Lake Superior

Infosuperior Cover Photos – Keep Them Coming

The Terry Wurdeman cover photo for Infosuperior’s August 1, 2018 edition. Terry took the picture of this Semipalmated Sandpiper on wet beach gravel, Whitefish Bay, Lake Superior.

Connecting to Lake Superior Through Images

Infosuperior fosters interest, knowledge and respect for Lake Superior, building broader public support for restoration and protection. 

Great photographs of Lake Superior connect people with the lake. For this reason, the incredible cover photos that Infosuperior has run have helped us meet our mission to foster interest, knowledge and respect for Lake Superior. Many photographers have voluntarily donated some of their best shots because they share this mission with us.

Over the years, Infosuperior has accessed photographic talent from every state and province around Lake Superior. We are grateful to every person who has contributed to our publication, including the following artists:

There is an incredible pool of talented individuals with an insatiable passion to photograph Lake Superior. Whether in Ontario, Minnesota, Wisconsin or Michigan, these photographers have a profound “sense of place” and connection to Lake Superior. 

The Mathew Pastick cover photo for Infosuperior’s June 1st, 2018 edition. Matt took this photo at 4:35 a.m. on May 27th, 2018 near Split Rock Lighthouse during a storm rapidly moving out onto Lake Superior.

Infosuperior Seeks Excellent Cover Photos

Infosuperior is always seeking excellent cover photos. We depend on subscribers from around the lake to supply these photos. We obviously cannot use every photo submitted but if you have a photo which might make a great cover shot, we are interested. Get in touch through

Infosuperior has just one over-arching theme or guideline…only Lake Superior. Photos should reflect this, but the lake provides an almost limitless palette.

The Joan Berezowski cover photo for Infosuperior’s December 1, 2017 edition. Joan took this photo of the icebreaker “Alexander Henry”, on November 23, 2017, in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Infosuperior is especially interested in photos which reflect Lake Superior conditions around each monthly publication date (a recent storm, melting shoreline ice, first snow, etc). We publish through all seasons of the year and our cover photos reflect this (i.e. summer photos for summer newsletter editions, etc.). Submitted photos should be medium to high resolution.

Get in touch if you have a great photo you’d like to share with a very broad audience. The best time to submit is a few days in advance of publication date on the first of each month. Here are a few suggestions for photo themes:

  • Lake Superior scenery
  • Lake Superior storms
  • Lake Superior in other moods 
  • fog and the incredible affect it can have on photos of Lake Superior and surroundings
  • Lake Superior science including habitat restoration projects, fish/animal population surveys, education activities
  • Lake Superior activities like sailing, kayaking, camping, fishing, iceboating, surfing
  • fish, birds and animals on, in or around Lake Superior
  • commercial activities related to Lake Superior like fishing and lake shipping.

Jan Swart took this photo of Duluth, Minnesota’s Brighton Beach on January 13th, 2018, just in time for Infosuperior’s January 15, 2018 edition.

Lake Superior is Incredible – You Want More People to Know it

Infosuperior is associated with the Departement of Geography and the Environment at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The newsletter has approximately 1600 direct subscribers around Lake Superior, in Ontario, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and beyond. Many thousand more access Infosuperior through social media. Infosuperior does not pay for photos, so there is only one reason to submit a photo: like us, you believe Lake Superior is incredible and you’d like more people to know about it. Infosuperior makes no money from either the newsletter or submitted photos. We provide photo credit for all photos utilized.

Heartfelt thanks from Infosuperior and all of its readers to photographers from around the lake who have donated their time, expertise and passion to bring thousands of people closer to Lake Superior each month. Thanks in advance to all who submit photos, anytime, year round.

The Terry Wurdeman cover photo for Infosuperior’s April 30th, 2017 edition. Terry took this photo at Sawpit Bay, between Agawa Bay & Pancake Bay, Ontario, Lake Superior.


Access any previous edition of Infosuperior here.

