How Much Water is in Lake Superior?

The water of Lake Superior.

A Whole Lot of Water

The waters of the largest of the Great Lakes have a total volume of a mind-boggling 2,900 cubic miles! The total land area of the Americas, including the Caribbean Islands and Greenland, is 16,428,000 square miles. Therefore, a simple mathematical calculation shows that the waters in Lake Superior alone could cover the land area of the New World more than 11 inches deep! The Great Lakes of North America has five lakes, of which Lake Superior has the largest volume of freshwater. Lake Superior got its name from having the most volume of water among the five lakes in the area, therefore being "Superior". It has a total water surface area of 31,700 square miles. The lake's deepest part goes down to a depth of 1,333 feet, while most of the lake's depth is around 483 feet. The five lakes of which Lake Superior is one are also called "inland seas" due to their rolling waves, strong currents, great depths, distant horizons, and sustained winds. Lake Superior can also produce 20 to 30 foot high wave heights during storms.

Where Does All That Water Come From?

Lake Superior has around 200 tributary rivers that keeps its water volume constant, and which is further enabled by the fact that these waters have a retention time of 191 years. The lake's water become thoroughly mixed as well when the water's temperature get to an even 4° Celsius. This phenomena occurs twice a year. Another phenomena also happens once every twenty years that sees the freezing of the lake from top to bottom. The following are some of the major rivers whose waters goes into the lake: the Kaministiquia River, Bois Brule River, Michipicoten River, Pic River, White River, Pigeon River, St. Louis River, and Nipigon River. Also, Lake Superior itself continuously supplies Lake Huron with freshwater through the St. Mary's River, which serves as an outflow for it.

A Storied History

The lake area was first settled by the Plano peoples around 10,000 years ago. They were hunters in the Lake Minong area. Then, between 5,000 and 500 BC, the Shield Archaic peoples arrived to settle on the western and eastern sides of the lake. These people knew how to craft dugout canoes to traverse its waters, as well as to fish, hunt, and trade. They also crafted and used bows and arrows, utilizing copper sourced from near the lake for many of their weapons and tools. Another wave of peoples came between 500 BC and 500 AD. These newcomers, the Laurel people, used seine nets to fish in the rivers and around the lake. The Terminal Woodland Indians arrived between 900 AD and 1650 AD. They built lodges, canoes, and snow shoes. A little bit later, more Indians settled in the lake area until the dominant Anishinaabe Indians prevailed, with whom eventual trade with the European explorers in the area was conducted. However, the Ojibwe tribe replaced them by the mid-18th Century. There are many native fish species in Lake Superior today, and these include trouts, pikes, suckers, basses, perches, and walleyes. Introduced species range from salmons, carps, smelts, and ruffes, to drums, sea lampreys, and gobies.

An Important Body of Water

Lake Superior has many islands, and one of the largest of these is Isle Royale on the Michigan side. This island has its own lakes that in turn have their own smaller islands. The lake has several cities as well as wilderness and state parks located in and around it. There is also the Great Lakes Circle Tour that allows cars to access a scenic drive highway system that goes through all of the five Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. In 1921, power canals, locks, and gates were installed along the Saint Mary's River to enable ships to navigate through its waters without going through its rapids. The river and lake are closed to ships from mid-January through late March for the winter. Hydroelectric power facilities have also been built on the Saint Mary's River. The summer season also brings in three million tourists to the area, many of whom like to trek and camp in the wilderness surrounding the lake.


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