Michigans Upper Peninsula

Michigan's Upper Peninsula

We spent several months planning a trip to Montana. Our plan was to head north on Interstate 75 until we entered the Michigan’s Upper Peninsula then head west on Rte. 2 until we reached Glacier National Park. So, we headed North through Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, then into Michigan. We did a few overnighters on our way, but our first planned stop was in Dearborn Michigan to visit the Henry Ford Museum. When we arrived at Detroit’s Greenfield RV Park, we were incredibly happy to see that the campground sold tickets to the Henry Ford museum. We spent five days in Dearborn taking a breather and visiting the Henry Ford Museum.

We spent one entire day visiting the Henry Ford Museum. We arrived at the museum approximately five minutes before the museum opened. We were pleased to see that there were very few people waiting to get into the museum. We really had the whole museum to ourselves until about 10:30 or 11:00 o’clock when the visitor buses started arriving. We found the museum to be full of photographic opportunities. There are a lot of areas that have exceptionally low lighting and I am not a fan of flash photography, particularly in areas of low light where it is easy to get a lot of bounce back from the flash. My assistant’s camera has a built-in flash and she has a technique where she backs off the subject then zooms in to reduce the back flash. Fortunately, we had brought along my trusty monopod and I was able to capture several good images without the use of a flash. From about 11:00 o’clock in the morning until about 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon the museum became very crowded with school trips and other busloads of tourists. But because the museum is so large, we were still able to find areas where we could take photographs and not be interrupted bypassing visitors. After about 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon the museum became almost deserted and again we had uninterrupted access to the museum displays.

The following day we spent the day at Greenfield Village – a turn of the century replica of a typical American village that is located adjacent to and on the grounds of the Henry Ford Museum. Again, by arriving early in the morning, we basically had the Village to ourselves for several hours. Upon entering the Village, we immediately boarded the train which took us to the back of the Village. Our thought was that the back of the Village would have fewer people and we could work our way forward to the more populated areas. That strategy worked well, and we were able to get some excellent photographic opportunities. Again around 10:30 the Village began to fill with visitors. There were several areas where most of the visitors seem to congregate that left a lot of other areas for us to focus on. Just like the day before, the Village emptied out by 3:30 and we had unencumbered access till the Village closed.

I liked several of the abstract images I captured at both the Village and the Museum. It’s a definite future stop for us if we are ever in the area again.

After our brief respite in Dearborn, we continued our trek north on Interstate 75. After crossing the Mackinaw Bridge, we entered Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and continued on Interstate 75. We exited the interstate at Rte. 123. We took Rte. 123 North until we came to Rte. 28 which we took west until we again intersected with Rte. 123 again. We took 123 north through the town of Newberry to Kritter’s North Country Campground.

Newberry, MI

This is where we kind of got our foot stuck in the door. We originally planned to stay in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for about two weeks. We actually spent three weeks just in this area because we fell in love with this beautiful area. We would have gladly stayed longer but the campground was booked up for the next few weeks.

While we were in Newberry, we had an emergency and had to have a prescription filled. The closest Walgreens Pharmacy to our location  was in Sault Ste. Marie. But Sault Ste. Marie was over an hour away, so we decided to make a day of it. While we were in Sault Ste. Marie, we visited the famous Locks and Lock Museum. We also drove around the town. The overall weather was not very conducive to good photography or even sight-seeing, so we headed back to the RV.   Just a reminder, if you are going to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula remember to bring your medications.

If you are a lighthouse enthusiast this would be a great place to visit. I counted over 25 light houses on Lake Superior alone.

