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Lake Superior

Fall Storm photo: Lost Lakes youtube video



Lake Superior is a place of extremes. Its volume would cover all of North and South America in a foot of water. Underwater visibility is 100 feet in places. Its storms are legendary and waves of over 30 feet have been recorded. The Edmund Fitzgerald was a 700 foot long “unsinkable” iron ore freighter that broke in two and sank in a November 1975 gale. According to Gordon Lightfoot’s famous song “the lake it is said, never gives up her dead”. This is actually true as the water at the bottom is too cold for bacteria to produce the gasses that would usually bloat a corpse and cause it to float.


Lake Superior can be oceanic. There is often swell that might not line up with the wind direction. The complexity of the waves resembles the ocean not a lake. A typical 20 mph wind running down the north shore will produce 4-6 foot waves. As wind approaches 30 mph 8-10 foot and larger waves predominate. A strong NE storm can produce 10-15 foot swell waves that are extremely fast and hard to catch. There are days, such as those with near gale force winds, that are simply too dangerous to paddle.


Northshore (Minnesota) Lake Superior

The most spectacular routes finish in Duluth, surfing through the shipping canal and under the iconic lift bridge into the inner harbor. This requires a cautious approach as the entrance to the canal is between two long jetties and it is easy to miss the opening. Point to point downwinding on the north shore requires a NE or SW wind. Between Two Harbors and Duluth the coastline is rocky with some cliffs that get pounded by swell, and there are only a few safe launch points. Stoney Point is between Two Harbors and McQuade Harbor - 9.5 miles from Two Harbors and 6 miles from McQuade.

Northshore Launch google map screenshots - click to enlarge


Safety is a constant concern on Lake Superior. Be prepared for water temps in the 40s (cold water safety). In the summer an onshore breeze can push 65 degree surface water up to the shore and make swimming pleasant, but the next day if the wind changes the water will be 42 again. On stormy days fog and rain can destroy visibility, and GPS navigation may be needed to get in safely. There is Coast Guard support on the lake and on at least one occasion they have rescued a surfskier. DNR trip planning advice somewhat slanted toward sea kayaks but much of the advice is applicable for surfski trips.




Stoney Point to Duluth

Lake Superior Ice

lake_superior.txt · Last modified: 2021/08/31 01:54 by preavley