Swimming in Superior
If you're lucky, you can take a dip along Minnesota's North Shore — no wetsuit required.
© Beth Gauper
Swimmers play at the mouth of the Gooseberry River.
Remember all those summers when you looked longingly at Lake Superior, wishing you could swim in it for more than a minute
without going numb? The summer of 2012 wasn't one of them.
Non-stop, beastly hot temperatures mellowed the waters of the big lake, turning it into the world's largest swimming
Water-surface temperatures pushed 75 degrees on the notoriously cold stretch between Duluth and Grand Marais. That's the
in a century and 20 degrees higher than normal for mid-summer.
Air temperatures climbed to 90 along the lake, and few homes have air conditioners, so locals and tourists alike took the plunge.
So when you can, seize the moment and swim in Superior. Here's a guide to the best spots.
First, a few words about safety.
Bring water shoes to protect your feet from pebbles. Avoid walking on submerged shoreline rocks, which can be extremely slippery.
Check for rip currents, especially along Park Point in Duluth (look for a red flag).
Don't swim out too far, and make sure a buddy is nearby.
Watch for fast currents in rivers, especially after a heavy rain.
Check depths before you jump from cliffs or over waterfalls, and never dive.
Okay? Now go for it!
Lake Superior in Duluth-Superior
You can swim anywhere along the 10-mile sandbar that creates the Twin Ports' harbor.
The Minnesota side is known as Park Point, and the entire beach is public, though access is limited by private properties.
The closest beach to Canal Park is on the other side of the Aerial Lift Bridge. But the main swimming area is three miles farther at Park Point Recreation Area, which includes a beach house, playgrounds, soccer fields, volleyball courts and picnic areas.
© Beth Gauper
Off Duluth's Park Point Recreation Area, swimmers linger into early evening.
Just beyond that, the Park Point Trail starts from Sky Harbor Airport. It's two miles through pine forest and sand dunes to the Superior harbor entry, where there's a curving beach full of driftwood along the breakwater.
For more about Park Point and Wisconsin Point, see Dunes of Duluth.
In Canal Park, you might see young people jumping off the ruins of a building in the water just off the Lakewalk. That's
Harvey's Mausoleum, built in 1919 to store sand and gravel for an outer breakwater the city never approved.
Not far away, a better bet for cooling off are a couple of shallow coves just off the Lakewalk near Fitger's. You also can swim off Leif Erikson Park, the 42nd Avenue Park and at the mouth of the Lester River.
The locals' favorite is Brighton Beach in Kitchi Gammi Park, on the east edge of town at 63rd Avenue. It has a
half-mile of cobblestone beaches and flat, smooth rhyolite ledges that are perfect for lounging in the sun.
Be careful when you go into the water, however; the rocks along the shore are very slippery, and you're likely to
For more photos about swimming in Duluth, see our Facebook album.
© Debra Gagner
In Duluth's Lester Park, there's a swimming hole on the Lester River.
Swimming holes in Duluth
From Superior Street after 60th Avenue, turn onto Occidental Boulevard, which turns into Seven Bridges Road and follows Amity Creek as it plunges toward the Lester River in Lester Park.
Near the first bridge is The Deeps, where cliff jumpers launch themselves into a pool at the base of a waterfall. Don't do that; it's dangerous.
Instead, go up to the shallower spot just below the sixth bridge. Here, Amity Creek tumbles into a pool, then down a slide into another pool that has a little gravel beach.
Off Superior Street at 61st Avenue, there's a lovely little swimming hole at the foot of a small waterfall on the Lester River in Lester Park. You can even sit on top of the waterfall, for a Jacuzzi effect.
On Skyline Parkway on the east end of Enger Park,
Twin Ponds is a traditional swimming hole for children or anyone who prefers warm water.
Locals recommend other favorites on Perfect Duluth Day.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency lists beaches included in its Beach Monitoring Program, which checks for bacteria levels and issues
North Shore rivers
Since the shoreline is so rocky, the mouths of rivers are your best bets.
Along Scenic 61, the slow route to Two Harbors, you can stop to swim at the mouth of the French River or, on calm days, off Stony Point, where surfers ride the waves after storms.
In Two Harbors,
Burlington Bay adjoins the municipal campground and has some real sand, a rarity on the North Shore.
Beyond Two Harbors, everyone's favorite place to wade — and now swim — is Gooseberry Falls State Park.
When water flow is low, you can swim in pools at the bottoms of falls.
Cobblestone beaches line the river's mouth on Lake Superior. Just above, the point is a great picnic spot.
It's another 6½ miles to Split Rock State Park. You'll have to pay a fee to get in, but there's a lovely cove below
From here, it's five miles to the mouth of the Beaver River, just east of Beaver Bay. This also is a popular agate-hunting spot.
© Beth Gauper
Swimmers wade near the mouth of the Temperance River, named because it has no (sand) bar.
Then it's 7½ miles to Tettegouche State Park, where there are pools along the High Falls Trail on the Baptism River.
There's also a nice swimming hole near the cabin the park rents at the top of Illgen Falls, reached from Minnesota 1. Young people jump over the falls, but it's much safer to walk upstream to the swimming hole there.
It's another 20 miles to Temperance River State Park. Just north of the highway, a lot of people slide down the river and into a pool.
There always danger from rocks, but this river is especially unsafe when water is high and the current is fast —in
recent years, several people have slipped on rocks along the hiking trail, been carried away and drowned.
It's another 23½ miles to Good Harbor Bay/Cutface Creek Wayside just west of Grand Marais. You can swim off this cobblestone beach and also look for rare Thomsonite.
For more, see Beaches of the North Shore.
Near Silver Bay and Tettegouche State Park, Lax Lake Resort has a beach on Lax Lake.
If you're lucky enough to get one of Tettegouche's Mic Mac cabins on Mic Mac Lake,
you'll have a lovely place to swim. Cabin B is right on the lake. (You don't need to rent a cabin to swim, but it's a 1¾-mile
Near Tofte, The U.S. Forest services lists 10 swimming lakes in the Tofte Ranger District around Sawbill Road/County Road 2. Sawbill Lake is one of them, and also an entry point to Boundary Waters lakes.
Near Grand Marais, Devil Track Resort has a beach on Devil Track Lake.
For more, see our North Shore stories.
Last updated on May 12, 2013
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