Photo provided by Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation (2012)
From its spectacular coastline to its deep waters, Lake Superior is truly the giant of the Great Lakes. Learn more about it.
The second largest freshwater lake in the world, Lake Superior dwarfs the other Great Lakes. With its immense volume, it takes almost 200 years for water to travel through Lake Superior to the St. Mary's River, which links it to Lake Huron. In comparison, water travels through the smallest of the Great Lakes, Lake Erie, in around two years.
Lake Superior is the cleanest of all the Great Lakes and has the longest stretch of wilderness coastline in the Great Lakes system. Its fishery has naturally reproducing populations of brook trout, lake sturgeon, walleye and lake trout.
Parks Canada announced plans to create a marine conservation area along the north shore in 2007. Once established, it would be the world's largest freshwater protected area, with more than 10,000 square kilometres of lakebed and overlying waters, as well as islands, shoals and coastline.
Lake Superior is extremely sensitive to change. It is warming at a rate that is faster than regional air temperatures and this could jeopardize the lake's cold water fishery and promote the spread of invasive species. Zebra and quagga mussels have not taken a foothold in Lake Superior, but the sea lamprey has, creating pressure on the eco-system.
Its large surface area also makes Lake Superior vulnerable to the atmospheric deposition of pollutants. As a result, substances such as toxaphene, banned from use within the Lake Superior Basin, are still present.
The history of the north shore, particularly in areas around Thunder Bay and Sault St. Marie, is one where for many years, heavy industry was not regulated and pollution controls were non-existent, leaving a legacy of pollution.
But, today real progress is happening in hotspots at Jackfish Bay, Peninsula Harbour, Nipigon Bay and Thunder Bay. North shore communities have reclaimed their waterfronts and reconnected with the lake.
For example, the province, along with federal partners and local industry, has completed remediation work to improve the area around Northern Wood in the Thunder Bay Harbour Area of Concern. The project removed and treated contaminated sediment and included a number of other projects to prevent further contamination and to create new habitat for fish and wildlife along a portion of the waterfront in Thunder Bay.
This summer, work will begin on remediation for Peninsula Harbour in Marathon, with support from industry and government. (See our January 17 blog about Peninsula Harbour.)
And today, Jackfish Bay is recognized as an area in recovery and most of the actions to improve the environment at Nipigon Bay are completed.
While there is still important work to be done, there has been significant progress in restoring the water quality and ecosystems along the north shore that had been in decline for many years.
In every community large and small along the beautiful and rugged shore of Lake Superior, there are dedicated people working to keep the Great Lakes on the agenda, to restore what's been damaged, and protect what's pristine.