Lake Mistake

Congressman Beechly’s post yesterday about lake ice reminded me that even our biggest lakes freeze over.

Lake Superior became quite icy this year but is quickly thawing out. All the Great Lakes get icy, though Lake Michigan seems to stay warmer. Perhaps Chicago is so dynamic it has an effect like one of those heaters you put in the bottom of a birdbath. Or maybe the still-weighted-down bodies of all the 1920’s gangsters tossed in the lake emit enough bad karma to keep the water moving.

Of course even these massive bodies of water have personalities. For some reason, looking at a map of our marvelous Great Lakes reminded me of the time more than a decade ago when then-U.S. Senator Norm Coleman appeared to get two of them mixed up, which led to two things public officials and their constituents hate in equal measure – criticism and poetry.

“We have Duluth, which is located on Lake Erie, which is the entryway, the gateway to the Great Lakes …” Senator Norm Coleman, during a debate about the National Intelligence Reform Bill, US Senate, September 28, 2004

Lakes of Confusion

A person could, if he were weary
Confuse Superior and Erie
For both are wet and natural.
Their first names are identical!

They both are colored blue on maps.
They both have buoys. Both have traps
for mollusks, fish, and water thingies.
They’re full of waves and boats and dinghies

Politically you can’t divide ‘em.
Both have swing states right beside ‘em.
Round the edge are geese and ducks
And on the northern shore – Canucks!

Except for size and depth and clarity;
History, geography (a minor disparity)
Color, flavor, smell and name
It’s fair to say they are the same.

It’s something of a minor art
To tell these Greatest lakes apart.
So here’s a hint from one who’s tried it.
One has the other’s name inside it.

Superior is clearly better.
Deeper, wider, has more letters.
If you mix them in your stupor,
Take Eri out, it still is Supor.

Tell us about your favorite lake. 

37 thoughts on “Lake Mistake”

  1. Good morning. Lake Superior comes to mind immediately as a favorite lake, especially the North Shore area. The great expanse of fresh water that goes on forever makes it very attractive. Also, I like the rocky beaches and all of the places where streams enter the lake as you travel along the North Shore.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am, and in my heart have always been, a Minnesotan.

    Asking me for a favorite lake is like asking which of my cats I like best. I like the one I am at, whenever I am lucky enough to get to one.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I was thinking along those same lines – with the exception of being Minnesotan – choosing a favorite lake is an impossible task.

      Do you pick one of the pristine ones in the BWCA, or do you go with the one where your favorite cabin is? Do you pick the one surrounded by mountaintops nestled at the foot of a glacier? Is it your favorite fishing or swimming hole or the urban oasis reflecting the bright city lights?

      I think I’ll go with mig’s choice, the one I’m lucky enough to be at at the moment. And, I might add, I’m not currently that lucky.


  3. Superior clearly is the Superior Lake. It is my soul’s home and a peak experience in my life came a few summers ago when I got to kayak in it. I say “in” rather than “on” because I really felt like I was part of the lake that day, joined with it in a way which not even swimming (briefly; brr) allows me. I moved to NC a few years ago (what was I thinking! no lakes here), but try to get back to the lake once a year. Summer, winter. . .it doesn’t really matter, though the year the lake produced something akin to Superman’s Fortress of Solitude was another superior experience.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Snorting tea as I read “Lakes of Confusion”, Dale.

    Will have to do more than one, of course. My favorite Minneapolis Lake is Harriet, since it’s so near where I “landed” when I migrated here in ’78. But I also have favorite lakes in:
    Colorado – Bear Lake, up from Estes Park,
    Iowa – Storm Lake where I spent 11 years of my childhood,
    and Spirit Lake – hi Donna!
    Wisconsin – Sweet Lake, head of the Upper Eau Claire chain
    and I think outstate MN would have to be Superior.


    1. Just saw in the news that all of Prine’s concerts in Minnesota scheduled for next month have been postponed until September. Hope it’s not a health issue though I have a nagging suspicion it is.


      1. once you get cancer it is a finger pointing suspicion for every hiccup. even if you didnt have it the aha moment that it is possible kind of whacks you into the realazation that mortaility gets in the way all the time. john prine seems to have a pretty good attitude about it and while i hope he doesnt have to deal with it but he is a one foot in front of the other kind of guy in this arena.


