Sturgeon River by Sven

Sturgeon River, photo by Sven

While the ice has melted, leaving the shorelines temporarily free of peril – at least until until bodysurfing season starts – we can take a moment to worry about quicksand. Quicksand in Michigan Streams from Fichigan says:

Everything I know about quicksand I learned from Tarzan movies. The main thing to know is: bad guys don’t make it out, but good guys and gals always do. If you’re a bad guy, please stop reading. Quicksand on a trout stream is a little different than sand bogs in Africa, but there’s some similarity. They are both camouflaged so you don’t see it until it’s too late and if you make it out alive you’ll have an interesting story to tell even if no one believes you.

Quicksand on a trout stream is harder to see since it’s underwater. The stream bottom appears normal except there is no visible hole (sand covers it) so you don’t know it’s here until you start sinking. In waders it’s pretty scary since swimming doesn’t feel like an option.

I’ve found quicksand on the Pine River in Lake County and the Sturgeon River in the Pigeon River State Game Area. On the Pine, the particular spot I know of is a few bends downstream from Raymond Road. The first time I ran into it I was alone. I scrambled to get out and it was like running in place up a sand dune. It was easy to see the exact spot afterwards because a cloud of light gray silt poured out like smoke. An hour later, walking the bank downstream, the silt was still pouring out.

Read on for lots more including his encounter on the Sturgeon River.

I can find photos of almost anything View Sven’s photo bigger on Flickr and see more in his UP Michigan slideshow.

The Sturgeon River is one of Michigan’s Wild & Scenic Rivers – more Sturgeon River on Michigan in Pictures.

Stannard Rock Lighthouse

Stannard Rock Lighthouse, photo by Michigan Tech University College of Engineering

I came across this stunning video overflight of Stannard Rock Lighthouse last month and discovered a lighthouse I wasn’t familiar with.

Stannard Rock Lighthouse at Lighthouse Friends says (in part):

Stannard Rock, a substantial reef barely covered by the waters of Lake Superior, was named for its discoverer, Captain Charles C. Stannard of the American Fur Company, who charted the hazard in 1835. Because of its remoteness – the nearest land is twenty-five miles away, and the harbor at Marquette is distant forty-five miles – the lighthouse atop the reef has been called “the loneliest spot in the United States” and “the loneliest lighthouse in the world.”

The first plan to mark the reef came in 1849, when $1,000 was appropriated for “a floating bell at Stannard rock,” but as this amount was insufficient to moor a vessel with a bell there, it appears the effort was abandoned. In 1866, the Lighthouse Board determined the time had come to mark the nearly hidden menace to navigation:

Stannard’s rock, lying about twenty-three miles southeast of Manitou Island light, is the most serious danger to navigation in Lake Superior. This shoal is about three-fourths of a mile in extent; it rises two and a half to three feet above the water, and is fifteen or twenty feet in diameter. Its exact locality is known to but few; being so far from land it is seldom seen, and is much dreaded by all navigators. The increasing commerce of the lakes will, at no distant day, demand that it be marked by a light-house, the construction of which will, from the circumstances of its location, be a serious engineering difficulty. As a preliminary to this, and to render navigators familiar with its location, the board recommend that it be marked by a day-beacon, to be composed of a single wrought-iron shaft, not less than one foot in diameter, surmounted by a cage that would be visible not less than five or six miles.

…Stannard Rock Lighthouse stands seventy-eight feet tall and exhibits its light at a height of 102 feet above Lake Superior. The tower tapers from a diameter of twenty-nine feet at the pier to just under eighteen feet at the lantern room, while the seven floors inside the tower all have a diameter of fourteen feet.

Read on for a whole lot more about the history of this now abandoned light, including photos.

The photo comes from the Michigan Tech College of Engineering, part of the documentation of their Ecology of Lake Superior aboard the EPA Research Vessel Lake Guardian presentation. It’s pretty cool and I definitely recommend clicking through to see more photos & video and read about their mission.

View the pic big as Lake Superior and see more in their Lake Superior on board the RV Lake Guardian slideshow.

Moose Point Face-off

Moose Point Face-off, photo by Carl TerHaar

The Detroit Free Press reported that Michigan moose numbers are down:

The moose population in Michigan’s western Upper Peninsula appears to have dropped over the past two years and experts warn that a warming climate could be cause for concern for the species’ future in the state.

The latest biennial survey by the Department of Natural Resources produced an estimate of 323 moose in their primary Michigan range, which includes Baraga, Iron and Marquette counties. If correct, that would be a decline there of about 28 percent from 2013, when the estimate was 451.

…Even so, surveys since 1997 turned up regular population increases of about 10 percent. Beginning in 2009, the growth rate slowed to about 2 percent.

Now it appears to be dropping.

“It might not happen in our lifetime, or our children’s, but we have to face the possibility that there might not be a wild moose population in Michigan,” Chad Stewart (deer, elk and moose management specialist with the DNR) said.

Scientists are not certain what caused the apparent decline over the past two years, he said. Bitter cold and heavy snow the past two winters is one possible culprit. Also, wolves increasingly may be targeting moose because of falling deer numbers, although Stewart said there’s no hard evidence of that.

But in the long term, a warming climate may be the moose’s biggest enemy. Blood-sucking ticks thrive under such conditions. Thousands can attach themselves to a single moose and weaken the hulking beast.

More at the Freep.

View Carl’s photo big as a moose and see more in his massive Isle Royale National Park slideshow.

