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Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Author: sightseeingsue (More Trip Reviews by sightseeingsue)
Date of Trip: April 2006

Once you arrive at the overlook platform, and take a moment to gasp at the crystal clear waters of Lake Superior on the horizon, you'll become breathless by the beauty of the panoramic views the dunes present. For a brief moment, all of life's stresses and any memories of the rough journey leading you here are left behind. All you are left with is a sense of euphoria. Now I understood while so many list this place as a must see.

Shortly after we arrived, the fog had started to roll in and views were slightly obstructed. The dunes which go on for 5 miles in both directions and soaring 300 feet high were cut off by the thick fog rising from Lake Superior's waters. The Au Sable Lighthouse was visible to the west but not good enough to snap that perfect postcard picture. The Grand Sable Dunes outweighed all my expectations. I had only wished my photographs could have better illustrated the magnificent beauty they behold, and that my camera lens had not flattened out their massive stature.

We opted not to climb the grand dunes as I heard the climb back up is grueling but the guys did manage to make it up one of the smaller dunes to have they photos taken to trick others into thinking they actually did. Now a nice walk back to the parking area to continue our trip. First head east to the quaint little village called Grand Marias for some food and beverages, then off west in search for a much needed car wash, then evidently end up back at the cabin.

I definitely will return here, hopefully on a day that offers much clearer views, and I will be taking Hwy 77 north to get here. Travel time from the Mackinaw Bridge is approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes, but worth every minute to see this.

Tahquamenon Falls

Whether you are a history buff and thoroughly enjoy walking in the footsteps of famous explorers from our past, or are a nature lover who longs for picturesque sites in tranquil settings, then look no farther than Tahquamenon Falls. They offer a little for everyone. Two falls, located about 4 miles from each other are located in the state park, the upper and lower are hidden amidst the forest along the Tahquamenon River, which was made famous in the Longfellow's poem "Song of the Hiawatha." A walking path allows you to get between both. According to Indian lore, its name Tahquamenon comes from the water's amber or brownish color, which is the result of leaching of tannic acid from the cedar and hemlock swamps that feeds the river and not rust or mud.

The Upper Falls is the one most folks come to witness, and with it width spanning over 200 feet and its vigorous cascading drop of almost 50 feet, as well as the 50,000 gallons per second of water flowing over the edge, it's understandable and truly a magnificent site to behold. The parks paved (handicap accessible) path leading from the parking lot is an easy walk of about ΒΌ miles through a thick forest to a wooden viewing platform to get to the falls. You can elect to go down to another observation deck directly above the falls to feel its force and spray, but it's down a lot of stairs and I don't recall the number, but I do remember the pain of the burn on the way up.

Although the lower falls are not as dramatic and actually not one but a series of five smaller waterfalls, they still are beautiful and worth a peek. You have excellent viewing by either strolling down the pathway or rivers bank, or by renting a rowboat (available at the park) to reach the small island across the river. Either way, it's easily accessible and perfect for those seeking quiet and solitude moments.

Tahquamenon Falls is located in the State Park bearing its same name, in the NE section of Upper Peninsula just north of Newberry. Known as the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi, Niagara being larger. The river's total watershed encompasses more than 790 miles. Besides the rust color water of the falls, you will also witness extensive amounts of white foam floating down the river which is caused by three natural occurrences; soft water, its turbulent action, water containing an organic matter much like egg-whites.

Tahquamenon Falls is open all year long and spectacular during all seasons. Springtime times bring abundant increased flowage with its snow run-off, summer offers lush green forest to explore, fall brings brilliant colors as well as the sounds of crunching leaves under your feet on your journeys, and winter transforms the falls into spectacular ice-sculptures.

Once at the falls you can also enjoy camping, 40 miles of hiking trails, 13 inland lakes, in these 40,000 acres of unspoiled paradise. State Park sticker is required.

When life gets hectic, my husband frequently recommends us buying and moving into an old lighthouse, promising us a peaceful solitude life, long walks on the beach, and endless water portraits at every glance. Though the thought of it at times seems tempting, a much more practical avenue would be to spend the night at one instead, and now at Whitefish Point, you can. Located next to the Whitefish Point Light Station is the recently restored U.S. Coast Guard Lifesaving Crew Quarter that for $150 a night it's possible.

Whitefish Point is the oldest active lighthouse on Lake Superior and is highly visited by around 90,000 people each year. Located at the northeastern tip of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, about a 2-hour drive from the Mackinac Bridge, take N-I-75, to M-123 north about 11 miles along Paradise to get here. The lighthouse tour is only one thing that brings the tourist flocking here, the others are its Shipwreck Museum, the Bird Observatory, and the stunning sites of Lakes Superior's shoreline.

The 80 mile stretch that extends from Whitefish Point west to the Pictured Rocks (Munising, MI) is called the "Graveyard of the Great Lakes" and for good reason, as this is the site of over half of the 550 known shipwrecks on the lake. The most recent sinking was the 711 freighter called the Edmund Fitzgerald, which lost her entire crew of 29 men on Nov. 10, 1975, 17 miles NW of Whitefish Point, by breaking in two and lodging herself into the bottom of the lake in 535 feet of water. She surrendered to the violent gale force winds that November day, proving more powerful then her.

Whitefish Point, today a quiet peaceful spot that holds historical tragic tales of the many unfortunate ships that have met there demise in the dangerous waters it resides on. The carefully restored lighthouse to the 1920 period is in exceptional condition and is open for touring with an admission fee. While touring you will learn about the hard and lonely life of keeper Robert Carlson, while he served from 1903 to 1931, and see the living quarters how they once stood. Many interesting artifacts, plus many original furniture pieces, are displayed here.

The shipwreck museum for some is the highlight of the trip. Here you enter into the haunting world of underwater shipwrecks -- lights are dim, eerie somber music can be heard, and numerous sunken artifacts discovered from the depths of the waters are at your side to explore. The original ships bells from the Edmund Fitzgerald, and the Niagara can be found here as well as its anchors, the actual hull from the SS Independence, a 19 foot clamshell, lighthouse lens, old dishes, coins, as well as other fantastic artifacts discovered by divers are proudly displayed here. Also on exhibit here of old diving equipment once used, replicas of many ships, maps, charts and numerous legends that make these tragic stories come to life.

If you are into birding as I am, then you will love the Bird Observatory. Birds flock the point to find a refuge during their spring migration (March to mid-May). They rest and feed until they continue on northward to Canada, then return back to the point in the late fall for their return trip to the south. The eagles arrive in mid-March, followed by large hawks (red-tailed), then falcons, 10-species of owls, and finally the waterfowl and songbirds. The visitor center is located directly across the lighthouse and provides lots of information on the migration birds seen here, outside offers wooden walkways that have been constructed to allow visitors the optimal viewing experience.

Another thing to do while at Whitefish Point is to trek down to the beach and walk along the shoreline in search of driftwood, and unique colored and shaped rocks. A large deck is now offered for those who rather just look but not get sands in their shoes. Either way, the sights are awesome.

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