My family took the opportunity to Explore Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula with our family visiting from Ohio. Our destination was Muskallonge Lake State Park located on Lake Superior. It is at this lovely state park we set up camp. Our mission was to spend time together while we looked for beautiful rocks and the treasured agate found on Lake Superior beaches.
Lake Superior Facts
- Lake Superior is located north of Michigan’s upper peninsula.
- Rock hunters paradise, it offers the best rock and agate finding opportunities
- Lake Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes.
- It is the largest body of fresh water on Earth.
- The average water temperature is 40 F (4.4 C) — lower than the other Great Lakes, which are farther south. The water temperatures during the summer months average about 55 F.
- Lake Superior is home to about 80 species of fish, including carp and varieties of trout, salmon and perch.
How do you get there?
The straits of Mackinac was the perfect location for a picnic. During lunch we had views of the 5 mile long Mackinac Bridge. On the west side of the bridge we saw Lake Michigan and the east side, Lake Huron. The Mackinac Bridge connects Michigan’s lower and upper peninsula.
After lunch, we ventured across the bridge and joined the Yoopers. What is a “yooper”? It’s a nickname given to the people that live in the upper peninsula of Michigan. The Mackinac Bridge does collect tolls going both north and south. For the latest on Bridge tolls; click here.
Tahquamenon Falls is the third most voluminous waterfall east of the Mississippi River and consists of two waterfalls, the upper and lower falls. The park is located in the eastern side of the upper peninsula, 25 miles northeast of the town of Newberry. The paved walkway is surrounded by beautiful hemlock, cedar, and spruce trees.
Tahquamenon Falls is aptly nicknamed “Root Beer Falls” due to the golden brown color of the falls. This coloring is the result of tannins leached from the cedar swamps near the river drains.
Young and older enjoyed the walk to the two observation decks near the falls. A few years ago our family visited the Falls and we spotted river otters playing in the Tahquamenon River. For more information about camping or visiting the park click on Tahquamenon Falls State Park.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park consists of the upper falls and lower falls. The lower falls is actually a series of small cascades flowing down the Tahquamenon River. The park rents row boats to view the various waterfalls and to allow access to the trails on the little island between the falls. We saw many birds, including the great blue heron. The kids have fun learning to maneuver a row boat.
The access trails to Lake Superior were a short bike ride or walk from our campsite. We were surprised at how high the water level was compared to our visit five years ago . The water was just as beautiful and the rocks equally fascinating. The extensive sandy beach extends from the town of Grand Marais, past our access trail and to Whitefish Point, consisting of 55 miles of sparse vegetation and numerous rocks.
Lake Superior rocks were incredible! Bright orange, yellow, dark green and shades of red. Stripes, spots and a mixture of colors. We found various sizes of micro-crystalline quartz.
Basalt is the most common rock to be found along the Lake Superior shoreline. It is lava that has cooled quickly on the surface. It is one of the four rock types that make up the earth’s crust.
Before driving back home, we took a detour to Sault St Maria. Sault St. Maria is located on the Michigan and Canadian border, it is known for the legendary Soo Locks. Soo Locks is the shipping connection between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. Freighters, barges, tugboats, and large privately owned ships traverse the 21-foot drop between the lakes. When we arrived, we were pleasantly surprised to find a large freighter approaching the Locks.
Soo Locks in Sault St. Maria
The American Integrity is a large freighter that originated in Wisconsin. It was built in 1978 by the Bay Shipbuilding Company. This 1000 foot freighter is known for transporting iron oar and taconite pellets.
The visitors center at Soo Locks is very helpful and even has a hands-on demonstration to better understand the engineering of the Locks.
I gleaned this information, “in 1798 the first lock at the Soo carried freight canoes around the rapids on the Canadian side of the river. American forces destroyed it during the War of 1812. For the next 40+ years, cargo had to be carried around the rapids. Since the opening of the State Lock on the U.S. side in 1855 there have been locks in continuous operation here.” Soo Locks Visitor Center
We had a memorable trip with our Ohio family.
Highlights for the kids were rock hunting on the beach, cooking over the campfire, spending time with cousins and visiting Soo Locks.
The adults had similar highlights; rock hunting along the shoreline, visiting Tahquamenon Falls, and sitting around the campfire.
For more information on the campground we stayed at visit: Muskallonge Lake State Park site.
Our family finds delight in leaving behind the demands and stresses of every day living to Explore Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula. We will be back for more beauty, rocks and campfires!
Have you visited the Upper Peninsula? Do you have recommendations for other readers?