Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area and the third largest by volume. It could hold all the water from the other Great Lakes, plus three more Lake Eries.
The clean and cold, massive body of water plays a central role in life in Duluth, Minnesota.
From mid-March to mid-January the Soo Locks are open and Lake Superior supports an active maritime industry. The “Great Lakes Bulk Cargo Capital” of Duluth/Superior is one of the busiest inland ports in the United States. Each year the port handles about 1,000 ships carrying 42 million tons worth $1.9 billion. The largest of these ships, the lakers, are typically 1,000 feet long and 105 feet wide. They can’t fit through the Welland Canal, so they will never ply the oceans. Mainly they carry coal and iron ore. Salties are oceangoing vessels. About 100 times per year a saltie makes the seven-day, 16-lock, 2,342-mile trip from the Atlantic Ocean through the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway to the Duluth/Superior Harbor to pick up grain, to drop off wind energy equipment, or other commerce.
The lake also impacts Duluth’s weather, as well as its business.
Of the roughly 30 inches of precipitation that hits the lake each year, most falls between May and October. Lake Superior can modify the daily weather through a phenomenon known as “lake effect.” Compared to inland temperatures, shoreline temperatures can be noticeably warmer in winter and much cooler in summer. This is because water is slower to absorb and release heat than land. The “lake effect” can also super-size storms by adding moisture and speed to wind passing over the lake.
The lake is managed through a binational agreement involving Canada and the United States, including Ontario, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. ♦
[box size=”large” border=”full”]Lake Superior by the numbers
- 350 miles: Length of the lake.
- 160 miles: Breadth of the lake.
- 483 feet: Average depth.
- 1,332 feet: Maximum depth.
- 1,826 miles: Shorline length and about the distance from Duluth to Miami.
- 31,700 square miles: Total surface area, the same size as the state of Maine.
- 3 quadrillion gallons: Roughly the amount of water in the lake, enough to cover North and South America in about one foot of water.
- 10,000 years: Age of the lake making it a geological infant.
- 10 percent: Amount held of the world’s fresh surface water not frozen in a glacier or ice cap.[/box]
— Information from Visit Duluth