La Chappelle: The incredible Chapel Rock

Chapel Rock by John Gagnon

Chapel Rock by John Gagnon

Atlas Obscura says that although there’s a whole lot to see in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, hikers should keep their eyes peeled for one feature in particular: Chapel Rock, once known as La Chappelle:

Composed of Cambrian age sandstone dating back approximately 500 million years, Chapel Rock is the result of the erosion caused by a proglacial lake somewhat confusingly referred to as “Nipissing Great Lakes.” This giant body of water consisted of separate basins joined by straits, and once occupied present-day Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, and Georgian Bay. Around 3,800 years ago, the high waters of Nipissing Great Lakes carved through the soft sandstone, resulting in today’s dramatic formation, which juts out into Lake Superior.

Although Chapel Rock’s stone is mostly beige, its base is a warm orange, thanks to mineral concentrations. The sandstone cliffs that comprise Pictured Rocks are full of iron, copper, manganese, and limonite, which impart red, orange, blue, green, brown, black, and white hues. Not long ago, a natural rock bridge spanned the area between Chapel Rock and the mainland. It collapsed in the 1940s, leaving the formation unconnected with the rest of the shore. Thankfully, the rest of the structure has remained intact and is protected from climbers by order of the Lakeshore Superintendent.

The rock isn’t the only thing that has proven to be remarkably durable. Charles Penny, a member of the Douglass Houghton expedition responsible for exploring Lake Superior’s southern shore, admiringly described a single pine tree that grew like a “spire” out of the sparse dirt covering the top of the outcropping. Till this day, the same resilient pine stands sentinel over Chapel Rock, connected to the mainland by its extensive root system.

More at Atlas Obscura & check out more Chapel Rock photos on Michigan in Pictures that include pictures of the pine tree’s astounding root system.

See more in John’s Pictured Rocks gallery on Flickr.


Support Michigan in Pictures with Patreon

Chapel Rock Revisit

Chapel Revisit by Rudy Malmquist

Chapel Revisit, photo by Rudy Malmquist

View Rudy’s shot from August of 2014 background bigtacular and see more including a nice pic of nearby Spray Falls in his slideshow.

Lots more about Chapel Rock on Michigan in Pictures.

Chapel Rock in Winter

Chapel Rock in Winter

Live Anywhere, photo by Jay

When you think about it, it’s not only miraculous that the white pine on Chapel Rock in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore survives with barely any soil, but also that it endures winter after winter in the teeth of Lake Superior.

Jay took this shot on February 20th last year. View it background bigtacular and jump into his slideshow for some more spectacular winter photos from the Pictured Rocks.

New Marks for Michigan National Parks

Chapel Rock Pictured Rocks

Pictured Rocks – Chapel Beach, photo by Todd

Crain’s Detroit Business reported that two of Michigan’s national parks saw record numbers of visitors in 2015:

The National Parks Service says Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula and River Raisin Battlefield Park in southeastern Michigan set visitation records in 2015. The two parks, along with Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore along Lake Michigan’s northeastern coast, had more visitors through November 2015 than in 2014 and saw double-digit increases in visitors.

…The increased popularity of national parks in Michigan mirrors a nationwide trend: Overall visits to national parks are expected to reach 300 million in 2015. Last year’s figure was a record 293 million.

The park system turns 100 next year, and the Obama administration and Republican lawmakers have different ideas about what to do. Both parties agree the country’s national parks and historic sites could use some sprucing up but the question is how much of a dent Congress will make in a system-wide maintenance backlog with an estimated $11.5 billion price tag. President Barack Obama has recommended spending an additional $1.5 billion on the parks over a three-year period. Republican leaders in Congress have a smaller birthday present in mind.

Here’s hoping that our elected officials can come together to keep our National Park system strong!

Todd took this shot at Chapel Beach in September of 2012. View it bigger and see more in his Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore slideshow.

Lots more on Michigan’s state & national parks on Michigan in Pictures!

