La Chapele: The Doric Arch & Chapel Rock

Pictured Rocks Shoreline

Pictured Rocks Shoreline, photo by dwfphoto

Their beginning is in the Doric Rock which is about two miles from the line of towers and battlements which compose the grand display of the Pictured Rocks; and seems to have been sent in advance to announce to the voyageur the surprising and appalling grandeur that awaits him ahead.
~Thomas McKenney, 1834

“Appalling grandeur” is indeed fitting for the stretch of the Pictured Rocks. The above quotation comes from a wonderful website I just discovered: Tracing The Trail: The Pictured Rocks Segment of the Anishnaabeg Migration Route. The site has some incredible historic information about the Anishnaabeg and their life & migration through the Pictured Rocks. The site has some fascinating information, and I heartily urge you to check it out. Regarding what is today known as Chapel Rock, they explain that what we see today was once an arch known as Doric Rock or Le Chapelle.

“The voyageurs, of course, coined the name ‘Le Chapelle,’ and they continued to use the term well into the American period. The journals of the 1820 Cass expedition reveal the origin of the new name. David Bates Douglass simply notes that just west of a waterfall cascading over the rocks they visited a ‘fine natural arch.’ Schoolcraft states that near a cascade four miles beyond the beginning of the sandstone bluffs is located ‘Doric Arch.’ Both Charles C. Trowbridge and James Duane Doty indicate that the Cass expedition was responsible for naming the formation ‘Doric Arch.’ The following excerpt from Doty’s journal gives a good description of the formation and reason for naming it ‘Doric Arch.’

About midway of the rocks a stream of water is seen pouring over a perpendicular bank 70 feet high. The sheet is about 10 feet wide. Passing this we soon come to an arched rock separated apparently entirely from the bank. It is 10 feet from the waters edge to the top of the bank on which it is based; the arch then rises about 35 feet. On the right supporting the arch 2 pillars well formed are seen, on the left but one was discovered—the woods however obstructed the view. The arch appeared smooth and elegantly shaped. On its top and under it pine trees were growing –one very large directly on its center….This arch we named Doric Arch from the resemblance which it bears to that order of architecture.

…“The Chapel, which is reported to have collapsed in 1906, has left its name on current topographic maps. At the site of its location is a symbol and the term ‘Chapel Rock.’

While the arch connecting “The Chapel” and the adjacent cliff did indeed collapse in 1906, the intricately sculpted rock remains as Chapel Rock. The great white pine that Doty observed still grows on top of Chapel Rock, and the tree’s roots mark where the rock arch once stood.

Check this out background big and see more in his excellent Pictured Rocks slideshow.

The Pictured Rocks Boat Tour company offers free tours of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore shoreline for UP residents every year to celebrate Pictured Rocks Day. That’s this Saturday, so I’m celebrating the Pictured Rocks all week with posts to give everyone a taste of one of Michigan’s most amazing places. Want more Pictured Rocks photos? Michigan in Pictures has tons!

6 thoughts on “La Chapele: The Doric Arch & Chapel Rock

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