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Thunder Bay RAP Milestone: Aesthetics Not Impaired

Extensive surveys of Thunder Bay Harbour were carried out in 2012, 2015 and 2016. The harbour was found to be free of slicks, scums, odours, foam, unnatural deposits, colour and turbidity. (Photo:

A significant milestone has been achieved bringing Thunder Bay Harbour one step closer to removal from the list of Great Lakes environmental “Areas of Concern.”

In a May 3rd letter to Thunder Bay Remedial Action Plan Coordinator Samuel Pegg, Mike Goffin, Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Regional Director General for Ontario announced the following:

I am pleased to inform you that the Degradation of Aesthetics beneficial use impairment is hereby designated as, “not impaired”, pursuant to the provisions of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, 2012.

The International Joint Commission and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks are copied on the letter which also congratulates the Thunder Bay Remedial Action Plan Public Advisory Committee, a group closely involved in harbour cleanup.

Thunder Bay Harbour was highly industrialized in previous decades, leading to substantial impacts on water quality and aesthetics. (Photo circa 1970 – Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks)

Aesthetics and Water Quality Aligned

Aesthetics and harbour water quality are closely linked. Degraded aesthetics refers to slicks, scums, odours, foam, unnatural deposits, colour or turbidity. These factors have severely affected Thunder Bay Harbour water quality and aesthetics.

A 2018 Remedial Action Plan report on harbour aesthetics notes that “When the waters in and around the City of Thunder Bay were designated as an Area of Concern in 1987, water quality, recreational use and the aesthetics of the Area of Concern were impacted by discharges of pollutants from local pulp and paper industries and wastewater treatment plants, urban runoff and the use of the harbour for logging booms and shipping waste. Persistent noxious odours, visible scum, organic material and oil deposits were observed.

The central portion of Thunder Bay Harbour circa 1970. A number of initiatives to improve industrial and municipal effluent treatment resulted in improved harbour water quality subsequent to this photo being taken. (Photo: Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks)

Improved Water Quality Resulted from Substantive Actions

The 2018 report recommends that “Degradation of Aesthetics” be removed from the list of Impairments in the Thunder Bay Area of Concern, based upon extensive harbour surveys in 2012, 2015 and 2016. The report notes several actions which have led to improved harbour water quality and aesthetics, including the following:

1991 – Bowater Pulp and Paper Mill upgraded their treatment technology to improve the quality of wastewater discharged to the Kaministiquia River. Cost – approximately $68 million. Proponent: Bowater Inc. (now Resolute Forest Products Inc.)

1995 – Abitibi–Consolidated Inc. completed the installation of secondary effluent treatment – Proponent: Abitibi–Consolidated Inc.

1997 – Smurfit-Stone Container Canada Inc. upgraded its treatment technology to improve the quality of wastewater discharged to Lake Superior. The cost of this upgrade is unknown – Proponent: Smurfit-Stone Container Canada Inc.

1999 – The City of Thunder Bay adopted the Pollution Prevention Control Plan to reduce urban pollutant loadings to receiving waters and to protect water resources. Proponent: City of Thunder Bay, Canada-Ontario Infrastructure Agreement

2002 – Northern Wood Preservers, Canadian National Railway Co., Abitibi-Consolidated Inc., Environment Canada and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment completed the Northern Wood Preservers Alternative Remediation Concept (NOWPARC). The project cleaned up contaminated sediment and improved fish and wildlife habitat, costing $25 million. Proponent: Abitibi-Price Inc., Canadian National Railway Inc., Northern Sawmills Inc., Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Environment Canada’s Great Lakes Cleanup Fund

2005 – The City of Thunder Bay upgraded to secondary treatment at the Water Pollution Control Plant to improve wastewater quality discharged to Lake Superior. The cost of this project was $73.6 million. Proponent: City of Thunder Bay, Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Environment Canada’s Great Lakes Cleanup Fund

2012 – A survey by kayak of all areas of Thunder Bay Harbour, including the Kaministiquia River up to the Resolute Forest Products outall concluded that there was no evidence of objectionable deposits, unnatural colour or turbidity, or unnatural odour.

