Lake Effect: Along Superior's Shores

Lake Effect: Along Superior's Shores

Lake Effect: Along Superior's Shores

Lake Effect: Along Superior's Shores

Synopsis

The 2,900-mile shoreline of Lake Superior offers some of the most beautiful scenery in the world: stunning juxtapositions of shape, color, and texture, from the birch and evergreen forests of Minnesota's north shore and the maple-clad slopes of Wisconsin to Ontario's granite outcrops and Michigan's sandstone shelves. Inhabited by hundreds of species of mammals, birds, and insects, the diverse ecosystems around Superior have also experienced human habitation for millennia. In Lake Effect, writer Erika Alin explores both the natural and the human landscapes of Lake Superior, meditating on the rich geological, historical, and cultural events that have shaped the region. She begins her journey around Superior at the mouth of the St. Louis River near Duluth and continues along the shores of the lake to Temperance River State Park, Grand Marais's Artist's Point, and Lake Superior Provincial Park. Following the Michigan and Wisconsin coasts, Alin visits the Keweenaw Peninsula, the Porcupine Mountains, and Chequamegon Bay, before concluding at the south shore's Brule River. Inspired by these and other places on the lake, Alin's engaging essays delve into such diverse topics as the origins of river names, early Native American settlement, the exploits of seventeenth-century French-Canadian voyageurs, the breeding habits of ring-billed gulls, the contributions of women botanists, Canada's Group of Seven painters, and aboriginal rock art. A holistic and deeply personal reflection on Superior's shoreline, Lake Effect reveals a profound sensitivity to the natural world and a penetrating historical imagination.

Excerpt

After more than a decade in the midwest, I am still uncomfortable being landlocked. Growing up, dividing my time between northern Long Island and western Sweden, I took the ocean as much for granted as the air I breathed. I moved to Minnesota by chance, to pursue an unexpected job offer, and had it not been for Lake Superior’s waters, I am convinced that I would have headed back east years ago. Lake Superior saved me from geographic claustrophobia, offering what nothing else in the landscape could: an immediate sense of connection, a shorthand for converting the strange into the familiar and imbuing my surroundings with the affinity to and awareness of a place where I feel at home. After countless trips north from my Saint Paul home, its waters still draw me like a lightning rod.

These essays are the product of my journey into the natural and human landscape of the lake. They sample the rich diversity in geologic history, natural habitat, and cultural experience that has shaped Lake Superior’s shores. Various regions of the lake offer the visitor different experiences, depending on the composition of the bedrock, the force of wind and weather, and the long line of human inhabitants who have crossed the shores. Ontario’s granite outcrops leave a different impression than Michigan’s sandstone shelves. Mining, a critical cause of early European settlement, left its mark mainly inland of the Minnesota and Michigan coasts. Logging extended its reach more uniformly, but although . . .

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