Grand Island Ice Cave

Grand Island ice cave, Winter 2012/13, photo by Ash W Photography

A cool site that really gives you to tools to have a lot of fun in the Upper Peninsula is Things to Do in the U.P. #64 is visiting the Grand Island Ice Caves. After providing very detailed tips & information about how to get to these spectacular formations on Lake Superior off Munising, Brian Marticcui writes (in part):

For an intimate look at nature’s awesome power, sidle up to one of the columns and peer into its core. Expecting a solid tower of frozen water? Not a chance. These columns, especially the newer and/or sun-exposed ones, are actually made up of tiny beads and icicle-like formations separated by vertical channels that allow water to pass through them. It’s one of those mind-numbingly complex natural things that’s simultaneously random and orderly – kind of like a geode, but mostly frozen and not quite as colorful.

Inside, things are a bit more stable – and a whole lot more interesting, if that’s possible. For starters, many of the “entrances” to the caves are little more than elevated holes between solid ice columns. Depending on how the caves have set during the weeks leading up to your visit, you may have to scramble up a mound and squeeze yourself through an opening to actually gain access. (Clip-on crampons might be a good idea.)

Once you get in, be careful, both for your own physical safety and for the integrity of the caves themselves. The floors are often mirror-smooth, making regular walking a major challenge. Meanwhile, the ceilings can be low and/or spiky, and some of the most intricate formations – the fuzzy, mold-like bits of “shaved” ice that project from the bare rock of the walls and ceilings – are extremely fragile. Don’t be the guy or girl who ruins a particularly awesome formation for everyone else – those things don’t reform in their original states.

Since the caves’ outer walls aren’t comprised of a single, solid curtain, and blockages abound, you’ll have to enter and exit several times to get the full measure of their interior spaces. Be careful each time you do; in particular, don’t lean on any dubious-looking columns. Ice is heavy, and you’ll probably see the chilling remains of spectacular collapses. You don’t want to be under an unsafe formation when it goes.

Read on for much more and also follow Jesse’s Things to Do in the U.P. on Facebook.

Ash took this shot at Grand Island’s ice caves a couple of years ago. View it bigger on Facebook and see more of her work in her Upper Peninsula of Michigan gallery at ashwphotography.com.

PS: If you’re in the Marquette area, Ash be displaying February 17 through the end of March at Sweet Water Cafe in Marquette from Feb 17th to the end of March, just a few doors down from Zero Degrees Artist Cooperative where she has her work.

PPS: For a little discussion on current conditions on the crossing to Grand Island, see this thread on Facebook, and before you go be sure to talk to someone who knows something about it. Feel welcome to use that advice for anything that’s possibly dangerous that you know little about.

North Bar Lake

January 30, 2015

North Bar Lake by Sarah Hunt

North Bar Lake, photo by Sarah Hunt

Who’s ready for a break from snow & ice? The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore page on the North Bar Lake Overlook says (in part):

The name describes how the lake formed: it is ponded behind a sand bar. At times, the sand bar builds up and separates North Bar Lake from Lake Michigan. At other times, a small connecting channel exists between the two lakes. North Bar Lake occupies part of a former bay on Lake Michigan. This ancient bay was flanked by headlands on both sides: Empire Bluffs on the south and Sleeping Bear Bluffs on the north. Shorelines have a natural tendency to become straighter with time. Wave action focuses on the headlands and wears them back, while shoreline currents carry sediment to the quiet bays and fill them in. Deeper parts of the bay are often left as lakes when sand fills in the shallower parts.

The same process that formed North Bar Lake also formed many of the other lakes in northern Michigan: Glen, Crystal, Elk and Torch Lakes, for example.

Here’s more about the geology of the Sleeping Bear and more about North Bar Lake, to which I’d add that the lake is a great place for skim boards because the channel between North Bar & Lake Michigan is only a few inches deep!

Sarah took this photo last summer. Click it to view background bigalicious and check out lots more of her incredible and adventurous photography at instagram.com/oni_one_.

PS: If you’re still not full-up on winter and ice, might I suggest this pic she took in this area of Sleeping Bear last week!

