Canoeing America's 'Big 5' took 15 years

Photo by Linda Steiner. Hard to believe this is the same Lake Superior that sunk the cargo ship Edmund Fitzgerald. Bob pauses to reflect on catching the Great Lake perfectly flat for a canoe paddle.

The waves had built quickly to two-footers. Moments ago we had been paddling along the calm shoreline of Warren Dunes State Park on Lake Michigan. Now we were fighting outsize waves in our 17-foot Bell Northwind canoe. The long and lightweight Kevlar craft is built to handle big water and we are practiced at adverse weather and water, paddling on big lakes. But this was Lake Michigan. It's not just big; it's great. At the time, this was the third Great Lake we had paddled.

As we paddled hard, the long rollers began to surf us toward shore, which was a nicely tapered sandy beach. This wasn't death defying. It was summer; the water was warm. This was "big fun" with a little urgency added. The beach was crowded with nearly a thousand swimmers and sunbathers. The paved lots alone at this site were twice the size of our Walmart's parking lots. We had launched, with a ranger's permission, off the northern end of the swimming area.

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