2015 and 2016 – Surveys by boat of all areas of Thunder Bay Harbour, including the Kaministiquia River up to the Resolute Forest Products outfall concludes that aesthetic condtions in Thunder Bay Harbour are “good to excellent.”

Cleanup of creosote contamination around this former wood preserving facility on Thunder Bay Harbour was completed in 2003. The cleanup was one of several project which led to improved water quality and aesthetics in Thunder Bay Harbour (Photo: Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks)


Letter from Mike Goffin, Environment and Climate Change Canada stating that “Degradation of Aesthetics” has been removed from the list of environmental impairments in the Thunder Bay Area of Concern.

Report (2018) outlining factors which have led to improved harbour aesthetics and recommending removal of “Degradation of Aesthetics” from the list of Thunder Bay Area of Concern Beneficial Use Impairments.

Thunder Bay Remedial Action Plan, or cleanup plan, overview

List of Thunder Bay Area of Concern impairments and their status.

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Great Lakes Shipping Breaking Out of the Off-season

Ice cover just over 20% on the Great Lakes on March 25, 2019. Canadian and U.S. Coast Guard icebreaking vessels will be clearing things up as the Great Lakes shipping industry gears up for spring and summer. (Credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS/LANCE and GIBS/Worldview)

The Off-season Ends When Locks Reopen

After a highly successful shipping season in 2018, ports are optimistic that 2019 will provide equally substantial traffic. Shipping within the great lakes continues throughout the winter, but to a much lesser degree because the Great Lakes’ Soo locks and the St. Lawrence Seaway’s Montreal – Lake Ontario locks are shut down for maintenance and repair.

Icebreaking ships, USCGC Mackinaw and USCGC Alder, transit through the Soo Locks. Photo from the USACE Detroit District Facebook Page (Credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District)

The off-season ends when these locks are reopened and ice breakers head out to the northern ports to get things moving again; this year the CCGS Samuel Risley, USCGC Mackinaw and USCGC Alder headed north through the Soo Locks on March 20th. On March 25th, the Stewart J. Cort was the first of the shipping season’s big ships to pass through the Soo locks. The Montreal – Lake Ontario locks opened on Tuesday March 26th.

Ice Breakers

Ice cover on Lake Superior reached 90% in early March, but the ice quickly began to dissipate and is now down to about 25% according to NOAA data. But that is still more ice than the coast guard has seen in several years. Ice breakers from the Canadian and U.S. coast guards work together to create passable shipping lanes in the Great Lakes. If you are curious about where the icebreaking ships are currently located on the lake, you can look for them using the live map on (they fall under the “Tugs & Special Craft” category and are light blue).

Canadian icebreakers

The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) has an ice fleet of 15 that is dedicated to ice breaking efforts along Canadian shores on the East and West coasts, in the Arctic and in the Great Lakes. The fleet boasts 2 heavy icebreakers, 4 medium icebreakers, 9 multipurpose vessels and 2 hovercrafts. Vessels are assigned to one of three regions: the Atlantic, the Central and Arctic, or the Western Region.

The CCGS Samuel Risley, one of the Canadian Coast Guard’s light icebreakers that operate in the Great Lakes, is named after Samuel Risley, a pioneer in shipping safety regulation in the late 1850s. (Credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District – On her way, Public Domain)

According to the CCG website, two Central and Arctic region light icebreakers—the medium-endurance CCGS Samuel Risley and the high-endurance CCGS Griffon multi-tasked vessels—are assigned to the Great Lakes throughout the winter, but additional vessels are used at the beginning and end of the ice breaking season.