Some of the areas we visited were…

Whitefish Point – We had created a list of to-dos for Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but we had no idea of how beautiful this area was. We could not get enough of the scenic beauty all around us. First on our list was to visit Whitefish Point. Whitefish Point is home to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, the Whitefish point light, The Edmund Fitzgerald Memorial, and some great landscape photograph opportunities. We photographed here several times. On one occasion we came back in the evening to photograph a group of pilings going out into Lake Superior. As soon as I emerged from the truck I was immediately attacked by a huge swarm of mosquitos, even though I had doused myself with insect repellant. We carry DEET with us for such occasions. (The last time we ran into mosquitoes as aggressive as these was The Great Swamp photo shoot in South Florida.) So, after covering myself with DEET, I ventured down to the shoreline to capture images of the area. The driftwood on the beach also provided good subject matter. I did use a tripod when shooting this landscape. I did capture some good images in spite of the mosquitoes which we also ran into in huge swarms several times photographing the Newberry area.

Tahquamenon Falls State Park – The Tahquamenon Falls (/təˈkwɑːmiːnɑːn/ tuh-KWAH-mee-nahn or /təˈkwɑːmənən/ tuh-KWAH-muh-nuhn) are two different waterfalls on the Tahquamenon River. Both sets are located near Lake Superior in eastern Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The water is notably brown in color from the tannins leached from the cedar swamps which the river drains. Consequently, the upper falls are nicknamed, “The Root Beer Falls”. Edmund Fitzgerald Memorial, and some great landscape photograph opportunities. We photographed here several times. On one occasion we came back in the evening to photograph a group of pilings going out into Lake Superior. As soon as I emerged from the truck I was immediately attacked by a huge swarm of mosquitos, even though I had doused myself with insect repellant. We carry DEET with us for such occasions. (The last time we ran into mosquitoes as aggressive as these was The Great Swamp photo shoot in South Florida.) So, after covering myself with DEET, I ventured down to the shoreline to capture images of the area. The driftwood on the beach also provided good subject matter. I did use a tripod when shooting this landscape. I did capture some good images in spite of the mosquitoes which we also ran into in huge swarms several times photographing the Newberry area.

The upper falls are more than 200 feet (60 m) across and with a drop of approximately 48 feet (14 m) During the late spring runoff, the river drains as much as 50,000 US gallons (190,000 L) of water per second, making the upper falls the third most voluminous vertical waterfall east of the Mississippi River, after Niagara Falls and Cohoes Falls. Cohoes Falls is located in New York State, whereas Niagara Falls is located on the US-Canadian border, between the Province of Ontario and the State of New York.

The lower falls, located four miles (6.5 km) downstream, are a series of five smaller falls cascading around an island which can be reached by rowboat. A hiking trail runs between the falls along the riverside, and visitors often play in the lower falls during the summer heat.

The falls are within Tahquamenon Falls State Park, between Newberry, Michigan and Paradise, Michigan.

Sable Falls – is located in Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore, at the east end of the park a few miles west of Grand Marais on H-58. It is only a half mile walk from the parking area to the falls. There is a set of stairs that takes you to the base of the falls. These falls are interesting because they are surrounded by sand dunes. If you continue along the trail you will be at the beach in a few minutes. The Grand Sable Dunes are just to the west.

Au Sable Light – Located within Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, this picturesque lighthouse stands on Au Sable Point on the south shore of Lake Superior, approximately 12 miles west of Grand Marais, Michigan.

The Au Sable Light Station was built in 1874[10] on Au Sable Point, a well-known hazard on Lake Superior’s “shipwreck coast”. The Au Sable Point reef is a shallow ridge of sandstone that in places is only 6 feet (1.8 m) below the surface and extends nearly 1 mile (1.6 km) into Lake Superior. The Au Sable Point reef was one of the greatest dangers facing ships coasting along the south shore of Lake Superior during the early shipping days when keeping land in sight was the main navigational method. The Au Sable Point reef was known as a “ship trap” that ensnared many ships, including the passenger ship Lady Elgin which was stranded there in 1859.

