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Lake Superior North Shore

Lake Superior North Shore

Cook County, Minnesota perches on the fabled North Shore of Lake Superior, which is celebrated for its agate beaches, clear water, rugged coastal scenery, and rich natural and cultural history.

Here’s how to find Lake Superior agates.

Lake Superior is often called the greatest of the Great Lakes—and with good reason: With a surface area of 31,700 square miles, it is the largest freshwater lake in the world. It holds three quadrillion gallons of water—about ten percent of all the fresh surface water on Earth.

To put it another way, Lake Superior could hold the other Great Lakes plus three more the size of Lake Erie. If you drained Lake Superior, it would flood North and South America with a foot of water.

A few more Lake Superior facts and statistics:

  • Average depth: 483 feet
  • Deepest spot: 1,332 feet
  • Shoreline length: 1,826 miles
  • Average water temperature: 40º Fahrenheit
  • Average underwater visibility: 27 feet
  • Number of fish species: 78
  • Number of shipwrecks: Over 350 (Many are now protected preserves that are accessible to recreational divers.)

How Lake Superior got its name
Anyone who has ever heard the poem “The Song of Hiawatha” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow knows that Lake Superior is also called Gichigami.

Gichigami has been spelled multiple ways, including Gitche Gumee and Kitchi-gummi. Gichigami is an Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe or Chippewa) word meaning “big water” or “great water.”

French explorers called the great body of water “Le Lac Superieur,” or “Upper Lake”—as in, the lake above Lake Huron. The French began trading with the Anishinabe Ojibwe in the 1600s.

Lake Superior region animals
The Lake Superior basin is home to an astonishing array of critters, including moose, lynx, wolves, coyotes, bobcats, otter, deer, beavers, fishers and pine martens. Learn more about Cook County plants and wildlife.

The North Shore region, including the Gunflint Trail, is also a birder’s paradise. It is a major flight corridor year-round and a seasonal migratory flyway for many species.

The Superior National Forest is a designated Globally Important Birding Area.