The World’s Largest Freshwater Sandbar

Barkers & WI Point 047

Even though Wisconsin Point on Lake Superior is not truly part of “the world’s largest freshwater sandbar,” it’s still pretty.

It’s a common local point of pride in Duluth to say that Minnesota Point (a.k.a. Park Point) and Wisconsin Point form the “World’s Largest Freshwater Sandbar.” I am sorry to burst the community bubble but . . . NOT.

Way back so many years ago I can’t even find it on the Internet, Duluth sent a delegation of kayakers to Lake Baikal in Russia. They returned with tales of a sandbar or two on this freshwater lake that were even larger than MN/WI points. Maybe I was the only one who listened then because local tourism organizations and media outlets continued to refer to our sandbar as the “world’s largest.”

A couple of years ago (2014), I decided to fact-check the claim because I was editing a government report that repeated it. Lo and behold, I found a provincial park in Canada that claimed the same thing (Sandbanks Provincial Park).

I also asked several scientific types who are in the know about such things and received a response from a researcher at the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Large Lakes Observatory. Prof. Ted Ozersky did some Google Map comparisons and found that Jarki Island at the northernmost tip of Lake Baikal sports a sandbar that is 18 kilometers long. MN/WI points are 16 km long.

He also found a series of long sandbars on Proval Bay along the eastern shore of Lake Baikal that collectively stretch for 40 km.

So, in the document I was editing, I changed the wording to MN/WI points as comprising “one of the largest freshwater sandbars in the world.”

The issue arose again just last week when a fellow blogger made the “world’s largest” claim in his post. Why? Because he saw it elsewhere on the Web.

I figure it’s high time to get definitive news out on the Web that, alas, Minnesota and Wisconsin Points ARE NOT the largest freshwater sandbar in the world. Even the park in Canada has downgraded their claim to say instead that they have the “world’s largest baymouth barrier dune formation.”

In short, it’s okay to say that MN/WI points are the largest freshwater sandbar in the country, or one of the largest freshwater sandbars in the world, but not “THE largest freshwater sandbar in the world.”

Class dismissed.

Happy International Migratory Bird Day from a Recovering Birder

Birders on the shore of Lake Superior, Wisconsin Point.

Birders on the shore of Lake Superior, Wisconsin Point.

No, I’m not writing about Mother’s Day, but about a lesser known and newer commemorative event that celebrates birds. Yesterday, I participated in the second annual International Migratory Bird Day, held in Superior, Wis.

White pines on Wisconsin Point.

White pines on Wisconsin Point.

I haven’t been to a birding event in years, partly on purpose and partly due to other demands in my life. I like to think of myself as a recovering birder. I took up bird watching in seventh grade and was active in the birding community through my twenties – even participating for a year on the Audubon Expedition Institute, where I travelled across the country in a yellow school bus for a year with 24 other people interested in birding and the environment for master’s degree studies.

It was during that experience that I overdosed on birding. I came to realize that people stopped looking at birds once they had identified them. I rebelled against the obsession to name everything with feathers that I saw or heard. I rebelled against using eyesight aids like spotting scopes and binoculars – wanting to view the birds instead as part of their surroundings.

But I still feel an affinity with birds. My upcoming novel is about them, after all, and this event seemed a good excuse to get outside on a rare warm spring day. We met at Wisconsin Point, a long sandbar just outside the city. A small group of us spent three hours birding. We didn’t see very many birds but there were bald eagles, chickadees, scaups, red headed ducks, lots of blue jays passing through, and the requisite ring-billed gulls. I do admit to looking through a spotting scope (and the world did not end!), but I tried to keep it to a minimum to allow others the opportunity. After birding, we went to a local inn to listen to some presentations about migration.

My camera isn’t built for bird pictures, but I do love the lighthouse and the white pines on the point, so I thought I’d share photos of them with you.

Wisconsin Point Lighthouse

The Wisconsin Point Lighthouse.

Wisconsin Point Lighthouse and log