Lake Superior

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Superior, Lake,

largest freshwater lake in the world, 31,820 sq mi (82,414 sq km), 350 mi (563 km) long and 160 mi (257 km) at its greatest width, bordered on the W by NE Minnesota, on the N and E by Ontario, Canada, and on the S by NW Michigan and NW Wisconsin; largest, highest, and deepest of the Great LakesGreat Lakes,
group of five freshwater lakes, central North America, creating a natural border between the United States and Canada and forming the largest body of freshwater in the world, with a combined surface area of c.95,000 sq mi (246,050 sq km).
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, having a surface elevation of 602 ft (183 m) and a maximum depth of 1,302 ft (397 m).

Lake Superior drains into Lake Huron through the St. Marys River and receives the waters of many short, swift-flowing streams including the Nipigon, Kaministikwia, St. Louis, and Pigeon rivers. The largest islands are Isle Royale, Isle St. Ignace, and Simpson and Michipicoten. The shoreline is irregular (with many large bays, inlets, and peninsulas) and in places is high and rocky. The waters of Lake Superior are generally purer than those of the lower lakes and are minimally polluted; a U.S.-Canadian pact (1972) was established to prevent pollution and to maintain and improve the water's quality.

Lake Superior is part of the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence Seaway system, and it is reached by oceangoing and lake vessels through the Sault Sainte Marie CanalsSault Sainte Marie Canals,
two ship canals bypassing the rapids on the St. Marys River between Lake Superior and Lake Huron, at the cities of Sault Ste Marie, Mich. and Ont. The Canadian canal (1.4 mi/2.3 km long and 60 ft/18 m wide), which has one lock, was opened in 1895.
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, which bypass rapids in the St. Marys River. The principal cargoes are grain, flour, and iron ore. The lake does not freeze completely, but ice impedes navigation from mid-December to the end of March at the lake's outlet and from early December to the end of April in harbors on the south shore. Fog and rough water are hazards.

The chief Canadian cities on the lake are Michipicoten and Thunder Bay. The principal cities on the U.S. shore are Marquette, Superior, Ashland, and Duluth. Commercial and sport fishing are important; and tourism is popular in the lake area. Recreational facilities are found on Isle Royale (part of a U.S. national park), in Pukaskwa National Park (Ontario), and at state and provincial parks on the lake's shores and islands; the U.S. Apostle Islands and Pictured Rocks national lakeshores are there. Étienne BruléBrulé, Étienne
, c.1592–1632, French explorer in North America. He arrived (1608) in the New World with Samuel de Champlain, who sent him (1610) into the wilderness to learn about Native Americans and the land. He lived with the Huron and accompanied (c.
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, the French explorer, probably visited the lake in 1616; Pierre RadissonRadisson, Pierre Esprit
, c.1632–1710, French explorer and fur trader in North America. He arrived in Canada in 1651. His journals, first published as the Voyages of Peter Esprit Radisson
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 and the sieur des GroseilliersGroseilliers, Médard Chouart, sieur des
, 1618?–c.1690, French trader and explorer in North America. He was the brother-in-law of Pierre Esprit Radisson and his companion in his great journeys.
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 explored it in 1659–60; Father AllouezAllouez, Claude Jean
, 1622–89, French Jesuit missionary in Canada and the American Midwest. After arriving (1658) in Canada he served at posts in the St. Lawrence region until 1665, when he went to Lake Superior and founded the Chequamegon Bay mission (near present-day
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 established (1665) a mission near Ashland; and the sieur DuluthDuluth or Du Lhut, Daniel Greysolon, sieur
, 1636–1710, French explorer in Canada. He went to Canada with his younger brother c.1672.
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 visited the lake in 1678–79.


See bibliography by Water Resources Scientific Information Center (1972).

Superior, Lake


the largest and deepest of the Great Lakes of North America and the largest freshwater lake in the world. Its northeastern portion is in Canada, and its western and southern parts are in the USA. Located 183 m above sea level. Length, 613 km; greatest width, 256 km. Area, 82,400 sq km (of these 28,700 sq km are in Canada). Area of the basin plus the area of lake, 207,200 sq km; greatest depth of the lake, 393 m; volume, 12,200 cu km (more than one-half the total volume of water in the Great Lakes). The trough of the lake is of tectonic origin, deposited in the crystalline rocks of the Canadian shield. In the Anthropogenic period it was subject to the action of glacial erosion. The northern shores of the lake are high (up to 400 m) and rocky; the southern ones are predominantly low and sandy. The shoreline is sharply broken; important bays are Keweenaw and Whitefish; a large island is Isle Royale. In the region of Lake Superior are concentrated deposits of iron ore and copper (on the Keweenaw Peninsula in the state of Michigan).

The lake has no large tributaries; it discharges into Lake Huron via the rapids of the St. Marys River (112 km long). The water of Lake Superior is clear and cold. (In the central portion of the lake, even in summer, the surface temperature seldom exceeds 4° C.) Fluctuations in the water level are regulated for purposes of navigation, power, and so forth; they occur within limits of 1.1 m (seasonal changes are from 40—60 cm, with a winter minimum and a summer maximum). The central portion of the lake does not freeze as a result of autumn and winter storms; the coastal zone becomes covered with ice each year, usually in the beginning of December, and thaws around April 20.

Lake Superior is an important link in the Great Lakes waterway. Up to 22,000 vessels pass through the canals by way of locks that bypass the rapids of the St. Marys River (near the city of Sault Ste. Marie) during a navigational period of about eight months; freight turnover is approximately 130 million tons. Iron ore, coal, grain, and lumber are transported. The lake is rich in fish; those of commercial importance include whitefish, trout, and sturgeon. Important ports are Duluth, Superior, Ashland, Marquette (USA), Fort William, and Port Arthur (Canada).


Baulig, H. Severnaia Amerika. Moscow, 1948. (Translated from French.)
Kanada; Geograficreskie raiony. Moscow, 1955. (Translated from English.)