Winter Tannins - Tahquamenon Falls (Tahquamenon Falls State Park - Upper Michigan)

Winter Tannins – Tahquamenon Falls, photo by Aaron C. Jors

Wikipedia’s entry on the Tahquamenon River explains that because the headwaters of the river are located in a boreal wetland that is rich in cedar, spruce and hemlock trees, the river’s waters carry a significant amount of tannin in solution  and are often brown or golden-brown in color. The Tahquamenon Falls are thus the largest naturally dyed or colored waterfall in the United States

View Aaron’s photo from January 1st bigger and see more in his Michigan slideshow.

Lots more about the Tahquamenon Falls on Michigan in Pictures.

Get out there and see something amazing this weekend!!

Root Beer Falls

December 27, 2014

Tahquamenon Falls Root beer falls

Tahquamenon Falls, photo by Courtney Cochran

The Tahquamenon Falls are Michigan’s biggest waterfall and quite a sight to see in any season. It draws its name from the distinctive root beer color of the water which is created by the leaching of tannins from the cedar swamps that feed the river.

At its peak flow, the river drains as much as 50,000 gallons of water per second, making it the second most voluminous vertical waterfall east of the Mississippi River after only Niagara Falls.

View Courtney’s photo bigger and see more in her Landscapes slideshow.

Lots more Tahquamenon Falls on Michigan in Pictures!

 

Piping Plover

Untitled, photo by Anna Lysa

Sorry to mess up your holiday week with a bit of advocacy on the behalf of Michigan’s natural environment, but yesterday via Michigan Radio I learned of the very disturbing Senate Bill 78 that’s headed to Governor Snyder for signature or veto. The bill would forbid DNR from preserving biodiversity in forests and parks:

More than 130 scientists and the state’s environmental groups are calling on Gov. Rick Snyder to veto a bill they call anti-science. The bill would forbid the Michigan Department of Natural Resources from protecting native wildlife and plants on the pure merits of protecting nature.

  • The bill would prohibit the Department of Natural Resources from managing state lands for biodiversity.
  • It would prohibit the agency from managing forests for restoration.
  • It would end work to eliminate invasive species.
  • It would strike from the law the finding that most losses of biological diversity are the result of human activity.

Read on for more, and here’s the text of Senate Bill 78. If you’re so inclined, feel free to tell Gov. Rick Snyder what you think. I know that messages to our elected officials really do make a difference.

View Anna Lysa’s photo from July of 2012 at Ludington State Park bigger and see more in her Michigan slideshow.

PS: As I read it, piping plover would not be impacted by this as the species with just 8,000 adults is federally protected. I just picked them because they’re a recognizable species that has benefitted from extensive preservation efforts, some of them in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan.

Here’s the piping plover and more of Michigan’s endangered plants and animals on Michigan in Pictures.

Presque-Isle-in-the-Porkies

Quiet water of the Presque Isle River. Porcupine Wilderness State Park, photo by Linda Carter

The Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park is the area of Michigan where I haven’t yet visited that I’m most fascinated with. One of the cool things for me about putting Michigan in Pictures together is learning new things about places, and Linda’s photo showed me something new about the Park! She writes:

The Presque Isle River (French explorers named it for the little island at the mouth of the river) is the largest and most dangerous flow through the Porcupine Mountains. The 3 waterfalls near its mouth are some of the most scenic in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The river forks at the end as it flows to Lake Superior. This picture is the right side, which is quiet and peaceful.

View her photo bigger and see more (including some of those waterfalls) in her Porkies slideshow.

Space Weather and Starbreeze

December 10, 2014

Isle Royale Star Breeze

Isle Royale starbreeze, photo by Shawn Malone/Lake Superior Photo

If you’re a watcher of the northern lights or want to be, NOAA’s Space Weather Projection Center at spaceweather.gov is a resource you should be aware of. It’s packed full of all kinds of data on what’s happening on the sun and how that impacts us here on earth.

Yesterday they updated to an all-new site that I encourage you to check out. The coolest things I found so far are the Space Weather Enthusiast Dashboard and the 30 minute aurora forecast, a seriously awesome visualization of aurora potential. Be sure to subscribe to their space weather alerts for tips on when the aurora borealis might be visible!

Shawn says that the stars were screaming that night at Isle Royale National Park. View her photo bigger on the Lake Superior Photo Facebook, and if you like you can purchase the photo right here. And speaking of northern lights, be sure to click for a time-lapse of the aurora over Isle Royale with a very cool soundtrack she recorded of loons on the island.

More northern lights and more Isle Royale on Michigan in Pictures.

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