15 Amazing Facts About Lake Superior

Did you know that the largest lake in the world is located on the border of Canada and the United States?

In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about Lake Superior, one of the most amazing lakes in the world!

1. It’s one of the 5 Great Lakes in North America

Lake Superior is one of the 5 Great Lakes of North America, a series of large interconnected lakes located near the Canada and United States border.

The other lakes are:

Lake Superior is located the farthest north and west of the 5 Great Lakes.

Map of the 5 Great Lakes of North America
Map of the 5 great lakes of North America. / Wiki Commons

2. The Lake is located in 1 Canadian province and 3 U.S. States

Lake Michigan is the only of the 5 Great Lakes that is located completely within the borders of one country, the United States, so this means Lake Superior is located within both Canada and the United States.

The northern part of the lake is located in the Canadian Province of Ontario, the western part is in the U.S. state of Minnesota, and the southern section is located in the U.S. states of Wisconsin and Michigan.

facts about Lake Superior
Lake Superior in Michigan / Wiki Commons

3. Lake Superior holds an incredible record

Lake Superior isn’t just the largest of the 5 Great Lakes, even though Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are technically connected at the straights of Mackinac, it’s considered to be the largest lake in the world by surface area.

It has some pretty incredible stats:

  • Surface area: 31,700 square miles (82,000 square kilometers)
  • Total catchment area: 49,300 square miles (128,000 square kilometers)
  • Maximum length: 350 miles (560 kilometers)
  • Maximum width: 160 miles (260 kilometers)
  • Shore length: 1,729 miles (2,783 kilometers)
  • Shore length of islands: 997 miles (1,605 kilometers)
The huge lake superior
The huge lake / karlee ladyk / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en

4. It’s not the largest lake in the world by volume

While it’s the largest lake in the world by surface area, it’s only the third-largest lake in the world by volume. Only Lake Baikal in Russia and Lake Tanganyika, which is shared by 4 countries in the east of Africa, have a higher volume of water.

This doesn’t mean that it’s not deep though because it has an average depth of 483 feet (147 meters) and a maximum depth of 1,333 feet (406 meters).

The total volume of Lake Superior is 2,900 cubic miles (12,000 cubic kilometers). It has a residence time (the time it takes for the water to flow out of the lake) of 191 years!

Lake Superior facts
The 2 Hearted River / KatieRuiz / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

5. The lake’s bottom is the second-deepest spot in the United States

One of the most remarkable facts about Lake Superior is that it contains the second-deepest point in all of the United States, even though the lake’s surface is at the highest elevation of all the 5 Great Lakes!

The deepest point is located at a depth of 733 feet (223 meters) below sea level, which means that only Iliamna Lake in Alaska with a depth of 942 feet (287 meters) below sea level is deeper.

This doesn’t mean that it’s the deepest lake in the United States though because Crater Lake is much deeper its deepest point is located 4,229 feet (1,289 meters) above sea level due to its high elevation.

Lake superior interesting facts

6. Native Americans referred to it as “The Great Sea,” and there’s a reason

When the French first arrived at the lake in the 16th century, they referred to it as “le lac supérieur,” a name that refers to the fact that it’s located above Lake Huron.

The British then anglicized this name to “Lake Superior” after chasing away the French in the area in the 1760s. They called it this way because it was “superior in magnitude to any of the lakes on that vast continent.”

The Native American people who lived in the area, the Ojibwe, referred to the lake as “gichi-gami,” which literally translates to the “great sea.”

That’s a pretty fitting name, not just because of its huge size, but also because it features huge waves just like on the oceans. These waves can reach heights of up to 30 feet (9 meters)!

Waves at lake superior

7. Lake Superior drains into another Great North American lake

Lake Superior only has one outlet which is the St. Mary’s River. This river drains Lake Superior into Lake Huron, which is located at a lower elevation, through a series of rapids.

These rapids are bypassed by a series of locks referred to as the “Soo Locks.” The first locks in the area were opened in the year 1855 and now allow over 10,000 ships to bypass an area where the river drops 21 feet (6.4 meters) every year.

St. Marys River draining Lake Superior into Lake Huron
St. Marys River draining Lake Superior into Lake Huron / Wiki Commons

8. While the lake only has 1 outlet, it has over 200 inlets

One of the most fascinating facts about Lake Superior is that despite it only having one outlet, over 200 rivers and canals are flowing into the lake!

