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Lake Effect

Lake Effect: Along Superior’s Shores

Erika Alin
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Lake Effect
    Book Description:

    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. Alin’s engaging essays reveal a profound sensitivity to the natural world and a penetrating historical imagination.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9459-4
    Subjects: Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-ix)
  4. Map of Lake Superior
    (pp. x-xii)
  5. Wild River
    (pp. 1-10)

    EVEN FROM THE SAFETY OF THE SWINGING BRIDGE, the force of the Saint Louis River is downright unnerving. In springtime the river could easily be the miniature Snake or Columbia of the midwestern frontier, and as it courses through the rock-lined lower gorge, human life seems not only vulnerable but insignificant before its brute and indiscriminate force. Looking down, I cannot help but feel a quivering of the ancient peril on which the survival of early man depended. Yet, like its western counterparts, the Saint Louis River no longer freely seeks its own course. Half a mile upstream of the...

  6. The Gulls of Kitchi Gammi
    (pp. 11-19)

    IT IS MID-APRIL AND RING-BILLED GULLS HAVE recently arrived on the shores of Kitchi Gammi Park. Chances are good that they will remain in the area until fall, nesting in and around the Duluth-Superior harbor and feeding on food scraps people leave behind. Mine is the only car in the parking lot, and I have been watching a dozen or so gulls with my binoculars through the windshield. In the way of picnics, foghorns, and lake breezes, gulls have a quaint association with summertime. Yet the ring-billed is one of the most common gulls in the country, a dandelion of...

  7. Crosby’s Paradox
    (pp. 20-29)

    FEW RIVERS ENTER LAKE SUPERIOR WITH AS MUCH style as the Manitou, which drops its waters over a ten-foot fall directly into a cove on the Minnesota shore. The waterfall is on private property, and a gate with a no-trespassing sign prevents easy access to it from Highway 61. Fortunately, thanks to the vision of George H. Crosby, approximately ten miles of the Manitou River’s gorge, including some impressive stands of virgin cedar and yellow birch, are open to the public as part of George H. Crosby Manitou State Park. In January 1954 , Crosby donated 3,320 acres to the...

  8. Bicknell’s Geranium
    (pp. 30-38)

    BICKNELL’S GERANIUM IS A SMALL, GROUND-HUGGING plant with light purple flowers and deeply cleft, delicately pointed leaves. It needs dry soil and sunshine and grows best in clearings and open woods. In places where it is not frequently seen, such as the shady northern pine forest, it may appear after a fire or other major disturbance. On July 4, 1999, a powerful windstorm swept through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northeastern Minnesota. Hiking the Caribou Rock Trail north toward the Canadian border the following summer, I encountered large snags of uprooted brush, requiring frequent detours, and red pine...

  9. No Bar River
    (pp. 39-45)

    THE RIVER WAS NAMED TEMPERANCE, A PARK SIGN used to explain, because it has no sandbar at its mouth. Most rivers on Lake Superior’s Minnesota shore cut their channels through basalt and other lavas. Compared with rivers that cross more easily eroded sandstones and shales, they have fairly light sediment loads and produce few of the sandy bays found elsewhere around the lake. The Temperance apparently carries an even lighter sediment load than other north shore rivers, and the deep waters at its mouth have traditionally prevented enough sand and gravel from building up to form a bar. The park...

  10. The Heritage of Landscapes
    (pp. 46-54)

    EARLY ONE MORNING IN LATE JUNE, I ARRIVE AT Artist’s Point, just north of the harbor in Grand Marais, to find a dense fog draped across the shore. The point’s northern outcrops lie fully exposed to the onslaught of stiff winds and storm waves, and perhaps more than any other place on the Minnesota coast, they have come to symbolize the raw, expansive spirit of Lake Superior’s landscape. In the late 1940s, the first of several art colonies was established at Grand Marais, and as the point’s name suggests, the area’s rugged natural beauty has attracted many artists, as well...

  11. Harebells
    (pp. 55-63)

    THE SUPERIOR LANDSCAPE IS HARSH AND RUGGED, defined by a roughness that like the brush strokes in a van Gogh painting, creates an aesthetic of graceful unrefinement by refusing to embellish for embellishment’s sake. Vast stretches of rocky coastline make for a difficult growing environment, and on the storm-etched ledges of the Minnesota shore, life is lean and functional. Few flowers can survive the fierce winds and cold sprays that press down against the rock, brushing before them the minute eroded particles out of which soils are born, and bringing injury or death to anything that is not hardy and...

