I’ve seen photos of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore before and I can honestly say, none of them will likely ever do this place total justice. The colors and shades change depending on the time of day, the direction of the sun, and the reflections from the water itself. I’m glad that people keep trying though, because we can all live vicariously through each other. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan holds a magic that is all its own, but this place feels like another world entirely.
And the only way to fully experience it is to get out on the water. You can see some of it from land, and there is plenty to explore within the park itself, but the views from the water are awe-inspiring.
This is a view from the top of a lookout point.
And this is the same place from the water.
You can take a kayak, or rent a boat, but I think the best way to see everything is by taking a tour with Pictured Rocks Cruises – 100 City Park Dr, Munising, MI.
You don’t have to paddle, and you don’t have to drive yourself, so you can spend the whole time oohing and aahing over the colorful lakeshore. And taking a million and one pictures and videos like we did. Ha!
(If you want to see three of the videos I took, hop over to my YouTube.)
To give you an idea of how big the rocks are, those tiny little colored dots just to the left of the arch are kayakers.
And here’s a boat that’s about 15-20 feet in length.
My favorite part of the lakeshore was Chapel Rock.
There’s a tree growing on top of the rock. To get the nutrients it needs to survive and grow, the tree’s roots are stretching back over to the land behind it.
Taking a tour like this is also really the only way to see the Grand Island East Channel Lighthouse.
The colors at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore are created by different elements mixing with the ground water runoff.
“As groundwater seeps out of cracks in the rock, several elements and minerals are transported within the groundwater and are deposited as colorful stains.” It’s the same thing that happens when people have too much iron in their tap water and they get a rusty colored stain in their sink. But much prettier. =)
“Red and orange stains are caused by iron, blue and green by copper, brown and black by manganese, and white by limonite.” (from usgs .gov)
It was interesting to see places where the top layer of the hill had slipped off into the water below. You can see the color that the rocks start out, before the elements seep through and “paint” them.
The left side of Miner’s Castle collapsed in April 2006. Captain Zach said that slides like this aren’t uncommon in the spring, when the ground is going through the freeze/thaw cycle. (It generally freezes at night, or on a colder day, and then thaws during the day when the sun is hitting it. Then repeats throughout the springtime.)
A tip if you do go on a Pictured Rocks Cruise with this company: We sat on the bottom deck of the boat, on the left side, at the window.
We were shaded from the sun, weren’t crowded in like people were on the upper decks, and we still got to see everything perfectly. You can choose the right or left side (depending on the time of the day the sun hits the shore a little differently), but both sides see everything. On our tour the right side saw everything first, then we turned around at Spray Falls and the left side of the boat saw everything. The captain even got a little closer on the way back. So if you need to sit on the bottom deck, or if you choose to like we did (to avoid getting sunburned)…no worries, you’re still going to have an amazing view.
Because we were inside, it was also easier to hear the captain telling us facts and stories along the way. He gave us a ton of information about the Pictured Rocks, but also about Lake Superior and the surrounding area as well.
Here are a few fun facts that we learned about Lake Superior:
1. It is the world’s largest freshwater lake by area.
2. It’s as big as the entire state of Maine.
3. It’s 1333 feet at its deepest point.
4. It’s generally extremely clear…so much so that you can see 40-50 feet below you.
5. In the storm season in October-November, the waves can reach up to 25-30 feet high. On a lake.
6. If you poured all of the other Great Lakes into one, you would still need three more Lake Eries to match the volume of Lake Superior.
To me, going to Lake Superior, versus the lakes that we have around where we live, is like going to Colorado from Roan Mountain. “The tallest peak in the Rockies is 7,749 feet taller than the highest peak in the Appalachian Mountains.” (newlifeacademyga .com) Roan Mountain is exceedingly beautiful and I adore our mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina, don’t get me wrong, but after seeing the mountains in Colorado, it’s a little harder to call them mountains. Similarly, after learning about Lake Superior, some of the lakes around here feel like puddles. Haha.
Before and after visiting the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, we found two really great restaurants:
The first was Muldoons Pasties – 1246 M-28, Munising, MI.
Muldoon’s is a locally owned restaurant that sells traditional pasties. According to their website, the pasty was originally created as a filling, but easy to transport meal to send with workers into the mines.
“In approximately 1864, Finnish immigrants, along with Cornish miners, came to find work in the “Copper Country” of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Pasties were the perfect, hardy meal for the miners. Their wives were able to use the potatoes and meat from leftovers, and envelope them in a crust which could be placed in the miners’ pockets in the morning, and they would still be warm at lunchtime. Pasties came to be known as a “one-handed meal.” The miners, with their dirty hands, could hold on with one hand and eat their way through the pasty, leaving only a small crust left over. To this day, pasties remain a staple food and tradition for many Upper Peninsula families.”
They have a couple of different kinds, and they are all homemade. The beef was my favorite. Be forewarned…they are larger than I realized…so you may want to get a few different kinds and plan to share them. Or, if you have the ability to take them home I think they would reheat perfectly. (This coming from someone who is not a huge fan of leftovers. =))
The second place was The Cooking Carberry’s Wood Fired Pizza – 209 Maple St, Munising, MI.
The pizza they make at Carberry’s is delicious and they have a lot of unique flavor combinations for you to try. We actually ended up getting three different pizzas and they were all so good!
At this point I’d love to find another term for places like this, rather than calling it a hole in the wall, but for now, it fits. And it’s another hole in the wall that is worth seeking out.
If you visit the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, I’d love to see some of the photos you took while you were there. Find me on Instagram – @thenovelturtle