The shoreline in this area is considered one of North America’s most beautiful, “but in the 1800s it was considered one of the most deadly because of unpredictable features below the surface and violent storms and blinding fogs above.” The reef extends nearly a mile out as a ridge of sandstone a few feet below the surface. The shallow water caught many a vessel following the shore. Turbulence was common when the lake was “pushed in by violent storms out of the north and northwest.” Thick fogs resulted from the mix of frigid lake air and warmth from the sand dunes. “As early as 1622, French explorers to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula called the region ‘most dangerous when there is any storms.

Built in 1873-1874, the light tower’s base diameter is 16 feet with a height of 87 feet. The lens focal plane is 107 feet above lake level. A brick oil building and a fog signal building were built in the1890s. All of the buildings on site, along with the tower and keepers quarters, make up the light station.

To visit the Au Sable Light Station, travel to the Hurricane River Campground located 12 miles west of Grand Marais on Alger County Road H-58. Park in the day use parking area near the bridge.

It is a 1.5 mile walk (one way) to the lighthouse. From the parking lot, walk east through the campground from the picnic area near the Hurricane River mouth. The trail continues past the campground on the historic U.S. Coast Guard road to the light station. Be alert for occasional staff vehicle traffic. It had just stopped raining when we made our way out to the lighthouse. The road was level but dirt and potholed and the potholes were filled with water. So even though it is a level dirt road it is easy to lose footing in wet conditions. There are particularly good photo opportunities on the road to and from the lighthouse. Once out at the station there are excellent photo opportunities. I took my tripod and my canon 5DSR with several lenses on the walk to the lighthouse. Also on the beach below the trail, exposed shipwreck remains dot the shoreline. Watch for the signs and steps to the beach along the trail.

Mosquito Falls – Mosquito Falls is a small waterfall consisting of two main drops about 100 meters apart with a stretch of rapids in between them. The lower drop is about 10 feet high, and the upper one is about 5 feet high. This is the smallest of the named Pictured Rocks waterfalls, but it is a very lovely hike, especially in spring when the flowers are out.

The fall is about 1.5 miles from the Chapel Parking area. (I am thinking 2 miles is more like it) Take the Mosquito Beach trail. This trail forks with one branch heading directly to Mosquito Beach, and the other somewhat longer trail passing the falls on the way to the beach. The trail first passes the lower falls, then the rapids, then the upper falls before crossing the creek and heading back downstream before heading off into the woods. It is a very pretty hike, and Mosquito Beach itself is quite lovely. Before reaching the falls the trail passes an enormous beaver dam.

The Creek and Beach do live up to their names. You need heavy duty insect repellent to keep the mosquitos at bay. However, the more annoying black flies can also be found in abundance in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula especially all along Lake Superior and insect repellent does not seem to work on them. I would strongly recommend a long sleeve shirt and long pants for summer time wear in this area. Also, there was a great deal of up and down hiking and, with the spray I can be a very wet and slippery walk. I got down along the river to capture a few images and it was very hard to climb back out because of the slippery conditions.

Crisp Point – was one of five Lake Superior U.S. Life-Saving Service Stations along the coast between Munising and Whitefish Point. It is located about 14.5 miles west of Whitefish Point. It was built in 1875 and became operational in 1876 as Life Saving Station Number Ten, of the U.S. Life-Saving Service District 10 (it was later part of District 11). Crisp Point inherited its name from one of the Life Saving Station keepers, an iron-willed boatman named Christopher Crisp. The other four Life-Saving Stations were Vermillion Point (now Vermilion, which is about 5 miles east of Crisp Point and became operational in 1876), Two Heart River (built 1876), Deer Park (became operational in 1876, formerly Sucker River Station and Muskallonge Lake Station) and Grand Marais (built in 1899 and became operational in 1900).

Crisp Point Lighthouse – was first proposed in 1896 and every year thereafter until finally approved in June of 1902. The land was purchased–fifteen acres–at a price of $30.00. The deed was dated May 21, 1903. Originally crowned with a red fixed 360 degree Fourth Order light, the lighthouse tower stands 58 feet from its base to the ventilator ball of the lantern. The tower sits on a concrete foundation 10 feet deep. The Fourth Order Fresnel lens was made by Sautter & Lemonnier of Paris, France. When it was operational, the light produced a focal plane 58 feet above the mean low water level of the lake.

