Greatest lake

Lake Superior marked by Marquette Maritime Museum, community

Above, Marquette Maritime Museum employee Maddie Gardiner races wooden boats with Thurston Lux, 6, during Lake Superior Day, an event held in celebration of the “greatest Great Lake” on Sunday at the museum. (Journal photo by Trinity Carey)

MARQUETTE — The Marquette community is defined by its proximity to the largest fresh body of water in the world — Lake Superior.

To celebrate the importance of the lake to the region and promote its conservation, the Marquette Maritime Museum hosted Lake Superior Day Sunday.

“This is why we’re here, the lake is why Marquette is a town and why we started off as a shipping port and keeping it beautiful is going to help everybody as far as tourism and just keeping everybody healthy,” said director of the Marquette Maritime Museum Hilary Billman. “It’s the best lake. It’s the best lake by far.”

The surface area of the lake is roughly 31,700 square miles and contains roughly 3 quadrillion gallons or 10% of the world’s fresh water. Lake Superior has a maximum depth of 1,333 feet and 78 species of fish and over 300 islands, according to the museum.

Communities that have access to the great lake have been celebrating the body of water with educational events and festivals the third Sunday in July for years. Lake Superior Day was first held in Thunder Bay in the early 1990s. Billman plans to make the day an annual event in the Marquette area and to see it grow each year.

From right, Cheryl Kaye with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service passes out sea lamprey tattoos to Eastyn Peacock, 7, and J.J. Reinhart, 6. Kaye discussed how lampreys affect the Great Lakes fish population with event attendees. (Journal photo by Trinity Carey)

“We should celebrate it every day,” Bilman said. “I think we should really be thinking about how to conserve it every day, but this is really just a way that we can have fun in the summer and get a bunch of different groups together to learn about it.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which conducts sea lamprey control in the Great Lakes to help the fish populations survive and thrive, was present at the event with a live sea lamprey tank. These parasitic creatures feed on the blood and body fluids of fish. One lamprey can kill up to 40 pounds of fish in its lifetime, and the parasite has wiped out some fish populations from the Great Lakes completely. The service has actively worked for over 60 years to conserve the fish population through stocking fish and other efforts.

“If we didn’t do this, there would be no fish in the lake,” said Cheryl Kaye of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “It supports a $7 billion dollar fishing industry.”

The Nature Conservancy, a non-profit organization, was also present to educate on its efforts to preserve the quality of the Great Lakes.

The Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a nonpartisan, nonprofit, discussed its mission to get people to take action on climate by speaking with its local constituents.

Using a watershed table, the Lake Superior Watershed Partnership explained to youth attendees how everything people put into the local environment such as trash is eventually drawn back into the lake. It also discussed their recent and upcoming conservation projects such as beach clean-ups, native tree planting in the Keweenaw Peninsula and tire removal from the Marquette Compost Site.

Billman hopes the event and educational booths encouraged attendees and youth to be aware of their environment and their impact upon it.

“It’s their future, they’ve got to keep it nice for themselves,” Billman said. “Nobody else is going to do it for them, so they need to learn about different conservation efforts that people are working on right now and just different things that they can try in the future. Every time you go for a walk at the beach you can take a bag and pick up garbage, try to get rid of little bits of plastic and different things that could pollute the lake and hurt the animals.”

Overall, it’s important to be aware of one’s impact and do your part in keeping the lake healthy and beautiful, she said.

The event was sponsored in part by a grant from the Community Foundation of Marquette County.

For more information on the museum or upcoming events, visit Marquette Maritime Museum and Lighthouse on Facebook.

Trinity Carey can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243. Her email address is photos@miningjournal.net.