North Shore Duluth

Fascinating Facts About The North Shore and Duluth

A region unlike any other, the North Shore of Minnesota encompasses some of the most breathtaking, beautiful sights in the entire Midwest. David Barthel, author of North Shore Duluth: A Photo Tour of Northeastern Minnesota, shares with us some fascinating facts about the North Shore and Duluth.

  • Despite its northern location and relatively cold climate, Duluth was once home to the most millionaires per capita of any U.S. city and, for a brief time, was America’s busiest port in terms of gross tonnage. Numerous examples of exquisite architecture from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries provide evidence of a once-affluent industrial port city that continues to thrive thanks to a growing tourism-based economy.
  • Lake Superior, known to the Ojibwe as Gichi-Gami or “great sea,” is the world’s largest freshwater lake by surface area. The lake contains enough water to cover both North and South America to a depth of one foot. The large body of water also affects the weather adjacent to the shore, often keeping summertime temperatures much cooler than surrounding areas. In the winter, easterly winds can produce lake-effect snow in Duluth and on the North Shore.
  • The average daytime high temperatures in Duluth during the months of January and July are 19°F and 76°F, respectively. Average annual snowfall is 86.1 inches.
  • In Grand Marais, where the climate is further moderated by Lake Superior, an average January day sees a high temperature of 25°F. Due to the delayed warming of Lake Superior, August is Grand Marais’s warmest month, with an average high temperature of 72°F. In a typical year, Grand Marais receives about 45.7 inches of snow.
  • The fierce Mataafa Storm of 1905, which sank 29 vessels on Lake Superior, prompted the construction of Split Rock Lighthouse. The lighthouse’s beacon was lit for the first time on July 31, 1910. There were no roads to the site until construction of the North Shore Highway in 1924. Therefore, all building materials and supplies had to be shipped by boat and hoisted to the isolated clifftop by crane.
  • In a typical autumn season, the North Shore experiences two distinct fall color phases. During the first phase, the maples on the ridges a few miles inland turn bright orange and red. This typically occurs during the last week in September or first week of October. The second phase typically begins a week or two later when the birch and aspen closer to Lake Superior finally change color and create a sea of yellow-orange along the shore.
  • The Grand Portage is an 8.5-mile footpath once used by fur-trading voyageurs in the eighteenth century to bypass large rapids and waterfalls on the 20 miles of the Pigeon River nearest Lake Superior. These voyageurs were the first Europeans known to visit the area. The Grand Portage trail still exists today and is open to hikers wishing to experience the once-bustling trade route for themselves.
  • Established in 1856, Beaver Bay is the North Shore’s oldest permanently settled community. Just a few miles north on Highway 61 lies the North Shore’s youngest city, Silver Bay, founded in 1954 as a company town for the nearby taconite processing plant.
  • Stretching nearly 150 miles from Duluth to the Canadian Border, Minnesota Highway 61 is the North Shore’s main thoroughfare. The roadway never ventures more than a mile inland from Lake Superior, providing unparalleled access to the lake’s scenic views and recreational opportunities.

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Liliane Opsomer
  • Annie Long

    I never thought of Minnesota as having a shoreline. How gorgeous and inviting! Gotta put it on my ever-growing bucket list. Those lighthouses are so charming and unusual.

    June 20, 2019 at 7:15 pm
  • I’ve been visiting the North Shore of Lake Superior since I was a little girl, camping with my grandparents. It’s the most beautiful place in the world for me.

    I’ve since spent our Honeymoon and several anniversaries on the North Shore. We’re going back to our Honeymoon place, Inn on Gitchi Gumi” in a couple weeks to celebrate our Silver and Golden anniversary. So excited!

    August 4, 2020 at 11:30 am

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