History of Lake Superior: A Timeline


Early Habitation through the 1600s
About 8000 B.C. Archaic Indian people settle Lake Superior region after retreat of Wisconsin glaciers. By 500 
B. C., Laurel people are trading local metal ware for goods from other regions.
Between 1100 and 1600, native people build "Pukaskwa pits," mysterious circular stone features found on east shore.
By early 1600s, the Ojibway have established a village of several thousand on Madeline Island.
1622: Brule and Grenoble are the first whites to see Lake Superior. 1632: Lake Superior, and its connection to Lake Huron, is first shown on a published map. 1641:Two Jesuit missionaries visit the falls between Huron and Superior and give the area a new name: Sault de Ste. Marie.
1647: First reference to lake as "Superieur" is published.
1650: Huron Indians, fleeing Iroquis, arrive on Michigan shore.
1658: Radisson and Groseilliers begin a two-year expedition around Lake Superior.
1660: Radisson and Groseilliers return to Quebec with vast quantities of fur.
1662: Aliance of Anishinabe tribes win decisive battle over Iroquis just west of Sault Ste. Marie, ending period of Iroquis raids from east.
1670: Hudson Bay co. is formed and significant fur trading in Lake Superior region begins.
Late 1670s: Sieur Duluth helps reopen Lake Superior to trade after years of warfare between Sioux and Chippewa, Huron, and Ottawa.
1680: A Jesuit mission has been established at the site of modern Duluth.
1689: War breaks out between Great Britain and France, dooming the Lake Superior fur trade for several years.
1696: Price of furs collapses.  King Louis XIV revokes all fur-trade licenses and prohibits colonials from bringing goods into Lake Superior region.
1700-09: Quiet period as fur-trading temporarily slows. 1717: The French establish the first of three new fur-trading posts on Lake Superior. 1726: At a fort on Lake Nipigon, French explorer La Verendrye learns of a route to the Sea of the West, up the Pigeon River, via Grand Portage. 1731: French explorer La Verendrye sets off on the Grand Portage route, taking the French flag west to the Rocky Mountains. 1740s: Many French explorers and traders adopt customs  of natives, and sometimes marry native women, developing bonds that will cause natives to side with French against their European rivals. 1759: The last French garrison on Lake Superior, at La Pointe on Madeline Island, is given up in the French-Indian War. 1763: Britain's victory in the French & Indian War gives it control of the Lake Superior fur trade.
1768: Land cleared for Grand Portage.
1770: Alexander Henry organizes a mining company and begins exploring for copper at Pointe aux Pins, Ontonagon, and Michipicoten. 1780s: Grand Portage becomes the inland head-
quarters for the North West Co.
1783: Having learned of its wealth of copper, Ben Franklin helps negotiate a deal giving  Isle Royale to the United States. 
1793: The first Soo Locks (to bypass the St. Marys rapids) are constructed at Sault Ste. Marie.
1803: North West Co. begins construction of Fort William.
1807: Irishman John Johnston publishes the best early account of the region: "An Account of Lake Superior, 1792-1807."
1812: During the War of 1812, the British hide warship in Isle Royale's protected bays. 1821: Hudson's Bay Co. and the North West Co. merge. The merged company's Superior base is on the Michi-
picoten River.
1835: The schooner John Jacob Astor is launched, becoming the largest boat to date to ply Lake Superior waters.
1835-37: Fish stations are established on Isle Royale and around Lake Superior by the American Fur Co.
1842: The Webster -Ashburton Treaty establishes the international boundary through Lake Superior.
1842: The American Fur Co. fails.
1850s: The Upper Penisula's copper mines produce about 80% of the nation's copper.
1854: Chief Buffalo signs treaty giving up Ojibway claims to Madeline Island.
1855: Completion of Soo Locks links Lake Superior navigation to the world.
1856: Wheeler Superior smashes into cliffs at Pictured Rocks, killing 50.
1865: Steamboats bring boatloads of "gentleman anglers" to Lake Superior to fish for brook trout.
1868: Silver is discovered on Silver Islet, off the Sibley Penisula.  For the next fifteen years, it is the world's greatest silver mine.
1875: Logging begins on the Canadian shore. Logging of pines continues on south shore.  1880s: The Canadian Pacific Railway is constructed, bringing settlers to the lake's north shore. 
1885: A record 112 tons of sturgeon are taken from Lake Superior.
1885: Algoma shipwreck on Isle Royale kills 45.
1889: The Huron Mountain Club is established by wealthy Marquette residents.
1890s: Logging of south shore pines is mostly over and logging of Mn. north shore red and white pines begins in earnest.
1897:  A gold rush near Wawa, Ontario yields millions of dollars worth of gold.
1898: The first wave of wealthy summer residents arrive on Madeline Island.
1907: Woodland caribou are first observed on the Slate Islands, where they continue to thrive today.
Canada & U. S. sign Boundary Waters Treaty, promising to limit pollution into Lake Superior.
1916: World record brook trout (14.5 lbs.) caught below Lake Nipigon.
1918: Fire in Duluth kills 400 and destroys city's waterfront and nearby towns.
1919: The grandest home on Superior shores, Granot Loma on the Keweenaw Penisula, is constructed by Louis Kaufman.
1924: Approximate end of the lumbering boom along the north shore.
U. S. & Canada end the 
commercial fishing of sturgeon.
1930: Last woodland caribou (except for rare migrants) seen on Mn's north shore.
1939: Near Marquette,
first sea lamprey identified in Lake Superior.
1940: Isle Royale National Park is established.
1941: 28 German Luftwaffe officers and U-boat captains escape from a POW camp on the Coldwell Penisula, Ont.
1944: Section of road between Jackfish Bay and Batchawana Bay is finished, opening up Lake Superior Circle Route travel.
Late 1940s: Wolves arrive on Isle Royale.
1959: St. Lawrence Seaway opens, introducing salt-water shipping (and later non-indige-
nous species).
1962: Lake trout catches have fallen 90% in a decade.
1966: Coho salmon first planted in Lake Superior.
1969: Reconstruc-
tion of North West Co. fort at Grand Portage is destroyed by fire.
1970: Thunder Bay is formed by the merger of Fort William and Port Arthur.
1972: Last log run of tug from Grand Marais to Ashland.
1972: Canada and U.S. sign Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement
1975: The Edmund Fitzgerald sinks, killing 29 crew-
1980: Isle Royale holds highest density of wolves in world, then within a few years the population drops to 12.
1980: After long court battle, Reserve Mining in Silver Bay, Mn ends discharge of taconite tailing in Lake Superior.
1983: Pukaskwa National Park opens in Ontario.
1990s: The Superior Hiking Trail, a 280-mile continuous footpath from Duluth to Canadian border, is constructed.
1999: Massive blowdown in BWCA alters Mn. north shore ecosystem.

Lake Superior Homepage