News broke last week that Lake Superior has warmed up much faster this year than normal. But before you slather on the sunscreen for Superior, you might just do a little research. I was in the lake yesterday and it was cold…cold enough that I was the only one of the fifty people on the swimming beach actually swimming.
Lake Superior surface water temperatures change dramatically day to day depending on the heat of the day and, more importantly, the wind direction. A wind off the shore drives warmer surface water out and brings cold water up from the depths. Herring like that. Most people don’t.
If you want to swim on the North Shore, wait for a sunny day with a breeze off the lake, like a southerly wind. Up in Little Marais, we seldom swam in June or July, but would have some great days in August down on “the rocks” with the waves crashing over us as we pinned ourselves to a ledge.
For a full listing of Minnesota North Shore beaches, check out the MPCA’s beach monitoring site. You can drill down into all sorts of data.
Here are my recommendations for decent North Shore swimming beachs, with links to their MPCA webpage:
Split Rock Lighthouse State Park Little Two Harbors beach. You need a state park vehicle permit for this one, but it’s totally worth it. The water is clear but kept warm by the protection of the island and tombolo. Swim out far enough for a loon’s view of the Lighthouse.
Burlington Bay beach. This is the eastern of the two harbors in Two Harbors. Very easy to reach right off Highway 61 and next to the campground.
Iona’s Beach, at Twin Points. The MPCA page shows the boat launch area, but head through the pine forest to the other side of the point and enjoy the unique red shingle beach.
Swimming on the North Shore is an amazing experience. Floating above huge boulders in clear water, body-surfing the fresh water waves…it’s the best. Just watch the wind and wait for a perfect day.
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