More Michigan moose information & photos on Michigan in Pictures

Round Goby

Round Goby, photo by Dave Brenner, Michigan Sea Grant

The Great Lakes Echo reports that although a study has found that invasive round goby are “one of the most successful aquatic invaders” ever in the Great Lakes, smallmouth bass appear to be feasting on gobies:

25 years after their discovery in the Great Lakes, “we’re not documenting specific harms from gobies,” Popoff said, referring to feared environmental, economic and human health concerns.

In fact, there are indications of possible benefits from their presence, he said. For example, “we are seeing amazing smallmouth bass,” as well as some “amazing walleye,” while lake trout have modified their diets from sculpin to round gobies.

One possible exception, according to Popoff, is a decline in sculpin population as documented in Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay because they compete with round gobies for space and food. However, scientists haven’t determined whether the lake’s overall sculpin population is down or whether they’ve merely moved to deeper areas with fewer round gobies.

…However, the study found the round goby is now a widely available food source for many native fish because of its “extreme abundance, tolerance to a variety of habitat conditions and relatively small size.”

In lakes Erie and Ontario, round gobies accounted for 75 percent of the smallmouth bass diet, Crane said. If all other species have maintained stable populations, that means the bass are putting less pressure on other food sources.

Nice to see the Great Lakes winning a battle – read on for lots more.

View the photo background big and see more in Michigan Sea Grant’s Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) slideshow.

Bad Ideas in Action

February 21, 2015

I need to provide a retraction of sorts for this post. While Enbridge Line 5 could carry the same corrosive tar sands of Keystone XL, it’s not a part of the XL network. It still most certainly could all the terrible impacts and remains a really bad idea.  More about Line 5 right here.

enbridge-pipeline-under-straits-of-mackinac

Broken Supports on the Straits Pipeline, photo courtesy National Wildlife Federation video

Here’s what we’re talking about when we talk about piping crude oil sludge under the Straits of Mackinac. It’s absolutely unfathomable to me how a politician could ever use “jobs” and “Keystone XL” in the same sentence except to say “Keystone XL could cost us tens or hundreds of thousands of jobs in the Great Lakes if anything goes wrong.”

Eco Watch writes (in part):

This past July, National Wildlife Federation (NWF) conducted a diving expedition to obtain footage of aging oil pipelines strung across one of the most sensitive locations in the Great Lakes, and possibly the world: the Straits of Mackinac. Footage of these pipelines has never been released to the public until now.

The Straits of Mackinac pipelines, owned by Enbridge Energy, are 60-years-old and considered one of the greatest threats to the Great Lakes because of their age, location and the hazardous products they transport—including tar sands derived oil.

Click above to read more and watch the video or click here to watch it on YouTube. The dive footage starts at about 3 minutes, and at about 4 minutes in you can see drop camera footage from 200′ deep that shows unsupported pipeline hanging over the lake bed.

I know that some folks get upset when I wander into “politics” but I don’t even think this falls under politics. This falls under “companies using lobbying money & influence to do things that are really dangerous without proper safety controls.” You can clearly see from the video that this pipeline is an outdated and unsafe piece of junk, and the Great Lakes don’t belong to any company. In my opinion (which may be different from yours) it is incumbent on our elected officials to safeguard the Great Lakes for the economic benefit and enjoyment of us ALL.

PS: If the name Enbridge Energy sounds familiar, they’re the company that brought Michigan the Kalamazoo River oil spill in 2010.

PPS: (edit) The Jobs, Economy and the Great Lakes report by Michigan Sea Grant found that in 2009, more than 1.5 million Great Lakes-related jobs generated $62 billion in wages for the Great Lakes region. (report is linked at the right)

Bald Eagle by Kevin Povenz

Bald Eagle, photo by Kevin Povenz

Sorry. I like to start the weekend on a better note usually, I hope you have a good one.

Environmental Health News recently ran a story bluntly titled Michigan’s bald eagles full of flame retardants. It says (in part):

Michigan’s bald eagles are among the most contaminated birds on the planet when it comes to phased-out flame retardant chemicals in their livers, according to new research.

The study, published last month in the Journal of Great Lakes Research, found that the top predators in the Great Lakes are highly exposed to banned flame retardants, still widespread in the environment.

Michigan’s population of bald eagles is stable, but the compounds have been linked in other birds to impaired reproduction, weird behavior and development, and hormone disruption.

“While the sensitivity of eagles to PBDEs has yet to be determined, there is a possibility that the exposures reported here may be associated with sub-clinical effects,” Nil Basu, an associate professor at McGill University who led study while at the University of Michigan, said in an email.

More than four decades ago, companies started putting polybrominated diphenyl ethers, PBDEs, into furniture cushions, electronics and clothing in an effort to slow the spread of flames if they catch fire.

…The chemicals “are everywhere,” Basu said. “They build up in the food chains so that top predators – such as bald eagles – accumulate high levels.”

Flame retardants have been found in birds all over the world – from the United States to China.

Read on for lots more about a sad story for these amazing animals. Oh, and don’t forget. Humans are a “top predator” too!

About this photo from last November, Kevin wrote:

Went down by the Grand River to see if any eagles were around. Now the conditions were not the greatest, quite windy, grey overcast skies and light mist in the air. But I haven’t been out all day so I said to myself that I just got to do this. Well I got to see the Eagles and this one just looked at me with the expression like “why are you here on such a crappy day”

Kevin is far and away the master bald eagle photographer in the Absolute Michigan pool on Flickr – heck, I just featured one of his eagle photos a couple of weeks ago. View his photo bigger and see many more of his really great Michigan bald eagle photos on Flickr.

Lots more about bald eagles on Michigan in Pictures.

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!

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