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What’s at the Bottom of Lake Superior?

What’s at the Bottom of Lake Superior?

The bottom of Lake Superior seems like something out of a science fiction film. Lake Superior is the largest lake in the world and holds 10% of all earth’s surface freshwater. That’s right 1 in 10 drops of freshwater belongs to lake superior. Being so large the bottom of this Great Lake holds many secrets.

Let’s dive into what’s really at the bottom of Lake Superior. 

About Lake Superior

Lake Superior is the largest and deepest of the Great Lakes, with a surface area of 31,700 square miles, and a maximum depth of 1,276 ft. Very young by geological standards, it is only 10,000-years old. The lake that is so large it takes about 200 years to replenish its water supply and it holds 10% of the world’s surface freshwater.  It is the northernmost of the five Great Lakes bordered by Ontario, Canada, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. 

Pro Tip: While touring the Great Lakes, be sure to visit the Top 10 Beaches in Michigan.

10 Awesome Facts About Lake Superior

With the surface temperature averaging around 63 degrees Fahrenheit and having just over 1,800 miles of shoreline, it may seem like an inviting lake, especially for a swim. However, being almost a quarter-mile deep and exposed to harsh winters, the water gets cold quickly.

How Cold Is the Bottom of Lake Superior? 

The water temperature at the bottom of Lake Superior averages 39 degrees Fahrenheit, which is too cold for most plants and animals to survive. However, a few species can withstand the chilly conditions. These include various types of bacteria, sponges, worms, and crayfish. Let’s learn more about what lives on the lake bottom.

What Lives on the Bottom of This Chilly Lake? 

Because of the cold temperatures, Lake Superior is a relatively infertile lake that is not very biodiverse compared to most other lakes. While most animal species can’t handle the cold temperatures at the bottom of Lake Superior, some thrive there. However, you wouldn’t see much at the bottom. The lake is so deep that sunlight barely penetrates, and most bottom-dwellers are dark-colored to blend in with their surroundings. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing down there.

Lake Superior
Lake Superior is a chilly 63 degrees Fahrenheit at the surface and 39 at the bottom (on average).

More than 200 species of fish live in the lake, including walleye, whitefish, and sturgeon. It also has several bottom-dwelling fish species, such as the invasive round goby. Additionally, the bottom of the lake is home to crayfish, shrimp, and other invertebrates.

Plants such as algae and seaweed also grow in the depths. The lake bottom is a diverse and productive ecosystem that supports a wide range of plant and animal life. But it holds much more than that. It contains hundreds of shipwrecks…and bodies.

How Many Bodies Are at the Bottom of Lake Superior? 

This question has long intrigued researchers and casual observers. The answer, unfortunately, is not clear. We have no reliable estimates of how many people have drowned in the lake over the years, and the bodies found are only a fraction of the total. 

The bottom of Lake Superior is a vast and remote place, and it is very difficult to search for people. Additionally, the lake is extremely cold and hostile to human life, making it very unlikely that any remains would be well preserved. 

Lake Superior wreckage
The bottom of Lake Superior is too remote to fully know what’s down there.

As a result, the number of bodies at the bottom of Lake Superior will probably never be known. But if you do need a number, some say the lake has taken over 20,000 people.

Does Lake Superior Give Up Her Dead? 

As legend has it, Lake Superior never gives up her dead. For centuries, people have wondered about the strange lights and noises that come from the lake’s depths. 

Some say that the lights are ghosts and that the noises are the sounds of their restless spirits. Others believe that the bottom of the lake is home to a different kind of creature altogether. Whatever the case, the lake is full of mystery and intrigue.

However, scientists have other reasons for Lake Superior never giving up her dead. Because of the cold water, bacteria don’t grow like they would in warmer waters. Bacteria causes a body to bloat and eventually float to the surface. 

The Lake That Never Gives Up Her Dead

The cold temperatures here help keep the bodies down in the depths. She does not give up her dead, but maybe she will eventually reveal the many other secrets that lie in the depths.

