Where Is Lake Superior?
Lake Superior is the largest of the five Great Lakes of North America. Lake Superior is between America and Canada. It covers an area of nearly 32,000 square miles. But Superior is not the lake with the most water. It is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area if Lake Michigan-Huron is counted as two lakes and is the world’s third-largest freshwater lake by volume.
Lake Superior is nearly as big as Austria. It is nearly 400 miles long and receives the drainage of about 200 rivers. (Lake Baikal in southern Siberia has far more water, because although little over 12,000 square miles in area, it is nearly 6,000 feet deep.)
There is virtually no tide. But during autumn and winter storms, waves can reach extremely dangerous heights. These waves are gradually eroding the shore, so the lake is slowly getting even bigger year by year. Owing to the lake’s great industrial advantages and transport facilities the water has become seriously polluted. Since 1965, however, the United States Government has made efforts to purify the great lake.
The Ojibwe name for the lake is gichi-gami (pronounced as gitchi-gami and kitchi-gami in other dialects), meaning “great sea.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the name as “Gitche Gumee” in The Song of Hiawatha, as did Gordon Lightfoot in his song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”. According to other sources, the actual Ojibwe name is Ojibwe Gichigami (“Ojibwe’s Great Sea”) or Anishinaabe Gichigami (“Anishinaabe’s Great Sea”). The 1878 dictionary by Father Frederic Baraga, the first one written for the Ojibway language, gives the Ojibwe name as Otchipwe-kitchi-gami (reflecting Ojibwe Gichigami).
The first French explorers approaching the great inland sea by way of the Ottawa River and Lake Huron during the 17th century referred to their discovery as le lac supérieur. Properly translated, the expression means “Upper Lake,” that is, the lake above Lake Huron. The lake was also called Lac Tracy (named for Alexandre de Prouville de Tracy) by 17th century Jesuit missionaries. The British, upon taking control of the region from the French in the 1760s following the French and Indian War, anglicized the lake’s name to Superior, “on account of its being superior in magnitude to any of the lakes on that vast continent.”