Lake Superior, which is locally and widely known by its Ojibwe name gichi-gami (meaning “Great Sea”), is the largest freshwater lake in the world by area and third largest by volume. At a length of 350 miles and width of 160 miles and with radio sites at the furthest extents of the lake able to traverse those distances successfully, the opportunities on the dial are nearly limitless here. Sites on the western shores reach nearly to the Dakotas and Manitoba. Sites on the southeastern shore reach into Northern Québec and filling the dial with French, and some remote north shore sites with empty dials top an average distance of 200 miles with regular catches exceeding 350 miles, totally unfathomable in most locations! The lake has a retention time of a whole 191 years, meaning water introduced into it does not fully depart the lake for almost two centuries. Fed by more than 200 rivers, the St. Marys River on its southeastern shore is home to the Soo Locks, connecting it to Lake Huron and the St. Lawrence Seaway, leading many freighters – some 1,000 feet long – into and across the lake to Duluth. The lake’s shores are home to the cities of Marquette, Duluth, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, and numerous small towns, many on the north shore known for pulp and gold mining, among other minerals. With a total shoreline of 1,826 miles – the same distance from Maine to southern Georgia – its islands such as the sizable Isle Royale (with its own islands nonetheless!) add to that total, giving Superior 2,700 miles of shoreline to enjoy.
July 2018: Agawa Bay is a radio site on the eastern shore of Lake Superior. The site consists merely of the Agawa Scenic Lookout, a parking lot with two benches, overlooking Lake Superior from above, just across the Trans-Canada Highway. The lookout is 60 miles (95 km.) north of Sault Ste. Marie and 140 miles (225 km.) northeast of Marquette. Because of its location, it’s possible to receive Lake Huron lake tropo under the right conditions in addition to primary stations over Lake Superior. The lookout was right inside the lake duct on this day with massive local-strength signals in excess of 200 miles.
July 2018: Chippewa Falls and nearby Batchawana Bay are radio sites on the southeastern shore of Lake Superior, 35 minutes north of Sault Ste. Marie. The falls consists of a roadside park with a plaque indicating the halfway point of the Trans-Canada Highway, while Batchawana Bay Provincial Park, 6 miles (10 km.) to the west, is a thin strip of beach and parking. Northern Michigan, Sault Ste. Marie, and Marquette are common here. During ideal conditions, the location of this site and the orientation of its shoreline is favorable for lake tropo originating from across both Lake Michigan and Lake Huron in addition to usual Lake Superior signals.
August 2018: Brimley State Park is a radio site along Whitefish Bay in the southeastern corner of Lake Superior just outside Sault Ste. Marie. Its position along the bay protects it from Lake Superior’s often-harsh conditions, but also somewhat shields it from the primary lake breeze circulation that fuels lake signal propagation. The site is beside Waiska Bay, a bay within the larger Whitefish Bay, and is at the mouth of the St. Marys River leading to the Soo Locks. In addition, it is at lake level with no real elevation, therefore under the lake’s atmospheric ducts, further hampering reception.
Brimley is in the Sault Ste. Marie market and commonly receives Sault Ste. Marie and Northern Michigan stations locally, as well as Wawa (110 miles north), Thunder Bay (260 miles northwest), Houghton (195 miles northwest), and Marquette (135 miles west). Both night enhancement and daytime lake tropo were monitored at this location.
July 2018: Copper Harbor is a radio site on the northern tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The Keweenaw Peninsula juts out 35 miles beyond the average southern coastline of Lake Superior. Copper Harbor consists of two radio sites: the upper – including Brockway Mountain, 728 feet above the lake – and the lower, including both Astor Shipwreck Park (day) and Fort Wilkins State Park (night), at or just above the water level.
Because Lake Superior’s ducts are significantly higher in elevation than the other four lakes with warmer water temperatures, the two sites provide a valuable comparison of reception between lower and higher elevations in this area.