Pro Tip: Michigan’s Upper Penninsula is a gateway to Lake Superior’s splendor and mystery. Here’s what you need to know if you want to camp in this northerly region: The Complete Guide to Camping in the Upper Peninsula

How Many Ships Are at the Bottom of Lake Superior? 

The bottom of Lake Superior has an estimated 550 shipwrecks. Estimates of around 10,000 people have been lost to the lake. One of the worst wrecks came from the Ophelia, a steamer that sank in 1854. The Ophelia carried 150 passengers and crew when she went down in a storm. Only two people survived. 

The Edmund Fitzgerald, another well-known shipwreck, sank in 1975 with all 29 crew members aboard. People believe that the ship took on water due to leaking hatches and the huge waves eventually broke the ship in half.

Shipwreck
There have been an estimated 30,000 shipwrecks in Lake Superior.

The bottom of Lake Superior is also home to hundreds of other shipwrecks. These wrecks remind us of the dangers of navigation on the Great Lakes.

What About the Legend of the Underground Lake? 

Lake Superior has many secrets, including an underground lake. Sounds a bit mythical, right? Legend has it that the floor of Lake Superior has an opening into a subterranean cave. A French explorer who came across it in the 1600s initially called it the Lake of Hell. But the true meaning got lost in translation when English speakers misunderstood it to be Lake Inferior. 

Fast forward a few hundred years when in 1870, some city workers fixing a wall discovered it and wanted to plug the entrance to the cave. They thought it would have an impact on shipping and transportation. 

Lake Superior
The underground lake is technically groundwater.

While a myth, it has some truth to it. Rather than an underground lake, scientists would refer to this as groundwater. This hidden body of water under the Great Lake Basin contains as much water as all of Lake Huron. The groundwater provides a vital habitat for rivers and surrounding ecosystems that it drains into. It also helps to regulate the temperature of the water in Lake Superior. Unfortunately this groundwater is becoming more and more polluted and is a source of much pollution entering the great lakes.

Is Lake Superior Worth Visiting? 

With Lake Superior containing as much water as all the Great Lakes combined and then some, this majestic expanse of water is most definitely worth a visit. Then when adding in the mystique of, shipwrecks, bodies, and unique plants and wildlife, Lake Superior becomes a must-do experience. Although we may be a little biased as the shores of lake superior have been our summer home for many years.

In fact, you can explore the vast lake and region again and again. After all, the bottom of Lake Superior is a mystery worth diving into.

Tom and Cait at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Want to explore Lake Superior up close? Beach camping is an excellent way to do it! Learn more here: 10 Great Places to Go Beach Camping in Michigan

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Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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Bobby

Saturday 14th of May 2022

This article seems to have a few random facts gleaned from wikepedia then a whole mess of contradictions that follow. Borderline incoherent structure.

Dana LaRose

Monday 2nd of May 2022

There is no marine life that deep in fresh water. And you're wrong about cold water being bad for dead human bodies, in fact it preserves them. Adiposere takes over.

Jim Roehl

Monday 25th of April 2022

Are the Mortons unable to use Google? The location of the "Fritz", as it's called, has been known for almost 50 years. Divers have been on it. The Anderson? Was following the Fritz when it went down, is still in service, and was the first laker to steam into Duluth this spring, 2022.

Gym

Monday 25th of April 2022

And the Arthur M Anderson was the first laker to steam into Duluth harbor the spring of 2022. BTW: the Anderson was following the Fritz when it went down. Horrible article!!!!!

J. Mack

Sunday 24th of April 2022

Another error in this article is identifying the William Clay Ford and the Arthur M. Anderson as "shipwrecks". They are not. They are two vessels that helped search for any Fitzgeralds survivors, despite the violent waves, wind and snow squall. The Anderson was about 10 miles being the Fitzgerald when the Fitzgerald sank.

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