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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

The land between three waters

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Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
Yellow lady slippers blossom near a birch branch. 
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. On the Keweenaw Peninsula, head south and west almost to the border where the U.P. meets Wisconsin on the Lake Superior shore. To the east you’ll find the 60,000-acre Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. The park was named after an ancient mountain range here, and there’s still plenty of topography left, including Summit Peak at 1,958 feet, impressive for the Midwest. Among the photographic highlights are the Lake Superior shore, both at sunrise and sunset, a huge virgin hemlock-pine forest, numerous waterfalls and the awe-inspiring Lake of the Clouds.

Bond Falls State Scenic Site. Leaving the Porkies, as most locals call them, head south and slightly to the east to Bond Falls State Scenic Site, located on the north branch of the Ontonagon River. The upper area is accessible from roadside parking where Bond Falls Road crosses the river immediately below the dam that creates Bond Falls Flowage. This area features a creek flowing sensuously over flat dark rocks. Reflections on this water from the overhead foliage take on the color of the season and make expressive abstract images. Just to the west of the roadside parking is the entrance to the scenic area, providing easier access to the main falls, which drop nearly 50 feet in a series of cascades. Seven miles north, Agate Falls State Scenic Site showcases another beautiful waterfall that’s similar in character and size to Bond Falls.

The Michigan Shore & Fayette Historic State Park. One of those great nearly undiscovered sites for photography that exist all over the Midwest, Fayette State Historic Park features huge limestone bluffs that are part of the Niagara Escarpment, the rock backbone of the Great Lakes that extends from Wisconsin to Niagara Falls and forms a wall on one side of the harbor off of Big Bay de Noc. Facing west, this bluff lights up like it was electrified at sunset. The buildings and grounds of the park are a restoration of an 1860s mining town that used its limestone and hardwoods forests to turn U.P. iron ore into pig iron. The buildings make great architectural subjects, and their construction from local native materials gives them a textural quality that in itself is photogenic.

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
Sunset light on the cliffs, Big Bay de Noc, Fayette State Historical park
Seney National Wildlife Refuge. Between the Great Lakes shorelines exists a huge wetlands complex. More than grasses and mosquitoes, 95,000 acres of marshes, rivers, sand ridges and bogs are preserved at the Seney National Wildlife Refuge. The Seney is a birder’s and a bird photographer’s paradise. Glacial sand dunes have been transformed by the wind into long fingerlike ridges in a section known for these odd formations and appropriately called Strangmoor Bog, now a registered National Landmark.

Hiawatha National Forest. Just west of the Seney is a beautiful lake region, beginning south of Munising and stretching south almost to the Lake Michigan shore. Much of this region is protected as part of the Hiawatha National Forest. The Hiawatha is made accessible by a network of forest service roads.

All seasons produce great photographic opportunities, but this is the place of the U.P.’s famed fall color show. Lake and color reflections abound, and mushrooms seem to be everywhere on the forest floor. Weekends in late September and early October can swarm with photographers (seemingly as thick as the mosquitoes in spring), but a weekday trip makes it seem like you have the place to yourself, save for the occasional photography tour group you might bump into. No problem—just travel to the next lake, sometimes only hundreds of yards away, and you’ll find yourself alone again.

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
Fall colors reflect on the water of Moccasin Lake in the Upper Peninsula’s Hiawatha National Forest, Alger Count
Tahquamenon Falls State Park. Traveling east on Michigan 28 and then north on Michigan 123, you reach Tahquamenon Falls State Park and the falls of the same name, arguably the U.P.’s most famous waterfalls. The upper and lower falls are four miles apart—the lower falls are the most photographed and feature a 50-foot drop and a curtain of water flowing over a 200-foot curved ledge.

To see more of Hank Erdmann’s photography, visit www.hankphoto.com; to see more of Willard Clay’s photography, visit www.willardclay.com.


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