North Shore: Lake Superior.

Our Literary Outdoors…
literature of the Sportsman’s Guide lifestyle.

If you love Lake Superior, North Country, or natural history in general, check out The University of Minnesota Press’s North Shore: Minnesota’s Superior Coast by Chel Andersen and Adelheid Fischer.

The book is over 600 pages and reads part like a coffee table book, part like a classroom textbook. Its sections are divided into the five interconnected areas of the North Shore watershed: Headwaters, Highlands, Nearshore, Lake Superior and Islands. From chorus frogs to butterworts to pitcher plants to black bears and (trust me) everything in between, the book is a beautiful look at the past, present and future of the region from its glacial development to the impact of tourism.

Continuing to profile 10 facts from each section, this is perhaps the crown jewel of the North Shore…Lake Superior:

  1. Lake Superior is the deepest and coldest of the Great Lakes. It is also the most nutrient-poor of the Great Lakes. Therefore, it can not support large amounts of plant life, and the number of animals that live in/near the lake is limited.
  2. Female cladocerans (a type of zooplankton) reproduce both sexually and asexually. This adaptation is necessary for survival during brutal winters when food is scarce.
  3. Eutrophication, or “aging” of the lake, is a result of runoff from streets, farms, and even industrial development. It is disruptive to the ecosystem.
  4. The U.S. Lake Survey was authorized in 1841 to improve navigation on the Great Lakes by accurately mapping them. The survey took decades, with workers hauling their own supplies with them by canoe (and later steamboat) due to the lack of cities that would be encountered.

    Coastline of Lake Superior, near Split Rock Lighthouse.
  5. Lake trout populations have declined significantly since the 1960s due to overfishing and lamprey infestation. Conservation efforts focus on protecting nearshore spawning areas, which provide ideal feeding and protective grounds.
  6. A mapping of the lake bottom at the Silver Bay Safe Harbor showed substrates of sand, sand/cobble, sand/bedrock, rough bedrock, cobble, and boulders. This information is handy for fishery management and researching aquatic species, since it provides clues to habitats.
  7. The deepest point in the lake was first recorded in 1948 at 1,333 feet. However, more precise calculations updated that figure to 1,265 feet. Depths can suddenly plunge and double in distance, though scientists are not exactly sure what formed the topography in such a way.
  8. Glass bottles were used to study currents! Check this out…in the 1890s, 5,000 glass-blown bottles (7×2.5″) were weighted with sand, corked, and released into the lake. They contained a note with the lake’s map noting the date, longitude/latitude of the bottle’s release, and a message asking finders to record the pickup location. There also was a stamped envelope to mail the results. This information was a source to chart the currents of the Great Lakes.
  9. The single-cell algae called a “diatom” and bottom-dwelling amphipod Diporieia are considered part of the lake’s “bread and butter”. The diatom is a food source of the amphipod, and the amphipod is a dietary staple of every fish in the lake.
  10. Plans have occasionally popped up to create a canal from Lake Superior into the St. Croix, Missouri, or Mississippi Rivers…or even pipelines to funnel water into parched regions of America. Could Lake Superior someday be used as a reservoir for California, Arizona, or Texas?

By month’s end will be the last installment: Islands. Interested in more? Click here for the Amazon link or here for the University of Minnesota Press‘s link to the book.


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