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 long leave it as a respectable “good.”
Though many of the best beaches in Michigan can be found south of the U.P., none of the Great Lakes rise above Lake Superior, and here are 5 Lake Superior facts that prove why of the 5 Great Lakes, Lake Superior is the best…
By the way, if you didn’t know, there are five (5) Great Lakes, four of which border Michigan. Thus its state nickname, “The Great Lakes State”. The Great Lakes names are Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior: HOMES.
Lake Superior is the Cleanest and Clearest Great Lake
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.
Lake Superior has 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, makes 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.
Secluded Towns and Beaches on Lake Superior Michigan Shores
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.
Lake Superior is the Largest Great Lake
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 landmass 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 freshwater 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.
Lake Superior is Ojibwe Gichigami – The Great Sea
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 them or my great-grandma.
Michigan has many good lakes, but only one great one–and its name is Superior.
Lake Superior FAQs and Fascinating Facts
What’s so special about Lake Superior?
Lake Superior is awesome! It’s the cleanest and clearest of Michigan’s Great Lakes with an average underwater visibility around 27 feet, and, in some spots, as deep as 100 feet.
What is the deepest spot in Lake Superior?
With more than 2,700 miles of shoreline, there’s a lot of Lake Superior to go around. The average depth is almost 500 feet, but the deepest spot is 1,333 feet and is located about 40 miles north of Munising.
Why is it called Lake Superior?
The name for this Great Lake comes from the French word lac superieur, meaning “upper lake.” It is known as the upper lake because it’s located north of Lake Huron.
Can you swim in Lake Superior?
Of course! Not only is Lake Superior clean and clear, it’s also a great spot to go for a swim. Be warned though, the water is usually pretty cold. Even in the hottest days of summer, temperatures along the shoreline only reach the upper 50s and upper 60s.
What is Lake Superior nickname?
As you’ve no doubt heard in Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” Lake Superior is also called Gitchee Gumee. This comes from the Ojibwe language and means big sea or huge water. It’s also immortalized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1855 poem “Hiawatha.”
Why is Lake Superior so cold?
During the last ice age glaciers melted, filling Lake Superior with glacier water. But Lake Superior is also subject to severe weather, especially in wintertime, including Arctic air from Canada as well as lake effect snow.
You’ve read a lot about Lake Superior, but did you know…
- Lake Superior is so big that its surface area (more than 31,000 square miles) is bigger than most New England states, including New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
- There’s enough water in the mighty Superior to cover all of North and South America in a foot of water.
- More than 300 streams and rivers empty into Lake Superior.
- On average elevation of Lake Superior is more than 600 feet above sea level.
- If the shoreline of Lake Superior was straightened out, it could connect Duluth Minnesota to the Bahamas.
What do you love most about Lake Superior? Let us know in the comments!