Experiencing Life
Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world, at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Freshwater environments are a focus of Trip 8.
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Trip 8 - Great Lakes

The focus of Trip 8 is on freshwater ecosystems, the fishes that live in them and on some of the forest types that occur around the great lakes (White/Red/Jack Pine, Aspen/Birch and the general Taiga, or Boreal forest, biome). This will also be the trip where physics, as it is applied to living things, is experienced. Another focus will be on fossils from the Paleozoic era.

The first stop is in Iowa at the Coralville Reservior. As a result of flooding in 1993, the flow of water through the reservoir's spillway eroded away everything covering the bedrock, exposing fossils from the Devonian Period, such as corals, crinoids, brachiopods and more. The gorge allows us to check off another geologic time period from our list of sites where fossils can be experienced in a natural setting.

Next, we venture to the Wisconsin Dells area where multiple water parks exist. This is one of two sites where physics is the focus. From concepts like forces and fluid dynamics to light and electromagnetism, there are a number of concepts to experience. Physics forms the basis of all physical phenomena, including the chemical phenomena that form the basis of biological properties. At a water park, you can have a litle fun while learning about these concepts.

The trip then heads back southeast to Chicago, the home of the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium. Both are world-class facilities. At the Field Museum, the focus is on fossils and organisms that no longer exist. At the Shedd Aquarium, the focus is on aquatic organisms which are either exotic to the United States or simply difficult to observe in nature or both. This is also where we start to visit the great lakes, starting with Lake Michigan.

The next site is Cedar Point Amusement Park in Ohio. Known as "The Roller Coaster Capital of the World", this is the second site where physics is the focus. A significant difference between this park and the parks in the Dells is that this is a dry park as opposed to a water park. It sits on a penisula jutting out into Lake Erie, the second of the four Great Lakes to visit on the trip.

Then it's up the "mitten" of Michigan, and along Lake Huron, to the state's upper peninsula and Hiawatha National Forest. Hiawatha is the representative of the White/Red/Jack Pine forest type.

Driving through the forest leads to the next stop at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Pictured Rocks is situated along the southern shore of the largest of the Great Lakes: Lake Superior. As the second-largest body of fresh water in the world, the focus here is on the fish and other organisms that inhabit freshwater ecosystems.

The final stop of Trip 8 is at Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota. In contrast to the huge size of the Great Lakes, this area is home to a vast network of smaller lakes and streams, which contain a different assemblage of fish and other organisms. Voyageurs is also known for having some of the oldest exposed rocks in the world as part of the Canadian Shield, a large area of exposed rocks nearly 4 billion years old.


Trip Menu
  1. Greater Yellowstone
  2. Southeast
  3. Northeast
  4. Four Corners
  5. Northwest
  6. Heartland
  7. California
  8. Great Lakes
    1. Devonian Gorge
    2. Wisconsin Dells
    3. Field Museum
    4. Shedd Aquarium/Lake Michigan
    5. Cedar Point Amusement Park/Lake Erie
    6. Huron National Forest/Lake Huron
    7. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore/Lake Superior
    8. Voyageurs National Park
  9. Southwest
  10. Mid-Atlantic
  11. Alaska
  12. Hawaii

Trip 8 Map


Alternate Sites:

  • North Temperate Lakes LTER site
  • University of Wisconsin Zoological Museum
  • Milwaukee Zoo
  • Milwaukee Public Museum
  • Brookfield Zoo
  • Kellogg Biological Station LTER site
  • Cuyahoga River/Cuyahoga Valley National Park
  • Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
  • Detroit Zoo
  • Negwegon State Park
  • Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary
  • Trout Lake LTER site
  • Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
  • Isle Royale National Park
  • Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve LTER site
  • Ice Age National Scenic Trail

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