Kitch-iti-Kipi: Michigan’s Largest Spring at Palms Book State Park

Big Spring (Kitch-iti-Kipi) Palms Book State Park

Big Spring (Kitch-iti-Kipi) Palms Book State Park, photo by Michigan Nut Photography

How about a big “way to go!” to the State of Michigan for a complete revamp their previously not very good Michigan Parks & Trails site? The new site is miles better!! The Palms Book State Park page says:

Palms Book is a rewarding side trip for the vacationer touring the Upper Peninsula, for here can be seen one of Michigan’s alluring natural attractions — Kitch-iti-kipi, The Big Spring. Two hundred feet across, the 40-foot deep Kitch-iti-kipi is Michigan’s largest freshwater spring. Over 10,000 gallons a minute gush from fissures in the underlying limestone. The flow continues throughout the year at a constant 45 degree Fahrenheit. By means of a self-operated observation raft, visitors are guided to vantage points overlooking fascinating underwater features and fantasies. Ancient tree trunks, lime-encrusted branches and fat trout appear suspended in nothingness as they slip through crystal waters far below. Clouds of sand kept in constant motion by gushing waters create ever-changing shapes and forms, a challenge to the imagination of young and old alike.

The legend of Kitch-iti-kipi is said to be about a young chieftain whose girlfriend got the best of him. He told her he loved her far above the other dark-haired maidens dancing near his birch bark wigwam. Prove it, she insisted. As a test of his devotion, she declared that he must set sail in his canoe on the pool deep in the conifer swamp. He was to catch her from his canoe as she leaped from an overhanging bough. His canoe overturned in the icy waters and he drowned. It turns out that the maiden was back at the village laughing at his foolish quest. According to legend, the Spring was named Kitch-itikipi in memory of the young chieftain who went to his death in the icy waters in an attempt to satisfy the vain caprice of his ladylove.

Other legends tell of Chippewa parents who came to the pool seeking names for their newborn. They supposedly found names like Satu (darling), Kakushika (big eye), Natukoro (lovely flower) and We-shi (little fish) scribed in the sounds of the rippling water. They attributed healing powers to the waters.

A drop of honey on a piece of birch bark dipped into Kitch-iti-kipi and presented to a loved one was to make them true forever. Another legend concerned the tamarack growing on the banks of Kitch-iti-kipi. A small piece of the bark ground in a mortar and pestle and placed in an individual’s empty pockets would be replaced by glittering gold at exactly midnight. Whatever the legends, visitors to the spring loved them. Kitch-iti-kipi is said to have many meanings in the Chippewa language-The Great Water; The Blue Sky I See; The Roaring, Bubbling Spring. Others called it the Sound of Thunder and Drum Water, even though the quiet is eerie. Whatever its name and legend, Palms Book State Park continues to draw curious visitors.

Although it was a black hole all but hidden in a tangle of fallen trees, John I. Bellaire fell in love with the Big Spring in the early 1920s…

Read on for the story of how it came to be a state park along with maps, photos and park events.

View John’s photo background big, purchase this photo and definitely follow him at Michigan Nut Photography on Facebook.

More Michigan parks on Michigan in Pictures!

3 thoughts on “Kitch-iti-Kipi: Michigan’s Largest Spring at Palms Book State Park

  1. We visited in 2013 and were the only ones there. A young ranger showed us how to move the raft and it was so much fun. The park is beautiful but this was our favorite part of the park. The water is beautiful and the pulley/wheel raft was so unexpected. What a treat for the whole family.

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