The CCGS Griffon is the Canadian Coast Guard’s high endurance multi-tasked vessel light icebreaker. It is named after Le Griffon, one of the first sailing ships constructed to travel across the Great Lakes. (Credit: simon*** from England – CCGS Griffon on the Welland Canal, Canada, CC BY 2.0)

Canadian icebreakers active in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway on March 30, 2019 at 12:00pm EDT:

  • CCGS Samuel Risley – Port of Thunder Bay
  • CCGS Pierre Radisson – Lake Erie
  • CCGS Griffon – northeast Lake Ontario near the St. Lawrence River
  • CCGS Des Groseillers – St. Lawrence River
  • CCGS Captain Molly Kool – Gulf of St. Lawrence

U.S. icebreakers

The USCGC Alder, also known as the “King of the Waters,” operates throughout the Great Lakes but mainly works in Lake Superior and northern Lake Michigan. (Credit: Pete Markham. Some Rights Reserved, CC BY-SA 2.0)

The U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area’s Ninth District units are dedicated to all coast guard operations in the Great Lakes, Saint Lawrence Seaway and parts of the surrounding states. Vessels involved in icebreaking operations fall under the Cutters Unit, and include the USCGC Alder, Biscayne Bay, Bristol Bay, Hollyhock, Katmai Bay, Mackinaw, Mobile Bay, Morrow Bay, and Neah Bay. In Lake Superior you will mostly hear about the USCGC Alder and USCGC Mackinaw.

The USCGC Mackinaw is the U.S. Coast Guard’s only heavy icebreaker in the Great Lakes. (Credit: U.S. Coast Guard)

U.S. icebreakers active in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway on March 30, 2019 at 12:00pm EDT:

  • USCGC Alder – Port of Thunder Bay
  • USCGC Mackinaw – Passing Whitefish Point destined for Whitefish Bay
  • USCGC Katmai Bay – Munuscong Lake
  • USCGC Bristol Bay and Neah Bay – Northern Lake Michigan


USACE Press Release: “The Soo Locks open as 2019 shipping season begins”

Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System: Canadian and U.S. Press Releases

CBC: “Canadian Coast Guards ‘looking for new recruits’ in video showing ice breaking process in Thunder Bay, Ont”

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Port Coldwell: A Scientist’s Song

“The Ice House,” Port Coldwell by Lawren Harris, 1923

It’s not often that a song comes along which is dedicated to life in a Lake Superior fishing community, in this case Port Coldwell.

Go directly to Dave Sills song “Coldwell Bay.”

Infosuperior readers on the U.S. side of the lake likely won’t have any idea where this is. Many Canadian readers may also have difficulty placing this community. But some readers from the Marathon, Ontario area and other communities on the Canadian North Shore will know Port Coldwell well. They grew up there. To them, it was, and in a way still is, home. Many Lake Superior fishing families, including those that fished out of Canadian North Shore locations like Jackfish Bay, Rossport and Point Magnet, had branches of the family in Port Coldwell. Now, Port Coldwell is more a place of memories, than a community.

Port Coldwell (red marker) is located some 25 km/16 mi. west of the town of Marathon, Ontario beside the Coldwell Peninsula and Neys Provincial Park.


Lawren Harris painting, “Coldwell Bay,” Lake Superior, 1923

When you enter Port Coldwell by boat, you pass through a narrow opening, unforgettable due to its high cliffs on one side, into a small harbour. The harbour has unsurpassed protection. Before the decline of the Lake Superior fishery in the mid 20th century, Port Coldwell was a thriving community—its economy and way of life inextricably linked with the lake and commercial fishing. The railway that passed through “Coldwell,” long before there were any roads in the area, provided a crucial link between fish catch and market.


The cover on Dave Sills new album Fifty.

The photo on Dave’s new album, Fifty shows a musician walking along an empty road, guitar case in hand, back to the camera. Dave is much more than a talented musician though, he’s also a scientist with a day gig.