The Crisp Point Light is now a center for renovation and renewal. Under the direction of the Crisp Point Light Historical Society (CPLHS), and other cooperating organizations, there are recurring events at the site. Once on the “Doomsday List”, the lighthouse has been returned to pristine condition. The service building that was destroyed in 1996 has been rebuilt. A visitor center has been built next to the parking lot. The visitor center contains bathrooms, a very small shop, and a little museum. A fourth order Fresnel lens has been loaned to the society for display. In the summer of 2016, a major brick restoration on the exterior of the tower was completed. All the paint was stripped from the tower and, after the brick work was completed, it was repainted white. This work was completed through funds raised by the CPLHS and with a grant of $25,000 from the Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program, which is administered by Michigan’s State Historic Preservation Office. In addition, more stone was placed in front of the boardwalk on the east side of the lighthouse at a cost of approximately $25,000 to help protect the shoreline and boardwalk from further erosion. The CPLHS completed some interior renovations of the tower in 2017[5] and plans to install more erosion control stone in July 2020.

We really liked this area. The Lighthouse is beautifully restored. We got some fun photos of the light house. I also managed to climb over some of the rocks to the shoreline and captured a few interesting shoreline photos.

There were so many other places we photographed here. We would just stop along side of the road and photograph or drive down a dirt road and find a beautiful lake or a waterfall.

Bu now, due to weather conditions on the way to and near Glacier National Park, we had decided to stay in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for the summer. However, we had to look for a new campground as the current camp site was booked for the following week. Mary Lou found us a space in Copper Harbor, MI.

Copper Harbor, MI
We left Newberry on Rte. 28, to Rte. 94, then on to Rte. 41 into Copper Harbor. You really can’t miss it because the road dead ends in Copper Harbor which is a small town that sits on the tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on a small finger of land that juts into Lake Superior. The photographic opportunities here are endless. There are several back roads that offer excellent photographic opportunities. I spent a lot of time photographing the shoreline, streams, and waterfalls. If you plan to photograph in this area, beware, the weather can be very nasty for long periods of time. It rained for a good percentage of the time we were here. Fortunately, we were there long enough to also get some very good weather. Another thing to note is that this is a very small town, and the next closest full-service town would be Haughton which is approximately 50 miles from Copper Harbor.

While in Copper Harbor we stayed at the Lake Fanny Hooe Campground and resort. They have rooms on the lake as well as campsites. We found it to be very conveniently located. We were able to walk into town and to the lake and to church every Sunday.

Most of the photographing I did in this area was done with zero density filters. It allowed me to get the ethereal effects I like when shooting coastlines, streams and waterfalls. Needless to say, most of the photographs I captured here, because of using the zero density filters and an aperture setting of f11 (which seems to be the sweet spot for most of my lenses), had shutter speeds often times minutes long. For these photographs I used a sturdy Gitzo 2220 tripod with a Manfroto head. For long exposure, I either remove the camera strap or wrap it around the tripod so it does not swing in the breeze. I also have two neutral density filter apps loaded on my smart phone. They give me a good starting point for the timing I need to capture the image. The time from the app is usually somewhat close… but then I make the additional adjustments as needed.

While here, I spent a lot of time working the coastline in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. There is an image worth capturing everywhere you look. So then it’s the selection process that is important. What to shoot or what not to shoot that is the question. Because my fine art roots are in large format. I, as a rule, am very selective.

This is an interesting village with old fishing shacks that have been upgraded to homes. So just walking around the village, camera in hand, will give you ample opportunity to capture good photographs.

