The World's Greatest
by Douglas O.
Lake Superior is
aptly named. As Craig Blacklock notes in his book Lake Superior
Images, "To comprehend Superior be must change our concept of
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
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.
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
gray. Irregular cloud-cast
shadows move playfully across its surface. The horizon melts into the
sky and then reappears. The lake can be calm
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.
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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