These include some relatively large rivers as well such as the Nipigon River, the St. Louis River, the Pigeon River, the Pic River, the White River, and numerous smaller rivers.

Northern Shore of Lake Superior
North Shore of the lake / Steve Moses / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

9. The water level of the lake fluctuates month by month

At the moment, the surface of the lake has an average elevation of 600 feet (183 meters) above sea level. This elevation fluctuates month by month with the highest elevation being in October and November.

Before the 19th century, the level of the water was completely determined by the outflow of the lake through the rapids of the St Mary’s River. By 1921, however, the rapids were completely controlled by the locks and canals that were built and allows the water supply to be controlled.

This setup is referred to as the “Compensating Works” and is regulated by the International Lake Superior Board of Control, an organization that was established in 1914.

Soo Locks Lake Superior
The Soo Locks / Source

10. One island on the lake contains several lakes itself

There are numerous fairly large islands located on the lake, with the largest being “Isle Royale” which is located in the northwest of the lake in the U.S. state of Michigan.

This island has a length of 45 miles (72 kilometers), a width of 9 miles (14 kilometers), and covers a total area of 206.73 square miles (535.4 square kilometers).

It also houses a natural park referred to as the “Isle Royale National Park” which consists of the island itself and the 450 smaller islands surrounding it. On top of that, the island is also home to 6 lakes itself!

Isle Royale lighthouse
Isle Royale lighthouse / Ray Dumas / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

11. Several cities are located along the shore of the lake

While there aren’t any large cities located along the shores of the lake, there are some notable cities here such as:

  • Duluth, Minnesota
  • Superior, Wisconsin
  • Thunder Bay, Ontario
  • Marquette, Michigan
  • Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
  • Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

Duluth in Minnesota, which is located in the southeast corner of the lake, is the largest metropolitan area with a population of nearly 300,000 together with the neighboring city of Superior in Wisconsin.

Duluth on the shore of Lake Superior
The city of Duluth / Wiki Commons

12. The area of the lake has been inhabited for 10,000 years

The Wisconsin glaciation happened 10,000 years ago and formed the current land surrounding the lake. The glaciers gradually retreated and while this happened, the first people known as the “Plano” moved along the shores of the lake.

After these initial inhabitants, numerous other Native American tribes have settled in the area of Lake Superior, with the last tribes being of the “Anishinaabe People,” which included the “Ojibwe” or “Chippewa,” who inhabited the area for over 500 years and became the dominant tribe who also collaborated with the first European settlers.

Lake superior interesting facts

13. The southern shore is known as the “Graveyard of the Great Lakes”

The area was rich in natural resources and most of the towns along the shores of the lake are old mining towns. These mined resources were transported across the lake as well and a lot of steamboats started crossing the lake in the 19th century.

The area between Grand Marais, Michigan, and Whitefish Point, which is located on the southern shore of the lake, is referred to as the “Graveyard of the Great Lakes.” This is because of the numerous ships that wrecked here.

The last ship to wreck at Lake Superior was the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, with the entire crew of 29 losing their lives on November 10, 1975, during a severe storm.

SS Edmund Fitzgerald which wrecked on lake superior
SS Edmund Fitzgerald / Greenmars / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

14. It’s home to over 80 different species of fish

The lake is rich in fish as it’s home to at least 80 different species, many of which are native to the lake.

Remarkably, this doesn’t mean that there are a lot of fisheries because the lake isn’t rich in nutrients, resulting in it being less productive in terms of fish populations.

fun facts about Lake Superior

15. One of the 7 Wonders of Canada is located on a peninsula in the lake

One of the most amazing facts about Lake Superior is that one of the most remarkable natural feats on the planet is located on a peninsula inside the lake called “Sibley Peninsula.”

This is referred to as the “Sleeping Giant” as it literally looks as if a giant is sleeping on the peninsula when viewed from the north-northwest section of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.

This amazing phenomenon received the most votes when the 7 wonders of Canada were chosen, beating one of the most famous waterfalls in the world, Niagara Falls, with over 90,000 votes!

Sleeping Giant in Lake Superior
Sleeping Giant aerial / P199 / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0