Copper Harbor is near the center of the lake’s southern shore, 180 miles northwest of Sault Ste. Marie and 200 miles northeast of Duluth, as well as locally 85 miles southeast of Thunder Bay and 70 miles northwest of Marquette. Typical reception at this site includes Duluth, Minneapolis, Bemidji, International Falls, Thunder Bay, Marquette, Northern Michigan, and Northwoods Wisconsin.
April 2017 / Off-Season: Duluth is a radio site at the westernmost point of Lake Superior. It consists of Duluth, Minnesota to the north and Superior, Wisconsin to the south, together referred to as the Twin Ports. The city is well-known for its 17 radio towers that dominate the skyline, a beacon visible from 20 miles (32 km.) away alerting locals that home is near as they travel into town.
Due to the shape of the coastline here, the terrain blocking the city into the marine layer where few stations lurk, as well as the aforementioned cluster of towers, home to 22 stations immediately overlooking downtown – almost the city’s entire local radio dial – reception here is the worst of any spots on the Great Lakes, an average distance of just 27 miles with few out-of-market stations audible within the city.
While reception here is primarily from locales nearby, the strongest of the Minneapolis signals are very common in the higher elevations surrounding Duluth as well as along the lake just to the east of town and other inland markets can be heard with good conditions. Despite its location beside Lake Superior, Duluth is chiefly governed by inland propagation. (Note: a summer bandscan update is expected from this site in July 2021).
August 2016, April 2017 & July 2019: Grand Sable Dunes is a radio site in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The site is one of very few on the southeast stretch of Lake Superior’s shore with significant elevation to utilize the typically higher ducts over the lake. The 300-foot dunes are immediately to the west of Grand Marais (a city of the same name exists across the lake in Minnesota) and are part of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. In addition, Agate Beach in Grand Marais, 6 miles east of the Log Slide Overlook site at the dunes, is used as a low elevation site for comparison.
Because of this site’s near-total lack of local stations – just a single local exists with plenty of semi-locals that are rather easy to null out – and being the only location on the south shore of Lake Superior with the ability to block inland stations by using the steep grade of the sand dunes, this is among the most interesting of all sites on the Great Lakes. While its scenic beauty may be rather simplistic with merely sand and water, the possibilities on the radio bands into some of the most remote regions in the northeast, both English and French-speaking, can be mightily impressive!
July 2018: Kama Bay Lookout is a radio site on the central north shore of Lake Superior. It is located 12 miles east of Nipigon at the furthest northern extent of Lake Superior. Right in the center of the lake’s north shore, it is 240 miles northwest of Sault Ste. Marie and 240 miles northeast of Duluth on either side of the lake, 170 miles north of Marquette, and just 70 miles northeast of Thunder Bay.
The lookout is 360 feet above the water, placing it in the range of the strongest lake ducts, and has sweeping overlooks of Kama Bay. Behind it are the Kama Hills with cliffs towering up to 900 feet above the highway below. Typical reception at Kama Bay includes the Upper Peninsula, Northwoods and Central Wisconsin, and Northern Michigan.
July 2019: In the far western corner of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula lies Lake of the Clouds, an overlook site 720 feet above Lake Superior, which lies just a mile to the north. Like Brockway Mountain in Copper Harbor, a site at almost the exact same elevation, Lake of the Clouds in the Porcupine Mountains is quite remote and pulls in signals from Duluth (110 miles), Thunder Bay (120 miles), Minneapolis (200 miles), and well into central and northern Minnesota. Two scans were conducted here over the course of two days, right up until sunset, which doesn’t arrive here until 10 o’clock. In addition, two more scans were performed nearby at lake level at Union Bay Campground, 6 miles to the east with an obstructive mountain immediate to its southwest. Incredible reception paired with the natural beauty this site has to offer puts it in the very top tier of Great Lakes radio sites, one that is not to be skipped!