Lake Fanny Hooe – Our campground was on the lake and every morning I would get up and walk down to the lake. Most mornings I did not take a camera. Just me and the dogs enjoying the beautiful morning sunrise on the lake. There is also Fort Wilkins State Park and Campground which is on the Lake.  Fort Wilkins Historic State Park is a restored 1844 military outpost and one of the first lighthouses on Lake Superior. Restoration work and development began in the 1930s. We went to the fort during the week and found very few visitors at the fort. While not as good as the landscape of the area the fort provided us with the opportunity to capture more abstract images. I was allowed to bring my light tripod into the fort with me.

Looking into the (what we considered) unusual name of the lake, we discovered that Fanny Hooe was the sister of the wife of the first commander of the Fort. The Lake was named for her. She came to live with her sister and brother-in-law during their time in the Fort and was well-like be all.

Copper Harbor Back Roads – Not enough can be said for traveling the back roads of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We found them to be an unending source of material. We found swamps, water falls, stands of trees, rock formations, etc. around every turn in the road. We do not have a 4-wheel drive vehicle but we do have a high clearance truck that not only allows us to get around on back roads but also elevates us a bit to be able to shoot over the brush alongside of the road.

Route 26 parallels the Lake Superior coastline and the photographic opportunities along this route are just too numerous to list here. However, if you venture along the coastline here in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, please make sure you have good hiking boots and something to steady you as you travel on this very rough rocky coastline that is often covered with moss that makes it very slippery.

Eagle Harbor – Is another small village along Rte. 26. There is a light house and Keweenaw County Historical Society. This town does have a small sandy beach.

Jacobs Creek – Further along the road is Jacobs Creek. At Jacob’s Creek we discovered a lovely Monastery. Only seven monks lived there at the time but the service on Sunday morning was an unforgettable experience. Not only was the building itself very beautiful and awe inspiring but the service was such a spiritual experience. The monastery is called the Holy Transfiguration Skete of the Society of St. John. In order to support themselves, the monks grow and package their own jams, jellies, and honeys and bake a variety of fresh muffins and breads which the sell in their store across from the monastery. It was worth the trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula just to taste these yummy delicacies. The store is called the Jam Pot. Look it up and order some goodies. They are fantastic! There is also photographic opportunity in the grounds around the monastery with a beautiful flower garden and a waterfall just by the road which is next to the Jam Pot. We spent several beautiful days photographing the white water along the creek… however, be warned, in summer the mosquitos are horrendous. Heavy duty insect repellent is a must when shooting here. There is a path that runs along the creek. It can be accessed right by Rte. 26 or at the Eagle Harbor Cutoff Road. We accessed the trail from the Cutoff Road, then followed the Monks Trail to the Arnold Mine ruins. We then took the trail to the upper falls. I found the mine ruins to be very interesting. These are old copper mines for which this area of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is named. The landscape is dotted with these old ruins.

Eagle River Falls and Dam – This is a waterfall that is easily assessed by Rte, 26. There is a pull off and parking area within walking distance to the falls. What makes this especially nice is that the road is elevated giving a great perch overlooking the falls.

Munising – On our trip off of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, we spent a few days in Munising. Our goal was to get some photos of the Pictured Rocks. The easiest way to do this was to take a tour on one of the tour boats. Based on the position of the cliffs, we decided to take the evening trip as we felt that would provide us with the best lighting.  Both decisions worked out well for us. Again, I brought along my monopod and this time I brought along my Sony NEX7 camera. The Sun was in just the right position to light up the cliffs and the waterfalls. We read in the paper some time later that part of the Pictured Rock cliff face had fallen into the sea. We aren’t aware of the extent of any damage, but we feel fortunate to have gotten a chance to photograph this lovely landscape at its best.

What we are sharing with you here is just a sample of things we did during our stay on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Any photographer would find a world of beauty here and Mary Lou and I highly recommend spending some time in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Holland/Grand Rapids Michigan
On our way home we spent a few days in Holland, Michigan visiting friends. While there, we took advantage of being in the area and visited the Fedrick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids. We cannot say enough about this place. It is very beautiful and a photographers dream when it comes to photographing flora. We were so happy we visited this gem..

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