The North Shore of Lake Superior

Perched on the rocky shoreline of Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake, the fabled Lake Superior North Shore of Minnesota has long been a destination of choice for visitors. Generations have been lured to this rugged coast for its incredible scenery, clear waters, agate beaches and vibrant cultural history.

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)
Sought after gem: The Lake Superior Agate – Click here to learn more about Agates

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 Anishinaabe 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 wildlife viewing here.

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.

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