Lake Superior, Tahquamenon Falls fun facts

Dr. Jim Surrell

As we are now well into our wonderful Upper Peninsula summer season, many local folks and many tourists take the opportunity to visit and enjoy our magnificent natural resources.

Today, let’s take another look at some fun facts of just two of these great attractions that we are blessed to have here in the U.P.

≤ Lake Superior — Lake Superior is a totally appropriate name for one of the greatest bodies of fresh water in the world. Because of its enormous size and depth, Lake Superior very rarely freezes over completely, and complete freezing has happened only four times in recorded history, in 1962, 1979, 2003 and 2009.

Let’s now take a look at some impressive facts about our great Lake Superior. Lake Superior contains fully 10 percent of all the fresh water in the world! This large body of fresh water touches Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ontario. Further, there is only one lake in the world that contains a larger volume of fresh water than Lake Superior. This lake is Lake Baikal, in Siberia. However, Lake Superior is the world’s largest fresh water lake by surface area, and has the second largest volume of fresh water on the entire planet earth.

Lake Superior has the world’s largest fresh water lake surface area with about 31,700 square miles. This lake has about 3,000,000,000,000,000 (million billion, or quadrillion) gallons of water. To put this Lake Superior volume of fresh water into perspective, you could put all the water from the other four great lakes (Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Ontario, and Lake Erie) into Lake Superior, and to fill it up, you would have to add three more Lake Erie’s. Lake Superior is the cleanest and clearest of all five of the Great Lakes. Lake Superior’s average depth is 483 feet. The deepest point in the lake is measured to be 1,333 feet. There are more than 80 different species of fish in Lake Superior.

There have been about 350 shipwrecks recorded in Lake Superior. Of course, the most well-known would have to be the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. This tragic shipwreck took place during a severe storm on November 10, 1975. Lake Superior can be very dangerous, and likely because of its huge surface area, can raise very large dangerous waves. The highest wave ever recorded on Lake Superior was more than 30 feet high.

≤ Tahquamenon Falls — The large Upper Tahquamenon Falls has a drop of about 50 feet and is more than 200 feet across. It is estimated that the average year round flow of water over the Upper Falls is approximately 3,000 gallons every second. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, there can be a maximum flow of more than 50,000 gallons of water every second cascading over these falls, mostly noted in the springtime with the melting winter snow or after heavy rains. The natural amber color of the water is caused by tannins from the cedar, spruce, and hemlock trees close to the river. Tannin is a natural brown substance from the bark of trees.

Four miles downstream is the Lower Tahquamenon Falls. This is also a very impressive natural attraction. These Lower Falls are made up of a series of five smaller falls cascading around an island. The north side of the island in the center of these five Lower Falls can be partially viewed from the river bank. The small island in the center of the five Lower Falls can be reached by rowboat rented from a park concession. This provides a very scenic close view of all five of these Lower Tahquamenon Falls.

This magnificent Tahquamenon River has its origin rising from the water springs located north of the town of McMillan. The river drains the watershed of an area of about 800 square miles. The Tahquamenon River then flows northeast as it meanders nearly 100 miles before emptying into the Lake Superior Whitefish Bay, near Paradise. I also encourage folks to go visit Tahquamenon Falls in the fall and in the winter for a beautiful seasonal look at this great natural U.P. attraction.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Jim Surrell is the author of “The ABC’s For Success In All We Do” and the “SOS (Stop Only Sugar) Diet” books. Requests for health topics for this column are encouraged. Contact Dr. Surrell by email at sosdietdoc@gmail.com.