
  • lake trout,
  • pumpkinseed,
  • rock bass,
  • walleye,
  • yellow perch.
16
To circle the lake, you have to drive 2783 km (1729 mi).
That's almost the same distance as between Chicago and Las Vegas.
17
Flushing time of Lake Superior is 191 years.
That is how long it would take to replace all the lake water with a new one.
18
The first steamboat to ply the lake's waters was the Independence in October 1845.
The boat was used to transport goods and passengers, mainly to mining settlements around the lake.
19
Lake Superior and the Huron's water levels differ by 25 ft (8 m).

The Soo Locks has been built to sail from one lake to another. The first locks were constructed in 1855, and today there are two of them:

  • MacArthur Lock, built in 1943,
  • Poe Lock, built in 1896.


In 2009 a proposal to build another modern lock has been made. Construction is about to finish around 2030.

About 10 thousand ships pass through the locks every year.

20
About 350 shipwrecks have been found at the bottom of Lake Superior.
It is estimated that over 10 thousand people have drowned in its waters. The lake is known for not giving up its dead. Because of the low temperatures, the bacteria responsible for decomposing the bodies are not as active as they would be in warmer conditions. Because of the microorganisms' limited activity, drowned bodies tend to sink to the bottom instead of floating on the surface, lifted by the gases produced during decomposition.
21
The first European on Upper Lake is believed to have been the French traveler Étienne Brûlé in 1622.
During his travels, he encountered many native tribes and learned their language to become one of the first tribal interpreters. Brûlé died under unclear circumstances, probably killed by members of the Huron tribe for treason.
22
The surroundings of the lake are rich in valuable deposits of raw materials.
Iron ore has been mined here since the middle of the 19th century. Silver, nickel and copper are also mined around the lake.