Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore was established in 1966, and was the first of its kind in the United States. Within its boundaries there are over 73,000 pristine acres, but it’s the fifteen miles of cliffs bordering the south end of Lake Superior that is the focus of the cruise I’m about to embark on. Looming thunderstorms cleared in time for the Pictured Rocks boat tour. I sat by the window inside the cabin. It had been a hot and humid day in town, but the temperature is cooler on Lake Superior and a chilly wind blew off the water. However, it didn’t take long before the stunning landscape withdrew me from my comfortable seat.
If you want to be an artist, visit Pictured Rocks and observe Nature’s techniques. Up to 200 feet (60m) of sandstone cliffs rise above Lake Superior like a mural. It looks as if a painter’s knife masterfully scraped sunset red, mischievous orange, and peacock green along the rock walls. The pigments, actually caused by groundwater containing iron, copper, manganese, and limonite, enhance the cliff’s striking design. The lake’s cool blue waters offer a respectable contrast to the rock’s warm palette. Clicks from the sightseers’ cameras drown out the boat’s engine.
These cliffs are millions of years in the making and reveal the history of the land that is now northern Michigan. The sediments that would be forged into this masterpiece started mixing around 500 million years ago. In this expanse of time, glaciers expanded and receded. The earth shifted and changed. Even rock is malleable to Nature, the artist. However, an artist’s work is never done, and the rock walls continue to transform. Sitting quietly below the cliffs on this calm summer evening is Lake Superior, the youngest, coldest, and largest great lake. Three quadrillion gallons of water have more influence on Pictured Rocks then is easily observed on a two hour tour. The lake creates microhabitats in the area and eats away at the sandstone. A panel where rocks recently crumbled, and cutout circles of erosion are evidence of how delicate the formations can be.
Our cruise ended with the sun setting behind encroaching clouds. I took a few more photos before letting myself relax and enjoy the beauty.
Details for the boat tour: http://www.picturedrocks.com/
Munising, Michigan is a modest town with a population of 2,300. There are many other outdoor activities to do in the area year round. Check out their website: http://www.munising.org/