My great grandma used to say there are many good lakes, but only one great lake–and it’s no surprise which one she thought was superior. Lakes Ontario and Erie are nice but not really part of our Michigan culture. Meanwhile, Huron is admirable but doesn’t offer as much in size and water quality. Lake Michigan can make a strong case, but crowded beaches all summer leave it as a respectable “good.” None of them rise above Lake Superior, and here are 5 reasons why.
1. Cleanest and Clearest
As the coldest (it’s refreshing!) and most northern of the lakes, Superior is also the clearest. Because of its somewhat isolated location and long cold winters, not much farming is done along Superior’s shores. This means lower amounts of nutrients, sediments, and organic material are floating around the lake. Superior also doesn’t have any major cities resting on its banks, unlike Lake Michigan, which has Chicago, and Huron and Erie, which are connected by the Detroit River. These factors combine to make Superior incredibly clean and crystal clear—just how everyone likes it.
2. Iconic Rock Formations, Agates, and Shipwrecks
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore calls Lake Superior its home, serving as a beacon for adventurers, explorers, and nature lovers. The hiking in this area, paired with the incredible sight of massive rocks carved by the power of the lake over time, make it unlike anywhere else in the world. The National Lakeshore isn’t the only rock to live on the edge of Superior—agates, semi-precious gemstones, were formed by Lake Superior’s waters and are now found along its shores in the UP and to the west. Each agate is unique and beautiful, with a rather plain exterior giving way to brilliant colors and patterns when cracked open.
While you’re on the beach searching for agates, you might also spot one of about 350 shipwrecks dotting Superior’s banks. The southeastern stretch of shore, with its strong winds and uneven lakebed, is known as the “Graveyard of the Great Lakes.” This stretch is where more shipwrecks have occurred than any other place in the Great Lakes, and those eery hulls serve as a reminder of the history and cost of our nautical curiosity and exploration. You can learn more about this at the shipwreck museum at Whitefish Point, where the most famous shipwreck — the Edmund Fitzgerald — is detailed.
3. Secluded Towns and Beaches
By now you might have caught on that I’m a little biased. But it’s a legitimate fact that the beaches and towns along Superior’s shores are the best in Michigan, and probably the world. Why? Superior has plenty of what you want in a Great Lakes beach: beautiful water, white sand, ice cream shops, dining options, and downtown shopping strips. But what you won’t find? Mobs of people. Any trip to Whitefish Point, Grand Marais, Munising, Marquette, Houghton, Copper Harbor, or literally anywhere in between, will let you enjoy the views and the surf all by yourself–or, at most, a small group of other in-the-know travelers. This is what really sets Superior apart. As often as not, you can climb a dune, look out over miles and miles of crystal clear fresh water, and not see another single soul.
4. Sheer Size
When it comes to lakes, bigger is definitely better. It’s not a secret that Lake Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes, as well as the largest in the world. At 31,700 square miles, Lake Superior is approximately the size of Austria and holds 2,900 cubic miles of water–enough to cover the entire land mass of North and South America with a foot of water. On the global scale, Superior is the largest freshwater lake by surface area, and the largest completely fresh water lake in the world—only smaller than the Caspian Sea, which contains an oceanic basin. This size gives Superior the most incredible vistas you can find in the state, with wide open waters and impossibly far-off ships and sunsets.
5. Ojibwe Gichigami
Of course, we aren’t the first people to fall in love with the vastness of Superior. The native people of Michigan, the Ojibwe tribe, named the lake Ojibwe Gichigami, or the Ojibwe’s Great Sea. They definitely had a point, and I’m not going to argue with the them or my great grandma. Michigan has many good lakes, but only one great one–and its name is Superior.
What do you love most about Lake Superior? Let us know in the comments!