Last, but certainly not least, Lake Superior, the largest lake by surface area of the five Great Lakes of Northern America. Lake Superior is fed by over 200 rivers, and pours into Lake Huron via the St Mary’s River and the Soo Locks. As the largest freshwater lake (by volume) on the North American continent, and the third-largest freshwater lake in the world (by volume), Lake Superior truly lives up to it’s name!
Lake Superior’s history and climate inspired the famous song by Gordon Lightfoot, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” According to legend, “Lake Superior seldom gives up her dead”. This is because of the unusually low temperature of the water, estimated at under 36 °F on average around 1970. Normally, bacteria feeding on a sunken decaying body will generate gas inside the body, causing it to float to the surface after a few days. The water in Lake Superior is cold enough year-round to inhibit bacterial growth, and bodies tend to sink and never resurface. The Edmund Fitzgerald’s 29 crew members all perished and no crew members’ bodies were ever recovered. The Fitzgerald was swallowed up so intensely by Lake Superior that the 729-foot ship split in half. Her two pieces are approximately 170 feet apart in a depth of 91 fathoms 4 feet (550 ft).
Lake Superior’s water quality differs significantly from the other four Great Lakes, in that the water temperature and the lack of nutrients present in the water result in a much cleaner water supply. The lack of nutrients inhibits algal growth (unlike Lakes Erie and Ontario) and bacterial growth is referred to as an oligotrophic lake. The lake supports a wide variety of fish species, both native and non-native species, from trout species to salmon species and everything in between.