Lake Superior
Sources for the Greatest Lake




Simply Superior: The World's Greatest Lake 
by Douglas O. Linder (2014)

Lake Superior is aptly named.  As Craig Blacklock notes in his book Lake Superior Images, "To comprehend Superior be must change our concept of what a lake is."  Impressed visitors often remark after seeing the lake for the first time, "It's like the ocean--except with fresh water." **  With 2,730 miles of coastline and 10% of the planets fresh surface water, Lake Superior is--by surface area--the largest lake on earth.  Its 3 quadrillion gallons of water is enough water to flood the entire continents of North and South America to a depth of one foot, and is much more than the water contained in all of the other Great Lakes combined.  Superior's cold, clear expanse (average water temperature is 40ºF) is large enough to change the region's climate, delaying its spring, moderating its summer and falls, and producing on its southern shores in winter the largest lake effect snows on earth.

Statistics, however, are only a small part of Lake Superior's story.  Anyone who spends much time on the greatest of the Great Lakes comes to love the lake.  Its coast is beautiful and diverse, ranging from sandy shores to high, rocky, boreal-forest-covered cliffs.  Over 300 streams and rivers tumble into it.  Superior's waters are among the clearest on earth, with an average underwater visibility of 27 feet.  Equally capable of inspiring awe, however, are the lake's many moods as they unfold in the famously changing northern weather.  Superior's colors change from a glimmering deep blue to green to gray.  Irregular cloud-cast shadows move playfully across its surface. The horizon melts into the sky and then reappears.   The lake can be calm and inviting--or terrifying as it tosses wildly in the grip of a November gale.  To live along its shores is to come to think of Lake Superior as a person of majesty,  not simply as an ordinary natural feature.

Adding to an appreciation of Lake Superior is the knowledge that it is--geologically speaking--a very short-lived natural feature for all of its impressive size.  Born of the retreating glaciers about 10,000 years ago, and reaching its modern stage and elevation only 2,000 years ago, Lake Superior now faces its inevitable death.  Lakes are evanescent.  Superior's beautiful vastness is only, as Craig Blacklock observed, "a momentary flash of silver across the face of our planet."  Lucky we are to share its time.

**In fact, Lake Superior has passed for an ocean in Hollywood films.  For example, the 1993 movie The Good Son, starring Macauley Culkin and Elijah Wood,  is said to take place along Maine's Atlantic coast, but its director found that Minnesota's north shore of Superior came closer to having the rugged, unpopulated coastal look than anything Maine provided, and coastal scenes in the movie were shot along Lake Superior.
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