Dave is a “Severe Weather Scientist” with Environment and Climate Change Canada in the Toronto area as well as an adjunct professor at York University. His research interests include summer severe weather (including tornadoes and lightning), low level mesoscale boundaries (including Great Lakes lake-breeze fronts and Alberta drylines) and severe weather nowcasting. You can view a list of publications co-authored by Dave Sills here. He’s also got a great website, accessible here.


Let’s let Dave Sills tell us his story about Port Coldwell. We’ll link to Dave’s song, “Coldwell Bay” and also to information about his latest album, Fifty, down below. The following article is written by Dave Sills:

My name is Dave Sills and my grandmother was Agnes Jean Johnson. She grew up in Port Coldwell. She had such wonderful stories about the place, and as I looked into it more, not only were her stories shown to be true but there was even more to love about the place. 

“Port Caldwell,” by A.Y. Jackson.


Agnes told the story of her mother making pies for her to bring up to the artists painting from boxcars on the tracks up the hill (“now don’t bother them!”). These of course were the Group of Seven artists that produced stunning imagery of Coldwell, Pic Island, and Lake Superior. An A. Y. Jackson painting of Port Coldwell even shows the house where my grandmother grew up (see painting directly above, her house is bottom left). It still amazes me.

I have always felt a strong connection with this region and have visited a number of times, still having family in the Schreiber area (the Glad clan – hi Cheryl!). 


I recently released a professionally recorded album of original songs called Fifty. One of the songs, Coldwell Bay, tells the story of the inhabitants of Port Coldwell, including a lot of the characters I had heard about over the years – my great Aunt Eileen and her husband Gideon Nicoll (tragically killed by a train), the ‘painters from down south’, the CPR clerk, loggers and miners (some of which were family members). Note that to make the song work I had to take certain liberties – hope you don’t mind.

Something special about this song is the sympathetic fiddle playing of Miranda Mulholland. She is one of Canada’s top fiddlers, and has played with the Great Lakes Swimmers, Alan Doyle of Great Big Sea, Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo, and many others, plus has her own amazing band called Harrow Fair (check out


Hope you like it!

The song is also available via iTunes, Apple Music, Google Play, Spotify, etc. – and CDs are available as well.

Dave Sills
Barrie, Ontario 

Pic Island by Lawren Harris, 1924. See the large map above to view Pic Island’s location near Port Coldwell.


In its own small way, Infosuperior endeavours to foster interest, knowledge and respect for Lake Superior, building broader public support for restoration and protection. Thanks Dave, for making all of us more aware, and interested, in our own culture and history, with the lake as its very core.


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How is Climate Changing Lake Superior?

Image of the Great Lakes on October 20, 2017, collected by the Modis instrument on NASAs Aqua satellite. Credit: Norman Kuring, Goddard Space Flight Center.

Climate change has been a hot topic for years. Climate change researchers often look at the ocean for clues to determine at what rate our global climate is heating up. Oceans are important indicators; whether you are looking at ice cover, water temperatures and circulation, or carbon dioxide absorption and release. Locally, we often look at the status of the Great Lakes for evidence of climate change, through changes in ice cover and water levels especially. Just how indicative of climate change are these factors?

CO2 Sink or Source

Human-caused carbon emissions are the number one contributing factor in global warming. Thankfully, the effects of these carbon emissions are offset by “sinks” on Earth. The ocean is especially capable when it comes to absorbing emissions and heat. Circulating currents within the ocean pull in CO2 and bring it into the depths of the oceans where it is stored in sediments and phytoplankton. As the ocean heats up, it will have a reduced capacity for absorbing CO2 and atmospheric heat.

Human Carbon Emissions are the number one contributing factor causing global warming. Credit: Text provided by Bloomberg Business. Data provided by NASA GISS and IPCC.


