The Large and the Small of Lake Superior

A cold, cloudy day on the shores of Lake Superior in August.

I am in awe of Lake Superior – with a great big dollop of respect thrown in. We have visited it many times over the last 50 plus years and driven around it two times – once in each direction. A few years ago we visited with friends, camping at Copper Harbor (were the X is on the map below), at the point of the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The “large” of Lake Superior is really, really big. It covers 31,700 square miles making it the biggest fresh-water lake on the planet and at its deepest it is 1,333 feet deep. The water of Lake Superior is said to be chemically pure. It is also cold and can be deadly brutal – and it is breathtakingly beautiful. I think it would be helpful if I showed you a map that was painted as part of the informational signs on a look-out deck.

Lake Superior – depicted in white

Lake Superior is border by Canada to the north and east, extending from a little ways north of Duluth, Minnesota (on the left) all around to the Soo Locks at the twin cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and Michigan (on the right). Minnesota and Wisconsin also have economically important stretches of shoreline along the western end of the lake.

How to go from large to small when something is so very large and is comprised of water? One way is to capture the small drops of water that sprayed when waves hit the rocky coast.

Maybe seeing smaller involves seeing what contains the water and defines the lake – the coast line.

We did a lot of exploring around this area – sometimes going down dirt roads that became a narrow, rutted, and very bumpy lane seeming to go to nowhere and didn’t allow space to turn around. An easier drive was to Eagle Harbor to see the light house and maybe see a big freighter go by.

A lighthouse tells of the personality of a body of water, a personality that is volatile and dangerous enough to need a warning sign and a signal to help boats navigate perilous places. This lighthouse is a smaller piece of the big picture and provides an even smaller perspective.

When I visit Lake Superior I am reminded of the stories I have read of ship wrecks and efforts to save the people working the freighters. When I look out over calmer waters I can imagine the fear that sailors experience when storms blow in and the water becomes really rough, waves strong enough to break a freighter in half.

No, the photo above isn’t of a freighter. Do you think it could have been used in times past to rescue people? I was looking for smaller, and this would seem very small on the huge storm waves of Lake Superior.

For me, understanding the beauty of Lake Superior comes from observing, up close and personal, how nature grows on all of its shores.

I wonder if the two evergreens on the bottom right could be a start of a bonsai tree. They were so tiny growing out of a tiny piece of earth, somewhat protected by a rock or two. How old do you think they are?

We didn’t see any freighters on this day as they travel between Duluth or Superior and the Soo Locks but this is an important part of understanding Lake Superior. Ships coming and going from Duluth and Superior carry about 35 million metric tons of iron ore, coal, gain and other cargo each season – about 80% is domestic trade and 20% in international. Freighters passing this point carry more tonnage each season than the combined tonnage of the Panama, Kiel, and Suez Canals. Each year 50-100 “salties” will travel through the Soo Locks, go down Lake Huron, across Lakes Erie and Ontario, into the St. Lawrence Seaway to the Atlantic. The largest freighters stay within the Great Lakes and are 1,000 feet long and 105 feet in beam – the largest size that will fit in the Soo Locks that lower ships from Lake Superior to Lake Huron, a 21 foot elevation change.

My bedtime has arrived and I’m tired of dealing with facts. I hope that your joys are large and your sorrows are small as you move through the coming days. Here is a Lake Superior sunset to quiet your busy mind.

This post was inspired by Patti’s Lens-Artist Challenge: From Large to Small. You can see other interpretations by following the link.

15 thoughts on “The Large and the Small of Lake Superior

  1. Pingback: A Seat at the Top of the Lake | A New Day: Living Life Almost Gracefully

  2. A lovely tribute to Lake Superior, Pat. I love your attention to the details here–from large to small. Your image of the lighthouse is beautiful, as well as the sunset and the rescue boat.

    Like

  3. Pat, I like your post so much
    having grown up on Lake Erie, some of these photos are familiar – but not all
    And you are right about the boat – it is rather small when you imagine that not he vast lake – but it seems as if it has been a sturdy, lasting vessel.

    Like

  4. “Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
    In the rooms of her ice-water mansion
    Old Michigan steams like a young man’s dreams
    The islands and bays are for sportsmen
    And farther below Lake Ontario
    Takes in what Lake Erie can send her
    And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
    With the gales of November remembered“ —Gordon Lightfoot, Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

    Like

  5. So enjoyed your Lake Superior shots. My friend had a cottage at Eagle Harbor, and I visited many of the sites you photographed. It’s a lake that looks like an ocean.

    Like

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s