July 2019: This village of 2,000 lies at the eastern base of the Keweenaw Peninsula. With just two miles of water to its west and 1,800-foot mountain peaks immediately to its east, thus blocking signals from the east and southeast, L’Anse is one of those impromptu sites that looks bad on paper, but surprises in reality. Reception here primarily consists of the Duluth market, 175 miles to the east. Marquette, 50 miles to the east, is barely audible aside from higher powered signals – still received with weak reception – that can hop the mountains to the village’s east. For this fact, L’Anse is a unique location tucked into a nook and protected from the stations that are a nuisance to listening across the entire Upper Peninsula. The potential for success with strong conditions to the west or southwest at L’Anse can provide epic opportunities.
July 2018: Marathon is a radio site on the north shore of Lake Superior. The site consists of both Pebble Beach at lake level in town and Gchi-Waaswaaganing, 400 feet (120 m.) higher and inland, just outside of town. Together, the two are combined into a single map and scan. Marathon, with 3,300 residents, is the center of business in this area with an economy based historically on pulp and gold mining. It lies 155 miles northeast of Marquette, 180 miles northwest of Sault Ste. Marie, 130 miles east of Thunder Bay, and 300 miles northeast of Duluth. Due to the distance of these nearest radio markets, reception here has an average distance of 191 miles (307 km.).
April 2017 & July 2019: Marquette is a radio site on the central south shore of Lake Superior. With 20,000 residents, it’s the largest city in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It lies 145 miles west of Sault Ste. Marie, 225 miles east of Duluth, 70 miles southeast of Houghton, 155 miles southeast of Thunder Bay, and 150 miles northwest of Traverse City. The city has 20 local stations, though half lie outside the downtown area. Typical reception originates from Escanaba, Houghton, and Northern Michigan with stations from across the water readily audible but difficult due to a high level of local interference and the fact that many distant stations use frequencies adjacent to locals. The city’s Black Rocks at Presque Isle Park hosts this site, making for a scenic, albeit still rather difficult, listening experience.
July 2018: Michipicoten is a radio site on the eastern shore of Lake Superior with the longest open water path on the Great Lakes, an uninterrupted 350 miles to Duluth, 50 miles longer than any other Great Lakes path, and passing just a mile offshore from the Keweenaw Peninsula at Eagle Harbor. The site pairs Government Dock Beach at water level with the Michipicoten Scenic Lookout just up the road, 165 feet above the lake. Wawa, the region’s commercial hub, is 10 minutes to the north.
Three bandscans were conducted at these locations. A late evening bandscan was performed at Government Dock Beach and then the lookout immediately after; both are combined into a single map. The scans were done at a time after the main lake breeze circulation had ceased for the day but before nighttime enhancement had begun. For comparison, an additional scan was performed the following day during daytime lake tropo at the lookout.
August 2018 & July 2019: Miners Castle is a radio site on Lake Superior’s south shore in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The site is 7 miles northeast of Munising in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula at one of the most well-known cliff formations of the Pictured Rocks. Miners Castle is 40 miles east of Marquette, 100 miles west of Sault Ste. Marie, 125 miles northwest of Traverse City, 180 miles southeast of Thunder Bay, and 265 miles east of Duluth. The site, unlike most with any elevation on the south shore, is readily accessible by car. Because of its location, Miners Castle can also receive stations from across Lake Michigan in addition to those from across Lake Superior.
July 2018: Nokomis is a mountain trail radio site, 400 feet (120 m.) above the water on the east shore of Lake Superior. The site is the only Great Lakes bandscan site on a mountain trail and the only site requiring a long hike to access. Nokomis Trail is located at the northern extent of the massive Lake Superior Provincial Park just 15 minutes south of Wawa and ten miles southwest of the Michipicoten bandscan site. It lies 90 miles north of Sault Ste. Marie, 145 miles northeast of Marquette, and 200 miles across the water from Thunder Bay. Northern Michigan, the Upper Peninsula, and Northwoods Wisconsin are all common at this site.