  5. I am a duck out of water, a Minnesotan from Rock County (no natural lakes there) who now lives in the land of stock dams, prairie pot holes (one with the lovely name of “Stink Lake”) and man made reservoirs. The lake life has always eluded me.


      1. Exactly. I was saddened to read the other day that the Rock River, which runs through my home town, is the worst river in Minnesota for nitrites, nitrates, and other agricultural run off.


  6. I’d have to say not only Lake MInnetonka which is lapping the shores 75 feet from my cottage, but the Crystal Bay it’s on. Every morning, the sun bathes my bedroom and all I can see is tree tops and water from my bed. My parents are scattered in the bay, so they’re always near by in spirit.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I’m late to get here, as I overslept after a tiring but splendid afternoon showing lbj some places in Portland. I heartily agree with mig: I love the one I’m with.

    Some stand out above others. We used to vacation on Long Lake (of which there are 17 in Minnesota) near Park Rapids. My memories of that lake now are bathed in a golden aura, like a place you experience in dreams, and in some ways it seems I was more content there than I’ve been anywhere else on earth.

    As my sister now does, I’ve lived along Minnetonka. I knew it intimately when it was less developed than now, and I’ll never forget some magic moments there.

    I’ve made a pilgrimage to Ross Lake, on the southern edge of Quetico Park, three times. Each of those trips left me with so many memories I can go back there any time I choose to, and it is always wonderful.

    But then there is Superior, which is (of course) above them all. You have to love a lake that is so pure you can just drink it if you’re thirsty. I’ve paddled it, fished it, hiked around it, swum in it, explored it and sat on its shores thrilling to the aurora.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Itasca: Headwaters of the Mississippi. Minnesota perfection any time of year. The cabins around Douglas Lodge are a delight but you have to make reservations many months in advance. The biking and walking trails stimulate the appetite which can be satisfied by wild rice soup and walleye at dinner. Blueberry pancakes for breakfast. Ham sandwiches for lunch. Hot chocolate and s’mores for nighttime snacking. Geology lessons everywhere. Zim’s Golden Guide to Trees. Watching the kids navigate the rocks at the Headwaters and make believe their stick will float all the way to New Orleans. Watching the kids “accidentally” fall in the river. Where’d that towel come from? Pour my ashes into the river. I know I’ll get to New Orleans someday.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I like the idea of having one’s ashes enter the Mississippi up by Itasca and then making the great trip to the ocean. But if I am right, your ashes would then be locked for eternity in “the Dead Zone” at the mouth of the river. Stuck in the Dead Zone? The symbolism of that is troubling!


  9. OT Liam Update

    Liam, just turned five, told my daughter the other day, “Ellenmay gets to name the baby.”

    Ellenmay is his current girlfriend. He always has one.

    Molly: “She gets to name the baby? When is this happening?”

    Liam: “When we get big she is going to have a baby.”

    Molly: “I’m glad this is happening when you get big, not, you know, next week or something. Why does she get to name the baby?”

    Liam: “Ellenmay is going to carry the baby in her tummy. So she gets to name it.”

    Liked by 4 people

  10. From Duluth. Lake Superior, ‘natch.
    I used to know a former Chief Engineer for US Steel that said he could tell which Great Lake he was in by the color of the water he could see outside the porthole. If he saw blue, he knew he was in Superior. If he saw green, Lake Michigan. Etc, etc, etc. After 35 years on the Lakes, he absolutely said that each one had it’s own characteristics (or ‘personality’ as he said).

    Liked by 5 people

  11. Having grown up by Lake Harriet, it holds a part of my memory and heart. Especially the more southern side of the lake, near where the elf house is. There used to be a little tiny beach over there where my family would go in the summer and spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Bring a picnic, splash about – usually rode our bikes to get there. Not as big a fan of “main” beach (which is officially something else…the one closer to the bandshell) – too big. Too crowded.

    Next choice: Lake Superior – especially in Grand Marais. More history there, but from my immediately post-college years. Lovely lake. Bittersweet memories.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. lake celestine in jasper is the place. sets a time and place for me that are special. thanks dale senator and dale.
    i have a new one in the boundry waters but i dont know its name, son and i have a favorite camping area that makes it special


  13. I had asked my daughters to find this poem and print it out and frame it, so that I could place in our very rustic cabin on The Lake in Port Wing township. This poem made me laugh years ago, and still makes me laugh. And yes, I got my framed copy for the cabin for Mother’s Day this year. Thank you, Dale Connelly


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