Lake Superior’s North Shore

lake superior at tettegouche
Along the Lake Superior Shoreline in Tettegouch State Park

Lake Superior contains 10% of all the fresh water on our planet. It’s got the largest surface area of any inland lake, covering 31,700 square miles. If it emptied out onto North and South America, it would flood both continents with a foot of water. That’s a big lake!

It’s also a beautiful lake — not just because of the rugged shoreline, but the water color and clarity. The average clarity is 24 feet, although in some areas you could see down up to 75 feet to the rocks below.

Minnesota’s share of this amazing Lake

Minnesota’s share of Lake Superior’s North Shore is largely igneous rock and pebble or cobblestone beaches. What this means for kids (and their dads) is an endless supply of skipping rocks along a large part of the shore. It also means lots of rocks for climbing and jumping on…great for the kids, but sometimes nerve-wracking for the parents (or aunts!).

My nephew’s parkour moves from one big rock to another (I was not there—they knew better than to do this in front of me! Photo courtesy of Jason Brodin)

Swimming along the North Shore is possible…although with the average water temp only 40-degrees, it’s not very often we can stay in for more than a few seconds without a wet or dry suit.

Activities on or near the North Shore

Every once in awhile the right weather pattern comes along and we can actually swim. In July of 2012 my parents  celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in Grand Marais with all of us. All the grandkids were able to swim for an hour or more at a time. A month later in August I couldn’t keep my feet in for more than a few seconds before they started to go numb.

Kayaking has gotten to be very popular on the Lake. In fact, a couple summers ago my husband and I were talking to the owner of a gift shop along the Shore who kayaked to work every day. How’s that for a commute?!

There are kayak and canoe outfitters and guide services all along the North Shore. The summer months are typically the calmest on the Lake, so probably the best for that, especially if you’re a beginner.

There are multitudes of camping and hiking locations along the North Shore. Also many, many fine resorts, cabins and B&B’s is you’d like a more pampered stay.

The ever-changing weather

October and November are generally more stormy, with impressive waves. In fact the “Gales of November” were made famous in Gordon Lightfoot’s song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

waves on superior
A stormy sea in September—those cliffs are 25-30 feet high

During the winter the Lake hardly ever freezes over completely. But it’ll freeze and thaw and break up, leaving ice sculptures on the rocks, and piles of bluish broken ice chunks in places. It’s amazing to see if you can stand the cold to get there!

A frozen Lake Superior with its characteristic ice shards along the shore. This Lake is beautiful anytime of year!

No matter what time of year you visit, Lake Superior is amazing. The North Shore drive (Highway 61 out of Duluth) has been designated an All-American Scenic Drive. But don’t stop in Two Harbors or Grand Marais like most people do. Take the drive all the way to the Canadian border — it gets better! The last few miles are some of the most spectacular.

For more information about Lake Superior and the North Shore:

Lake Superior Circle Tour

My sister and her husband did the Circle Tour for their honeymoon. The North Shore through Minnesota and Ontario, Canada is more rugged wilderness. The South Shore through Michigan and Wisconsin is more touristy. Both are beautiful. A 1,500-mile trip around this immense lake. On my bucket list!

More fun facts…

North Shore Visitor’s Guide

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