Lake Superior has been known to act as both a sink and a source of CO2. Studies from 1998-2000 suggested that Lake Superior was a net source of CO2. Dr. Soren Brothers and Dr. Paul Sibley recently published their analysis of  surface oxygen saturation data collected from Lake Superior between 1968 and 2016. They found that Lake Superior absorbs CO2 from late May to early October but releases CO2 in the Winter. Soren and Brothers believe that a reserve of dissolved CO2 was released due to increased sunlight caused by effects of the 1997-98 El Niño but that Lake Superior is more typically a net sink for CO2.

Ice Cover

Ice cover on the Great Lakes, particularly Lake Superior, is of great interest to many. The Ice cover dictates how we use the lake as a mode of transportation and recreation, and it changes the accessibility of remote habitats for wildlife. We also see it as a physical representation of climate change.

Lake Superior Ice Cover
Lake Superior Ice Cover on March 30th, 2018. Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

Ice cover percentages do not necessarily mirror short-term climate trends. For example this year, a small amount of ice remained on Lake Superior into May while the global climate continues to warm. NOAA–Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) has been monitoring ice cover on the great lakes for more than 30 years and continues to collect and study their data to better understand the long term effects of climate change on Great Lakes ice cover. For more information on the ice cover work by NOAA-GLERL Click Here.

Water Levels

One of the most often touted effects of climate change is an increase in water levels. Although this is fairly certain for the Oceans, the great lakes water levels are more difficult to predict. This is because precipitation is a huge contributing factor to lake water levels but, as anyone who lives around Lake Superior knows, weather is notoriously difficult to predict.

Beach Erosion due to high water levels and a storm in December 1985, Lake Michigan. Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. Some Rights Reserved.

Climate change is predicted to cause an increase in major storms, which could increase precipitation over the Great Lakes, leading to higher water levels; however, we also anticipate more droughts in the years to come, which would increase evaporation. Currently water levels on the Great Lakes are fairly high. Researchers are still trying to develop more accurate models for predicting long term water levels in large lakes like Lake Superior.

An Indirect Measure for Climate Change

The reality is that all of these factors are interconnected and controlled by a variety of ever changing variables. Increased global temperatures can result in any number of changes to lake ecosystems. It may not be possible to accurately predict how climate change will effect the Great Lakes, but the potential for negative reactions is large. For now, we can continue to learn from our lakes and rivers and do our best to reduce the carbon footprint.


Gearing up to Redevelop Two Copper-zinc Mines on North Shore of Lake Superior

Pick Lake and Winston Lake Mines are located on the North Shore of Lake Superior and have the potential for redevelopment. Project Map from Superior Lake Resources Ltd. website:

The Lake Superior region is fertile ground for mining, particularly along the North shore of Lake Superior—home to the metamorphosed greenstone belts of the Wawa subprovince of the great Canadian Shield. Greenstone belts are known to contain high grade gold, silver, copper, zinc and lead ores.

A young Perth, Australlia based exploration company, Superior Lake Resources Limited, is looking at redeveloping two former copper-zinc mines in this region: Pick Lake and Winston Lake. This project is in the very early stages of development. Superior Lake Resources Ltd has contracted Thunder bay based Nordmin Engineering Ltd as the consultant for the re-development strategy. Nordmin is expected to provide a full report by August 2018 outlining cost estimates for mine de-watering, re-equipment, installation of a new mill and other infrastructure, and a schedule of permitting and licensing requirements for development and start-up of mine operations.

Learn more about this project: ‘Superior’ Small-Cap Gets Set to Cash in on Hot Zinc Market

Zinc is a metallic element that is prized for it’s anti-corrosive properties; it is used to coat steel and galvanize iron. It is in high demand for use in building materials and electronics. At the Pick Lake and Winston Lake mines, zinc occurs as a Zinc-sulfide (ZnS); as a result the mine has the potential of releasing high levels of sulfuric acid into water systems and the environment. Time will tell whether a federal environmental assessment will be triggered and whether or not Superior Lake Resources Ltd will voluntarily undergo a provincial Environmental Assessment.