July 2018: Ouimet Canyon is an inland radio site along Lake Superior’s north shore. Lying anywhere from 6 to 12 miles inland and at 720 feet (220 m.) above the lake, the canyon is 165 miles northwest of Marquette, 260 miles northwest of Sault Ste. Marie, 210 miles northeast of Duluth, and just 30 miles outside Thunder Bay. The site is remote yet scenic and is a valuable look at how signals from across the water propagate inland at higher elevations, funneling into the canyon from the southeast.
July 2018: Palisade Head is a Minnesota radio site along the northwest shore of Lake Superior. The site, which ranks among the most magnificent along the lake, is just 55 miles northeast of Duluth and 115 miles southwest of Thunder Bay. Despite its more crowded dial than other locations along the north shore, still hearing distant stations – it’s 185 miles northwest of Marquette and 330 miles northwest of Sault Ste. Marie – is almost expected here. This site, by a scheduling quirk only, was monitored on two separate days. On both days, reception easily topped 350 miles into Northern Michigan as if one were listening instead from the Batchawana Bay site. Expect regular reception here from Northern Michigan, Marquette, Green Bay, La Crosse, and Minneapolis.
July 2018: The Susie Islands Overlook is a radio site on the Minnesota side of the U.S. – Canadian border. It lies within the very rural Grand Portage Indian Reservation, 3 miles west of the border. At 430 feet above Lake Superior, it is an easily accessible roadside site overlooking Wayswaugoing Bay, the nearby Susie Islands, and Isle Royale, 20 miles to the southeast. The site lies within local range of Thunder Bay, 30 miles to the northeast, and Houghton, 75 miles to the southeast. Marquette is 145 miles to the southeast, Sault Ste. Marie 270 miles to the southeast, and Duluth 140 miles to the southwest.
July 2018: Terrace Bay is a radio site on the central north shore of Lake Superior. The site is 100 miles east of Thunder Bay, 150 miles north of Marquette, 200 miles northwest of Sault Ste. Marie, and 270 miles northeast of Duluth, making it one of the most remote sites along the shores of Lake Superior.
The town of 1,400 is historically built upon the pulp industry, as many in the region are, and is home to a 50-foot model lighthouse constructed in 2011. The town is the only bandscan site on the Great Lakes to top an average reception of 200 miles, meaning half the radio dial originates from locations a distance of 200 to 370 miles away. Because of its location directly across the water from the narrowest section of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula – just 40 miles across – Terrace Bay can also tap into the Lake Michigan radio dial with the presence of satisfactory conditions.
July 2018: Thunder Bay is a radio site in northern Ontario. It is the largest city on the north shore of Lake Superior and the center of commerce for the region. It lies 150 miles northwest of Marquette, 260 miles northwest of Sault Ste. Marie, and 175 miles northeast of Duluth. The site utilizes Hillcrest Park, a popular park 150 feet above Lake Superior in the city of Thunder Bay and the more favorable Terry Fox Monument and Lookout 4½ miles to the northeast on the edge of the city at an elevation of 265 feet above the lake. Due to the proximity of local stations in town, radio overload can be a common issue at these locations, but it doesn’t completely take away from the experience.
July 2018: Whitefish Point is a radio site on the far southeast shore of Lake Superior. The home of Whitefish Point Lighthouse, it is in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and sticks out as a peninsula at the entrance of Whitefish Bay. The point is at lake level, meaning it lies below all atmospheric ducts responsible for the propagation of signals over the water and is prone to sporadic signals and “fallout” from ducts above. The site is just 30 miles northwest of Sault Ste. Marie, and is 85 miles south of Wawa, 230 miles southeast of Thunder Bay, 115 miles east of Marquette, 170 miles east of Houghton, and 140 miles northeast of Traverse City. Typical reception on this stretch of shore includes Sault Ste. Marie locals, Marquette, Houghton, Northern Michigan, Wawa, Thunder Bay, and Timmins.