Standing Up For The Great Lakes: Lake Huron Crossing Raises Awareness of Ecosystems

Lake Huron is big. The second-largest of the Great Lakes, it contains a total volume of 3,540 km3, and a surface area of 59,500 km2. Regardless of how big your mighty ship, Huron is an immense arena to navigate. Quick to conjure up some calamitous conditions, it defies longterm forecasts by drumming up local brews of its own. Thousands of ships have sank beneath it over time.

 

Photo courtesy of SUFGL

words: Scott Parent

Last June, I was invited by my friend Dr. Scott Parker, ecologist at Parks Canada, to assist him in escorting a team of American stand-up paddleboarders and their support boats across Fathom Five National Marine Park and into Tobermory. A group of three paddlers who form the core of Traverse City, Michigan–based nonprofit Stand Up For Great Lakes (SUFGL), they were attempting a 145km crossing of Lake Huron from Alpena, Michigan to Tobermory.

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We planned to meet them at the border of Fathom Five, where the deep Huronian waters are interrupted by hazardous shallow embankments. The outer rim of Fathom Five is famous for its hidden dangers—hence the many shipwrecks.

Scott Parker would escort the support crew by boat through the shoals and I would paddle alongside SUFGL’s Kwin Morris, Joe Lorenz and Jeff Guy. When we got out there the wind and waves were pumping hard, and I imagined what the last 24-plus hours would have been like for these guys. It wasn’t pleasant, yet here they were on the western lip of Fathom Five, with just 11 more kilometres to Tobermory.

After over 28 hours of continuous paddling, Morris, Lorenz and Guy stepped off their boards and onto the irregular rocky tip of the Bruce Peninsula, under the Tobermory lighthouse. With family there to meet them, they received a warm reception, and shared a ceremonial joining of national flags with Scott Parker on behalf of Parks Canada. After all, having successfully paddled across a Great Lake is no small feat. Lake Huron wasn’t their first, and it looks like it won’t be their last.

Their Huron crossing last summer raised over $7,000 for the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Alpena to help with research and education programs. This summer SUFGL have their sights set on crossing the largest lake of them all: Superior.

In 2015 the team completed a 96km crossing of Lake Michigan, starting from Algoma, Wisconsin and ending in Frankfort, Minnesota. Derailed the year before by unsuitable weather, they realigned themselves for a successful second try, along with two other team paddlers, J Mueller and Nick Darga. For this crossing, they were able to raise over $10,000 for Alliance for the Great Lakes, a citizen-run environmental organization. This experience inspired SUFGL paddlers to continue onward with more missionfuelled fundraisers to support organizations that protect and steward the Lakes, including the watersheds, rivers and streams that feed them.

Their Huron crossing last summer raised over $7,000 for the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Alpena to help with research and education programs. This summer SUFGL have their sights set on crossing the largest lake of them all: Superior.

Tentatively planned for July 2018, they have partnered with The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society, a non-profit that operates the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point, Michigan, along with the historic Weather Bureau Building on the U.S. side of Sault Ste. Marie. The Society searches for and documents shipwrecks found throughout Lake Superior, using their 47-foot research vessel, the David Boyd. The SUFGL team plans to raise money to help continue the Society’s research.

When asked what motivates them, Kwin Morris explains: “The threats to our lakes are increasing every day: oil pipelines with questionable integrity, invasive species, agricultural runoff, and everyday pollution from people littering. We love our lakes too much and want to keep them beautiful for future generations.”

standupforgreatlakes.com

 

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