  12. The Group of Seven at Coldwell
    (pp. 64-71)

    IN THE FALL OF 1921, CANADIAN ARTIST LAWREN Harris visited Neys Provincial Park on the Coldwell Peninsula for the first time. Drawn to northern regions, Harris was fascinated with the colossal shapes formed by the rocks and clouds, and the austere flow of light across the Superior landscape. Painting for him was part of a spiritual quest, and on Lake Superior’s northern shore, he found a landscape sufficiently stark, barren, and expansive to give artistic expression to his beliefs. Accompanied by other artists from the Group of Seven, he painted from Heron Bay west to Rossport between 1923 and 1928,...

  13. Louis Agassiz on the Eastern Shore
    (pp. 72-79)

    WITHOUT A DOUBT, CANADA HOLDS LAKE SUPERIOR’S wildest coastline. The longest protected coastal stretch, more than sixty miles of raw rock, lies in Lake Superior Provincial Park on the eastern Ontario shore. A thirty-three-mile trail, extending from Chalfant Cove south to Sinclair Cove, offers one of the few remaining places around the lake where it is possible to walk for hours, maybe even a day, and encounter no sign of humans’ presence. The coastal rocks contain some of the oldest exposed land on earth, a geologic gold mine extending nearly 2.7 billion years back in time. As the famous Swiss...

  14. In the Shade of Pines
    (pp. 80-88)

    JUST WEST OF COPPER HARBOR, THE FORESTS OF THE northern Keweenaw Peninsula rise from the shores of Lake Superior and up the slopes of Brockway Mountain. A trail, across the road from Esprey Park, leads into the heart of the Keweenaw Shore and Lake Upson nature sanctuaries. The forest through which it passes supports many common north woods trees. Yet its signature species is the red pine. In the shade of its slender crowns, some of the prettiest wildflowers of the northern forest have come into bloom during the latter weeks of June.

    The surprising variety of habitats produces a...

  15. Orion
    (pp. 89-98)

    IT IS MID-NOVEMBER AND DUSK HAS FALLEN BY FIVE o’clock. I remove my gloves and lean my hands against the bare rock. The sky and waters surround me in the fading light like a vast amphitheater in which the sound of each wave, rising, bowing its crest, and then crashing headlong, assaults the silence and repose of the shore. I can still feel the residual warmth of the sun’s rays on the rock, the rock struggling to hold on to day and lightness. I am waiting for the constellation Orion to appear on the southeastern horizon, searching the early winter...

  16. On the Porcupine Coast
    (pp. 99-105)

    FEW AREAS AROUND LAKE SUPERIOR OFFER AS LARGE a contrast in natural environments as does Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park on the northwestern edge of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. On the lakeshore, waves and sun rays stroke the smooth backs of sandstone shelves. The shelves contain some of the most visually stunning patterns and designs I have seen on rocks anywhere, ancient motifs framed like paintings in nature’s gallery, and the features underfoot are what catch the eye. The situation could not be more different on the forested hillsides inland of the lake, where old-growth hemlocks rise like giant relics of...

  17. The Mission of Saint Esprit
    (pp. 106-118)

    IN 1665, FATHER CLAUDE JEAN ALLOUEZ BUILT A birch-bark chapel on the southeastern shore of Chequamegon Bay. La Pointe du Saint Esprit was the first Jesuit mission on Lake Superior. Allouez has sometimes been called the “Founder of Catholicism” in North America, and as evidence of his labors, he carefully recorded the number of baptisms he performed. Yet the Jesuits generally found it difficult to sustain the faith of their converts, and seventeenth-century French Catholicism failed to sink deep roots among Native Americans. Allouez and many other early fathers were, however, curious and adventuresome men, not easily deterred by the...

  18. Gathering Instincts
    (pp. 119-124)

    GATHERING IS DEEP-SEATED IN THE HUMAN PSYCHE. Human survival no longer depends on foraging for bulbs, berries, and other edibles. Yet instincts tend to linger long after their evolutionary purpose has been served, and the urge to gather, to wander and fill our hands with the shapes and textures of the natural world, persists. During years of coastal living, pearly white shells had beckoned me like beacons on the damp tidal sands. When Lake Superior’s shore offered few comparable summons, I quickly fell out of the gathering habit. Yet instincts have a way of creeping up on us. Walking on...

  19. The Brule River
    (pp. 125-134)

    AT THE END OF THE BRULE RIVER ROAD, A FEW MILES off Highway 13 in northwestern Wisconsin, a large dirt parking lot gives way to a grassy picnic area overlooking the lakeshore. A short dusty road leads down to the mouth of the Brule River. An old station wagon has been backed down the road, and a family of five is fishing at the river’s mouth. The scenic, trout-filled waters of the Brule have been drawing anglers, including the likes of Presidents Grant, Cleveland, Coolidge, Hoover, and Eisenhower, for the past century and a half. Today, these waters are protected...

  20. References
    (pp. 135-144)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 145-145)