The lake, according to the native Ojibwas, was called gichi-gami.  I love the native languages, they are so straightforward.  Gichi-gami means, ‘huge water’.  And huge it is!  Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world.  Lake Superior has a surface area of 31,700 square miles, is 160 miles wide and 350 miles long.  If you follow her shoreline, you’ll travel 2,726 miles.  She is so large, that this lake actually creates her own tide!  And Lake Superior, from Minnesota’s North Shore, features many unique and varied beaches.

(You can find more ‘bullet point’ details about Lake Superior & the other Great Lakes HERE.)Pictured Rock Sea Caves WI

In September, we drove the North Shore of this magnificent lake.  The North Shore Drive just out of Duluth, Minnesota, will treat you to 188 miles of shoreline from the Leif Erikson Park in Duluth, thru eight state parks to Thunder Bay.  We also followed Lake Superior’s South Shore from Duluth to Bayfield, Wisconsin where we took a tour of the Apostle Islands. (For info on an Apostle Islands cruise, click HERE).

Besides the shear size of this massive lake, the thing that stood out to us the most was that there were so many different types of beaches!  I’m sure that with enough research, we could explain away these geographical curiosities, but I choose instead to ponder nature’s little lessons.  In this case, I enjoy reflecting on the idea that although each of us as humans are individual, unique and exceptional, we are all still one humanity.

*The 1st stop on our North Shore drive was at the Leif Erikson Park and Rose Garden.

This lovely park travels along the shore of Lake Superior. It is a great place to walk around and enjoy some views of the lake from the gazebo or the balcony just off the stone-turret stage.  There is also a stunning rose garden where you can enjoy a romantic moment, or practise close-ups with your camera.  (For more on this Park & Gardens, click HERE).

Brown Slate Beach
Brown Slate Beach Lake Superior
        The beach here is made up of  brown slate-type rocks.

Brown shale beach

From here you can stroll the Lakewalk and see the historic railroad tracks.  Check out these other photos of the Leif Erikson Park!

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*Our 2nd North Shore Drive stop was at Gooseberry Falls State Park.

One could easily spend days here in Gooseberry Falls Park, as there is camping, showers and many hiking trails.  (Check out their website HERE).  For us, it was a quick trip to the Visitor’s Center and a short hike to see both the Middle Falls & the Upper Falls.  Agate Beach is a 20 min hike from the Visitor’s Center, and it’s where the Park meets the Lake.

beach sand at Lake Superior
Agate Beach Pebbles
The beach here is made of red and brown elongated pebbles with no sand.  Quite a massage for bare feet!

*The 3rd North Shore Stop was at Iona’s Beach.

Iona’s Beach is truly a not-so-hidden gem.  Not just because someone named Iona promised to keep coming back to her favorite spot on Lake Superior, but because the SNA (Scientific and Natural Area) deemed it ‘ecologically or geologically significant to Minnesota’.  From the car, there is a short hike to the beach, and we were fortunate to see this trail in fall colors! This lovely beach is a 300-yd salmon and pink colored crescent. It was created by lava which poured from a fissure in the earth’s crust called the Mid-Continental Rift.  When waves crash onto this beach, the rocks tumble against one another and create a high-pitched tinkling sound, thus earning Iona’s Beach the name ‘singing beach’.  (More more info on Iona Beach, click HERE).

Iona’s Beach is covered with salmon/pink colored lava rocks
pink lava rocks at Iona's Beach
Iona’s Beach pink lava rocks

Stop #4 brought us to Split Rock Lighthouse & State Park

Lighthouse on rock overlooking lake

We got to Split Rock Lighthouse just as the sun was starting to set and we were getting those ‘golden hours’ for our photos.  And Split Rock Lighthouse is iconic for a reason.  A lovely place to visit and so much to learn! (Check out more info on Split Rock Lighthouse State Park HERE).

      The beach at Split Rock is made up of large grey boulders and rocks.

 * Our final stop for the day was at the Black Sand Beach at Silver Bay

What a lovely way to end the day!  We were going to try and make Temperance State Park, but we spent too much time enjoying each stop and it was getting dark.  The rest of the North Shore Drive will have to wait for our next visit!  Here at the Black Beach we learned that it is the only black sand found at Lake Superior.  Evidently, the black sand is the result of taconite (having been dumped for years into the water by mining companies) washing ashore with the waves.  (To find out more, click HERE).  I love how nature can take waste and make something so beautiful of it.

Black sand at a beach on the lakeThe beach here at Silver Bay is a soft black sand.

What a magnificent lake is the gichi-gami…the Lake Superior.  She has seen the loss of more than 6,000 ships and some 30,000 lives.  Yet she continues to teach us, inspire us, terrify us and leave us breathless.

Next time you find yourself in the Northwest part of the U.S., don’t miss seeing Lake Superior from Minnesota’s North Shore Drive and it’s many beaches!



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