Autumn’s Chapel

Chapel Rock in Fall

chapel rock, photo by Paul Wojtkowski

Here’s a cool picture from way back in 2006 of what I think is definitely one of the 7 wonders of Michigan: Chapel Rock in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

The Lucky Tree of Chapel Rock features quite a number of photos that I think can give you a pretty good understanding of this marvelous Michigan miracle.

Chapel Rock on Lake Superior has a single tree perched atop its column. By rights the tree should not be there: the small surface area of land on the top of the rock is insufficient to sustain a tree of this size.

There is hardly any topsoil, certainly not enough for an obviously thriving tree. How then does it flourish?

Look a little closer and you will see the answer – that rope on the right of the picture is not, in fact a rope. It is a system of roots, extending and stretching over the edge of the rock to the main bluff where there are nutrients and water aplenty.

Yet how on earth did the root extend over to the mainland? Did it slither in some triffid like way until it reached the other side? Is there a Little Shop of Horrors thing happening here?

Click through for the answer and some pics that make things clearer – including to my surprise one of my own! – from Kuriositas which looks like a pretty cool site.

View Paul’s photo bigger and see this and more in his slideshow.

More Pictured Rocks on Michigan in Pictures? You bet!

Early fall color at Chapel Rock

Chapel Rock Fall Colors

IMG_4776, photo by John Clement Howe

Around the end of September every year the request start to roll in regarding the state of fall color around Michigan, so it’s great to have photos like this one from last Wednesday to point them to! It shows one of my personal Seven Wonders of Michigan, Chapel Rock in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

View John’s photo bigger and see more in his Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore slideshow.

Lots more fall color on Michigan in Pictures!

PS: Check out John’s first appearance on Michigan in Pictures back in October of 2006!

Along the Trail at Pictured Rocks

Along The Trail

Along the Trail, photo by nasunto

Michigan in Pictures regular Nina Asunto is posting trip reports about her trip at the end of June to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. In Day One: Chapel / Mosquito Trailhead to Chapel Beach she writes about a common June annoyance in the Upper Peninsula that this year proved more that annoying:

We arrived at Chapel Beach campground just before noon and had to put our bug nets on as soon as we got there. The campground consists of six sites, which are in the woods at the top of a bluff above Lake Superior. One of them (#6) is at the edge of the woods, and it is close enough to the beach to benefit from the breeze coming from the lake. This site was already occupied, of course, so we chose site #3, which was further into the woods. Under normal circumstances, this would be a really good campsite, with Chapel Creek running alongside it creating a nice atmosphere. Unfortunately, the exceptionally wet spring had ensured that this typically buggy season far exceeded expectations. The word “brutal” doesn’t quite do it justice – it was a buzzing hell-scape. The only thing to do was to set up camp as quickly as possible and flee to the beach.

Curiously enough, I was also in the UP and stopped at Pictured Rocks that weekend. Without Deep Woods Off, I am pretty sure I would have ended up a bloodless corpse! Click to read more (including her analysis of permethrin vs mosquitos). Follow along as Nina posts the rest of the report on Black Coffee at Sunrise.

Check it out bigger and see more in Nina’s Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore | June 2013 slideshow.

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!

Chapel Beach – Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

"Chapel Beach" Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Chapel Beach – Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, photo by Michigan Nut

Chapel Rock deservedly gets a lot of attention, but the beach that it’s on is one of Michigan’s coolest, with the rushing chapel river, a lot of great rock formations along a secluded, sandy beach and even a great backcountry camping area. As a bonus, the trail in passes Chapel Falls.

Check it out bigger and see more in John’s stunning Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore slideshow!

Camping at Pictured Rocks, Hiking to Chapel Rock

Hiking to Chapel Rock
Hiking to Chapel Rock, photo by fatalysis

That’s more or less what I’m doing today. More about Pictured Rocks and Chapel Rock on Michigan in Pictures and camping & more at the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore!

Check this photo out on black and in Erwin’s stunning Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore slideshow.

Happy weekend folks. ;)